Our 2023 garden: Oops! and getting ready to direct sow

Today, I went through my bin of seeds for direct sowing, pulling out the ones that can be sown “as soon as the ground can be worked” or before last frost.

I also made sure the back ordered bean seeds I picked up in the mail yesterday went in with the other beans.

Which is when I discovered something.

I already had some.

The Red Swan beans were not the back ordered beans I was waiting for! I checked my order confirmation emails and saw that I was supposed to get these.

These are the Improved Purple Queen that had been back ordered. From the website:

Spectacular colour! Purple Queen produces high yields and has amazing flavour. While also resistant to cool conditions, Purple Queen matures early and holds its colour in cool conditions making it the perfect bean for home gardeners. Be sure to watch the bean turn from royal purple to luscious dark green as it is being cooked. Resistant to Mosaic Virus. Maturity 52 days.


The Royal Burgundy bush bean we’d grown two years ago was no longer available, so we got this one instead. I wanted a purple bean. So we now have yellow, green and red beans, with a purple on the way. Once I realized a mistake had been made, I emailed Veseys about it, and I already got an order confirmation for the right seeds! Veseys is great for responding to emails. We’ve had an error like this only once before, and they are very fast about fixing things. I’m quite happy with them, that’s for sure.

Interestingly, I just looked at their bush bean collection and found it says the Red Swan bean in the collection is a substitute for the Purple Queen, which is not available for 2023. Looks like they now have Improved Purple Queen, instead.

So that is taken area of.

Meanwhile, these are the seeds I have that can be planted before last frost.

Of these, the Mountain Morado corn can be planted 1-2 weeks before last frost. The peas can be planted in mid-April or May. Everything else can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.

I won’t be doing the kohlrabi. Every year we’ve tried them, we’ve had nothing, and I don’t know why. I do want to grow them. Just not this year. The radishes probably won’t be planted, but if I do plant some, it will be just a few seeds for plants that will be grown for their pods. I’m still curious to try them. We are not big fans of radishes, but I want to see if we like the pods.

The rest, we shall see when and where we will be able to plant things. I still don’t know where to plant the two types of poppies or the strawberry spinach. They will be treated as perennials and allowed to self seed, so they need permanent locations, and the two types of poppies need to be well away from each other to avoid cross pollination. I’ll figure it out.

The main thing I want to plant as soon as possible are the Naval carrots. The Uzbek Golden carrots are described as a cool weather carrot, but there is nothing about planting before last frost, so I will wait on those. I still have the pelleted Napoli carrots, from two years ago. That summer, they were repeatedly eaten by groundhogs and I finally gave up on the bed, only to discover they still managed to produce. They were quite good. If I have the space, I do want to try them again. As for the Naval carrots, I decided to make seed tape with them. I’ll include that in a video I will be making tonight, along with how prepping the low raised beds went. Hopefully, I’ll have a relatively short video ready for tomorrow.

Things are supposed to cool down for the next little while, and we may actually get rain tomorrow or the day after! So I’m not in any rush to get seeds in the ground, but I do want to get as much space ready for them as I can.

It felt so good to be digging in the dirt again!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: backordered seeds in, and seedlings update

Our last packet of seeds that were backordered from Veseys finally came on. Or, I should say, I finally picked them up. I’m pretty sure they arrived last week. We just weren’t able to get out while the post office was open.

Wow! I just looked them up at Veseys, and boy am I glad I ordered them so early! The price has really gone up since then! This is the description for them.

Stringless and unique. Red Swan is a great fresh or cooking bean that is stringless! Bred by crossing a pinto and bush bean, Red swan blew our trial staff away with its yields and ornamental presence. Pods emerge red and mature to rose-purple at 5-6″ long. Red swan kept producing late into the season for multiple harvests and pods hold onto their flavour well at every size. Matures in 60 days.


We have had good results with purple things – beans, lettuces, carrots – so I hope these “red” beans will also do well. Plus, it’s a dual purpose bean. I should remember to plant half of them for a dry storage bean, and the other half for picking fresh.

Meanwhile, here is how some of our seedlings are doing.

The trays in the big aquarium greenhouse are doing well. The germination rate for the Roma VF tomatoes is really high! So if the germination rate for the Spoon tomatoes, and some of those seeds were 2 years old! Still no herbs, but at least there are more peppers starting to show up. I’ve read that peppers can take up to 21 days to germinate, so I hope we will have more showing up. Especially with the cayenne. There’s still only one of those.

Ugh. My phone focused on the wrong place! Ah, well.

I am just amazed by that one zucca melon on the right! Not only by how tall it’s getting, but that its stem it so strong and holding itself upright, with no support! Last year, they never got this big, even after transplanting. They have such a huge fruit, it’s interesting to see that this is a climbing vine. I’ve had to make sure the tendrils don’t wrap around anything.

There are still just the two of them, though, and just two African Drum gourds, even though I did plant more seeds. We did bring a heater into the living room, but can only use it when someone is around to supervise, so while we’re able to get the room warmer, it may still not be enough to warm up the growing medium. The Crespo squash are looking good, though, with one still in its original pot, and the three that were thinned by dividing.

As for the rest, still no Classic eggplant, and none of the reseeded Little Finger eggplant or luffa have terminated. There are more tiny strawberries emerging, and I think it’s about time to pot up the Indigo Blue Chocolate tomatoes.

I might have to change up how the lights are over the seedlings. This area gets some good sunlight in the mornings, but the more trays are in the mini greenhouse frame, the less light there is for the lower trays. I have to find some way for the lights to reach the lower trays a bit better. They seem to be doing okay so far, though. I’ve been switching them around and rotating them every couple of days or so, but as we take more trays out of the aquarium greenhouses, I won’t have the room do to that for long. We’ll also have to find more surface area for trays; the potted up tomatoes are going to take up a fair bit of space!

Which is a good problem to have. 😊

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: starting herbs and tomatoes, potting up and will it work?

For a while outside, the wind picked up and I could see the snow coming down horizontally out the window! From what I’m hearing the roads are in terrible condition, and quite a few people posted online that they started to go somewhere, only to turn around immediately. Everyone is being told to stay home. A number of roads have been closed, particularly in the South. For our area, it looks like the worst of it has passed by, and things should be getting better from now on, though there is a second system on the radar that might make it as far as us later. Maybe.

A good day to be inside and doing garden stuff!

The first thing I needed to do was start some new seeds.

There were only three things that need to be started in the 6-8 week range; spearmint, oregano and the Roma tomatoes.

The oregano and spearmint seeds are so miniscule! We don’t need a lot of either, so there was more than enough for our needs. There weren’t a lot of seed in the tomato packet, so I actually counted them to work out how to use the tray. There turned out to be 67 seeds in the packet. Usually, for “pots” the size of these toilet paper rolls, I would plant two seeds per pot, but with so few seeds, only one got two seeds and the other 65 got a single seed each. Romas are a tomato I want to have a lot of, so we can do tomato paste and sauces again at the end of the year.

The herbs each gone one row in the tray. Here, the tray is on the heat mat, and it now has a dome over it, too.

This is the tray that had been on the heat mat. There are some cayenne, Dragonfly and Early Sensation peppers sprouting. And look at all those spoon tomatoes!

The strawberries and Classic eggplant got moved out entirely, and are now in the small aquarium greenhouse, still on the little bin to lift them closer to the light. The hardware cloth cover for the tank is no longer needed to keep the cats out, but it is still needed to hold the light fixture. We couple put the light back under the tank’s lid and use that, but this way, there is still plenty of air flow.

This done, I decided to do some potting up. First, I thinned by dividing the Crespo squash…

They are on the aluminum sheet in the photo. Of the two pots, one had all three seeds in it germinate, and they all have their own pot now. The second pot, I left for now. You can see a second seed did start to germinate, but it seems to have just stopped growing.

In the baking tray, you can see the Zucca melon, at the bottom right of the picture, are doing well! Those tendrils are reaching out to climb, and I’ve already had to unwrap the biggest one from the mini greenhouse frame. The drum gourds in the back are doing okay, but I think it’s just too cold for them to grow much right now.

I’d reseeded more Zuccz melon and drum gourd, but none have germinated yet. There was a drum gourd seedling that died after I’d put more seed in the empty pots, and I was considering adding more drum gourd seeds to it. Not anymore! That pot has now been “potted up” into the stronger, lighter coloured pot, and contains an experiment.

Last year, we had purchased seeds for Tulip trees and pawpaws. We had a single Tulip tree germinate, only to die soon after. Nothing else germinated. Their containers had been moved between the sun room and the shelf just outside the sun room. No surprise that cats would eventually knock them around, and that was it for any chance of germination. They were planted in a seed starting mix, which I ended up adding in to the big bowl I use to moisten the starting mix before putting it into pots to start new seeds. I ended up finding one of the pawpaw seeds that actually looked robust, so I stuck it into the available pot. Who knows? Maybe it’ll sprout!

Today, I had dumped our last bag of seed starting mix into the big bowl with what was left from before and was mixing water in with my hands when I found another pawpaw seed that looked like it was fresh out of the package we got them in. So I stuck that into the pot I’d put the first one in. The pot is damp, though, so it broke. I grabbed one of the new biodegradable pots I bought and the whole thing fit perfectly inside it. Cool! Now we have two pawpaw seeds to potentially sprout!

As I went back to mixing water into the seed starter mix, I found three more pawpaw seeds! None of them showed even the slighted bit of rot or damage!

They all went into the experiment pot.

I have no idea if they will germinate, but it would be awesome if they did!

Once the herbs and tomato seeds were planted and things were shifted around, I decided it was time to pot up the Black Beauty tomato seedlings. The germination rate for those was really high, and they were starting to get too big for the square potting cells they were in. I had a bag of potting soil ready for potting up, and went with Red Solo cups to transplant them up into.

I filled them about half way with soil, and buried the stems of the seedlings about half way when transplanting. As they get bigger, we can keep filling the cups with soil, allowing for more roots to develop along the stems. The baking tray holds 12 cups, while the bin can only hold 9, which left 5 more to go back into the tray they had been in before. The smaller Indigo Blue tomatoes don’t need potting up yet. Sadly, there are still only three Little Finger eggplants; the pots I reseeded show no signs of germination yet. Again, I think it might just be too cold by the window, even though the whole thing is over a heat vent.

Lower down, you can see the tray that has the first peppers we planted, in the red cups they were potted up into, next to the German thyme and lemon grass. The yellow plant pot below has one of the pots of German thyme transplanted into it, which we will be keeping indoors. In the blue mushroom tray is the luffa. We still have just one plant. The other 3 pots were reseeded, but still nothing.

And finally, here are the onions and shallots! It’s been a while since I showed how they were doing. I suppose we could give them hair cuts, but that may not be beneficial. Gardening in Canada did a video about it, and I trust what she says.

My daughter’s orchids got moved to the shelf beside the onions. I hope they do okay, there. They’re pretty far from the heat vent.

That is it for now! The next seeds we will need to start are the 4-6 week seeds, and I think I have only 1 or 2 things that needs to be started in that range. After that, it’s all stuff that needs 3-4 weeks before last frost date. There are a few seeds in that range that I plan to experiment with, starting some indoors and direct seeding others, to compare how they do.

Being able to work on gardening stuff while it’s snowing outside feels really good!

The Re-Farmer

Spring snow, TDG status, and comparing power

Well, that predicted snow started falling last night, and will continue to fall for most of today!

We’re going to have a lot of clearing to do when it’s over.

I wouldn’t call our current conditions a storm, but other areas of the province are getting hit with more snow and higher winds than we are. No complaints, really! Even closer to home, others are getting things worse. I’m glad I was able to pick up those prescriptions and antihistamines yesterday. This morning, I got a call from the pharmacy, letting me know there would be no deliveries today. She was glad to hear I’d already picked them up. Being right on the lake, town would be getting a lot more snow and wind than we are, even though they are only about a 15 minute drive away.

Also yesterday, I spotted The Distinguished Guest in the sun room and managed to get a picture before he disappeared.

When I first looked through the window, he was fully inside the box we use as a kibble tray, picking over the last little bits of kibble he could find. I was able to see his left paw a bit. That was the paw he was limping on so badly, not that long ago. It definitely looks misshapen, but then, so do the rest of his paws that I could see. It could be from an injury, or it could just be full of matted winter fur. I made sure to put food out soon after I got this picture, even though it was earlier than usual, just to make sure he got something to eat.

As for this morning…

Most of the cats were inside the sun room when I came out, but a few still prefer to be outside. I wasn’t going to put kibble on the roof, but when I saw some jumping up and looking for food there, even though the trays we filled (one of the trays under the water bowl house had been pulled right out and ended up buried in the snow!), I shoveled the snow off, then got another container of food, putting some on the roof. I doubled their food this morning, putting most of the extra in the sun room, and more than usual in the entry of the cat house, where there is another tray, to encourage them to stay inside as much as possible.

Three of these trays are the baking sheets I bought to carry our transplants around. I’m going to have to reclaim them soon, which means I’ll need to find something to replace them with!

One of the things I had to do this morning was get a meter reading. After submitting the reading, I decided to check our data.

This is our electricity usage over the past year, compared to the year before.

You can really tell that February is when we had our cold snap! Spring of last year was when we had a heavy blizzard followed by flooding, so not only did we use more electricity for heat in March but, once it all started melting, our sump pump and septic pumps (the septic tank is where the new basement weeping tile drains into) were running very frequently.

Here is our usage for the last year, with weather overlay.

With an electric furnace, it’s pretty clear how much the temperatures affect our electricity usage!

It should be interesting to see how things change, if at all, over the next year, now that we have the new roof. We picked the lightest of shingles available and, hopefully, that will help keep the upstairs from overheating over the summer, at least a bit. The girls have fans running all summer, and my older daughter had to switch to working nights because it became too hot to use her computer during the day. The previous shingles were a dark brown, and would have warmed things up quite a bit.

As for now, the weather system that’s over us is quite large. but it doesn’t look like the worst of it will come anywhere near us. It’s expected to clear late tonight. We’ve got a high of -6C/21F forecast for today. Starting tomorrow, things are supposed to warm up and keep warming up. In a couple of days, our highs are supposed to go above freezing and stay there. By next week, we’re supposed to have temperatures in the double digits! (10C/50F and up) For the areas that are supposed to be getting up to 25cm/10 inches of snow in this storm, that will bring on the spring flooding in the river valley regions. I can’t say I’ll be complaining about any spring flooding we get. For all the massive flooding we got last year, our water table still hasn’t completely recovered from years of drought conditions. This spring snow will be a boon to for farmers and gardeners.

Speaking of which, I made a tray full of toilet paper tube pots yesterday evening. One of my goals for the day is to make space in the big aquarium greenhouse for new seed starts. I’m happy to say that some of our peppers have finally started to sprout, so we’ll be able to move that tray off the heat mat. I just need to set up the space next to it, so they will still be close to the warmth of the lights.

Snow days are a great time to be working on our future garden!

The Re-Farmer

Kitty parade, and a few last things before the storm

There was quite the crowd when I came out to do my rounds this morning!

I counted 23 altogether this morning. I did not see The Distinguished Guest this morning, but he was hanging around inside the sun room when I went to feed them last night. He was so hungry, I was actually able to pet him a bit. Then he ran outside, but when I put food in the kibble house trays, I was able to pet him briefly, again.

He has a very distinctive, low pitched meow, I’ve noticed!

This handsome boy followed me up the driveway and, as I was walking back, he kept flinging himself to the ground in front of me, every few steps. I’d pet him a bit, then he’d run ahead again and the process would be repeated!

He still has pieces of burr stuck on his back. I’d been able to get the worst of them out, but he won’t let me take out any more. His tail is still chock full of burrs, but as soon as I check his tail with my hands (his fur is so long, the burrs are mostly hidden from view), he runs off.

Then, as I was coming back from the sign cam, I found this!

There was actually five of them, but when I stopped to get out my phone and zoom in for a picture, Judgement, who was at the front, ran ahead and under my feet! I had to stop and pet each one of them before they would let me past on the path. 😄

Plans for today had changed again. I got a call from my mother last night, telling me I didn’t need to come over to help her with errands today. After I rescheduled from yesterday because of highway conditions, she decided to try doing her errands herself, using her walker. She got it all done, including a large grocery shopping trip that they delivered to her place later. That’s a lot of walking for someone in their 90’s with wrecked knees!! She sounded quite pleased with herself.

In the end, I still needed to go to town to get a few last things for our Easter baskets – we will be making an extra one this year, as a gift – before the predicted storm hits some time today. I also had some stuff I was going to give to my mother when I helped her with errands today. So I decided I would drop stuff off at her place first, then head to town for my errands.

I called and left a message telling her I was going to drop things off on my way to the other town, but when I got there, she was fully expecting me to stay for a long visit. She had a dessert ready for me – it had bananas in it, which I already told her is among the things I won’t eat because I gave up sugar and starchy foods for Lent – and water boiled for tea. Of course, she mocked me for not eating the banana dessert, telling me I should go to church, instead. As if there is any sort of equivalence. Not that it matters. When we lived in the city, we were going to church every Sunday, but that still wasn’t good enough for her. It wasn’t the “right” church. Whatever that means to her at any given moment! 😄

I did stay for a few minutes as she went through the things I brought for her. One of them was a photo I found (I honestly don’t know where it came from) of me, my mother and my sister. I gave it to her to replace the one she has on her wall of me and her, that has a big X scratched across my face that had to have been done by our vandal, though my mother never noticed it until I spotted it.

It should be interesting to see if she actually replaces the picture. When she saw the one I brought for her, she told me she thought she already had a copy.

Then she started listing things off that she wanted me to take, from the carboard box her groceries were delivered in, to the bucket of peelings for our compost she had in her fridge. I just told her, not today! For someone who complained for years about how their friends from the city kept bringing their unwanted junk (and sometimes pets!) to the farm, because “there’s so much room at the farm!”, it amazes me that she now does that to me. I’ve even pointed that out to her, but she just laughs, and keeps going it!

When I was finally on my way, I took a different route to town. The highway to my mother’s town was nice and clear, but this East/West road turned out to have quite a lot of ice and snow, which was melting, just to make it that much more slippery, along the way. Especially as I got closer to the next highway. That one, at least, was almost clear until I got to the turnoff to where I needed to go. That road had sheer ice on it, including the exit lane. Yikes!!

Once in town, everything was pretty clear. I ran my errands, including picking up the prescription refills that were scheduled to be delivered tomorrow. Since I was in town anyhow, I picked them up – along with some antihistamines. While walking around this morning, I was having a hard time breathing because my sinuses were completely blocked. It took me a while to clue in that, duh, it’s spring. I don’t know what I’m allergic to out there – it’s too early for pollen in our area – but something out there is causing me to react. It’s not as much of a problem when I’m indoors, but once I’m outside, it doesn’t take long for problems to start!

On my way home after finishing my errands, I was happy to see the provincial trunk road was mostly clear. After the other East/West roads I took, I was not sure what to expect.

Now that this trip is done, we should hopefully not need to go anywhere again until the weekend, and by then, any snow from the predicted storm we get should be cleared from the roads, even in the city. At least I hope so. The last few times we’ve been invited to their place, we ended up turning around and going home because of storms!

I need to start my next batch of seeds this week. I’m not quite sure how I’ll be managing that. We just have the one warming mat in the big aquarium greenhouse, and while the Spoon tomatoes are coming up, there isn’t a single pepper germinating yet. There’s the space beside the warming mat, but the eggplant there won’t germinate for a little while yet. The strawberries could handle being moved to the small aquarium, but we’ll also have to move out my daughter’s orchids. They are there not just to protect from cats, which is not needed anymore, but for the extra warmth. Being by the window in winter is too cold for them.

We’ll figure something out.

Until then, I’ll be getting the toilet paper tubes we’ve been saving and make them into little plant pots to start seeds in. We’ll be working on the seeds that need to be started 6-8 weeks before last frost this time.

I’m so glad we were able to block the living room off from that cats! It’s making all this a lot more stress free!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: new sproots!

Our newest seedlings are starting to show!

I few days ago, I spotted our first Spoon tomatoes, but they are so fine and spindly, I waited until today to try and get a photo.

Still no sign of peppers, but there’s about 8 or so tomatoes sprouting, and signs of more seedling elbowing their way to the surface. They are so bitty!

Speaking of bitty, we also have our first strawberries sprouting!

Growing strawberries from seed is totally new to me, so I’m pretty happy to see these. Over time, I want to have lots of strawberries, so if growing them from seeds works, that would make it much more affordable compared to buying transplants or bare roots. We’ll probably still do both. I want to use them as a living ground cover around the silver buffalo berry bushes. Those are nitrogen fixers, so it would be a good combination, and when the bushes start getting too big and start shading out the strawberries, we can just transplant them somewhere else.

I am so looking forward to having our own berries. We all love them, but they are so expensive to buy! My younger daughter was asking about growing blueberries, but they need acidic soil. Ours is very alkaline. We will need to find a spot and focus on lowering the pH so we can plant some. Once we clear more of the dead trees out of the spruce grove, we might be able to get some good spaces in there. I’ve read the spruces increase soil acidity, so I will want to do some soil tests and see how it is now.

So many things we’d like to grow!

Little by little, it’ll get done.

The Re-Farmer

Final stock up trip, a generous gift, and planning ahead

Today, my daughter and I headed out for what should be our last big stock up trip of the month.

Well. “Big” is a relative term.

Of course, the morning rounds were done first, and I had company!

The ice these cats are so curious about was melted and muddy by the time we got home.

Also, I counted 24 this morning. When we got back and finished unloading, I topped up their food and water, and The Distinguished Guest was there! I’ve been seeing him more often of late, though yesterday, Shop Towel also showed up and there was quite the cat fight. No new injuries on TDG that we can see. He still looks very rough, but he’s no longer limping. Poor thing. He was so hungry, he almost let me touch him while he was in the kibble house!

My daughter and I left a bit later than we usually would have, as we thought we might have company this morning. The timing didn’t quite work out, so while we were gone, my husband got a quick visit from his sister from another mother, who dropped off some gifts. Including this.

His sister had bought it recently, but then got a really good deal on a Ninja, so she passed the Magic Bullet on to us! That was very thoughtful of her. 😊

My daughter and I had only two places to go to. Our second stop was at Walmart. My daughter had her own shopping to do. I picked up two more 9kg bags of kibble. At $34.97 each, it was a better price than the Canadian Tire. I also picked up some more cheese, since I wasn’t able to get what we usually do at Costco. Some Havarti ($4.44), marble ($4.44) and mozzarella ($7.87). We also got a small ham for the Easter basket ($10.97).

My daughter was shopping for clothes, which reminded me that I needed to get a new pair of jeans. Generally, I don’t like most of the clothes in the women’s department. Especially pants. I find the proportions are off, and they are often made with fabrics that feel really unfortunate. They do sometimes have one specific style of jeans in stock that I find comfortable. Today, there were just a few left in one colour, so there wasn’t a lot of choice, but I snagged them, for $22. That put our grand total at Walmart at $130.70 after taxes, most of which was cat food. We should be good for kibble for the rest of the month.

Our first stop was at Canadian Tire where, along with two bags of hardwood stove pellets (they were out of softwood, which is a bit cheaper) at $7.29 each, we got this.

You can see my new jeans in the corner. 😄

We were very happy to see they had the Iron Out tablets in stock, so we grabbed two, at $6.79 each. I also found nice large eco-pots that can be buried directly into the ground. I will test them out when I pot up some of our larger squash and gourds and see how they are. I got 8 of them for 79 cents each. They had even larger sizes, which might be useful, depending on how big the Zucca melon and gourds get, before we can transplant them outside. The other varieties will be started over the next few weeks, and should not get quite so large before it’s transplanting time.

We got an extra caulking gun because it was on sale for $8.97, and the one we have now has a lot of roofing tar stuck to it. It’s still useable. We would just prefer not to have to deal with that when we’re adhering and caulking the tub surround (the plumber never called back; I’ll have to contact him again and make sure he has my number!).

Then there are the bricks.

I got four fire bricks at $6.99 each. This put our grand total at $78.96 after taxes.

The fire bricks are something I plan to buy a few at a time, every month, which will be manageable on our budget. They are among the few things we will need to buy new for when we build our outdoor kitchen. The floor of the bread oven will be lined with these, and so will the fire area that will be under an open grill.

My daughter and I spent some time talking about our plans for the outdoor kitchen, including something we should be able to salvage. We still have that old wood cookstove in the old kitchen. It’s broken and we can’t use it. Even if it wasn’t broken, and we didn’t have the insurance issues, I wouldn’t dare use it. This thing is sitting directly on the floor, and there are no heat shields. No one had any of that stuff, back when this was installed. It would simply be too dangerous to use it.

However, we could incorporate the cook top into our building plans.

There are two main things broken on the stove. The hinges on the oven door are snapped. Which, I suppose, only matters if you want to use the oven. The thing that makes it unusable is the damage to the firebox.

You can read about how cleaning this old stove went, here, but this is the damage I discovered after emptying out the ashes. The oven hadn’t been used in many years, but no one bothered to clean out the fire box or ash bin.

That’s cast iron, and the space behind it was jammed solid with ashes, which you can see in the picture. It was really sad to see the results of how badly this old stove was treated.

Also, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the house down, back when this thing was still being used!

So we’ve got this big cookstove in the old kitchen that can’t be used and is taking up space.

Which means that once we’ve got the shelter built, we can dismantle the cookstove and set it up again in the shelter. As long as it’s protected from the weather, and not sitting directly on the ground, it should be fine. Then we can look at incorporating pieces of it into the cooking area we will be building, and it would give my daughter the set up for a wok that she was thinking of, though the openings might be a bit small for what she has in mind. That’s okay. We will have plenty of time to modify our design ideas before we actually start building. The main thing is to get the shelter built, first.

Once we get that out of the old kitchen, we’ll have more space freed up. The chimney will still be there, though, so in the future, we can get a smaller cookstove and set it up with all the proper heat shields and floor protection in place.

After fixing that room up. The floor condition in particular is … fascinating.

All in good time.

Until then, we can do things like slowly accumulate the materials we will need, like the fire bricks I bought today.

On top of the expenditures listed there was, of course, the cost of gas. We were at half a tank on my mother’s car when we left. We stopped at the town my mother lives in to get gas, where we found the new carbon tax brought the price up another 4 cents per litre (we now pay 14 cents per litre in carbon taxes altogether), bringing it to 156.9 cents/L. Because of road dust getting into things, the gas pump nozzle keeps shutting itself off, as if the tank were full, so I never know how close to full I really am. I just put in a little over $20, which at least got me above 3/4 of a tank.

On the way home, we took a different route and stopped at the town we do most of our local shopping. My daughter had an errand to run, and I decided to try a particular gas station on the way home. This place had been closed for a while, but when the reopened, their prices were much lower. I figured, even with the price increase, they might still be the best price. Their sign read 151.9 cents/L, which was better than the old price in other stations – but when I put gas in, I noticed the pump was reading 145.9 cents/L! I put in $25 and actually filled the tank!

Okay, my mother’s car has a small tank and has terrible mileage, but I’ll take what good I can find!

I think I’ve found where I’m going to be buying gas regularly, as much as possible, now!

So that’s been our rather expensive day. Other than things like fresh produce we buy locally, we should be good for the rest of the month!

The Re-Farmer

Stair cats, and this is $424 (plus $155)

I spotted this adorable sight, just as I was finishing up my morning rounds.

The cats are taking advantage of every snow-free space they can find!

This morning, my daughter and I headed out fairly early to do the first of our stock up shopping trips in the city for next month. We are using my mother’s car, as we are avoiding using the van as much as possible now that things are warming up, which means smaller trips.

Smaller in size, but not in cost!

Our first stop was at an international grocery store, where we also had dim sum for breakfast (which I was able to do and still stick to my Lenten fast of no sugar or starchy foods).

I completely forgot to get a picture of our first purchases, but this is what we got:

2lb bag of Mandarin oranges: on sale for $6.99
Avocados; bag of 4: on sale for $3.49
Bananas: $1.095/kg got us a bunch at $1.88
Caramelized onion goat cheese: $8.99
Triple creme brie for our Easter basket: on sale for $11.99
Gouda cheese, truffle (a real treat!!!): $9.61
Blue cheese stuff olives for our Easter basket: $7.99
4pk quantity sale: 2 of ground chicken, 2 of stir fry beef, $20 (saving us $4 total)
Ketchup: sale price $4.49
Bell pepper variety pack: on sale for $5.99
Coffee creamer for my daughters: on sale for $4.49
Two 5lb bags of Russets: sale price $3.99 each
Bacon slab: smoked applewood $10.43
Bacon slab: smoked $10.25
House brand sliced bacon, 2 packages: sale price $3.89 each
Two 2L soy milk for my lactose intolerant daughters: $4.69 each
Dark soy sauce for my husband (the Filipino brand we usually get was out of stock, so this is a new one for him to try): sale price $3.49

Non Food:
Extra strength carpet odour eliminating powder: $4.79
Febreeze (for upstairs): loyalty card 20% off for $5.29
Non-bleach, pet safe spray cleaners, 2 bottles: $4.99 each

The sale prices (with our loyalty card discount) saved us $23.75, for a grand total of $155.62 after taxes.

All of that, except for the potatoes, fit into two of our hard sided grocery bags, with room to spare.

Our next stop was Superstore.

This is $424.02, plus a free turkey for purchasing more than $300


Non food:
Dry cat food, two 10kg bags: $32.99 each
Paper towels, 12pk: $11.99
Toilet paper, 24pk double rolls: $19.99
Replacement mop head: $6.99
Polysporin, extra strength + pain killer: $11.49
Gauze for the first aid kit: $6.79
Insoles, for my daughter: $17.49
Insoles, for me: $17.99
Deodorant: $4.99
Argan oil (hair treatment): $.68
Feminine liners: $13.99
Hair elastics: $5.00
Toothpaste for sensitive teeth: $6.49
Large bottles of shampoo and conditioner: $15.99 each (we finally found the kind we’ve been looking for!)

Soy sauce – they had the brand my husband likes! (he’s basically the only one who eats soy sauce): $2.99
Tapioca pearls (for my mother): $1.49
Giant block of Old Cheddar: $32.49
Whipping cream: sale price $5.69
Frozen chicken nuggets (something I asked my daughter to pick for a quick treat): $10
Frozen pizza bites (another quick treat): $10
Giant pack of hot dog wieners: $9.99
Frozen pork lion: $19.71
Frozen shrimp: $16.99
Sourdough loaf: two at $3.00 each
French bread: two at $0.95 each
Torpedo buns: 1 large bag at $5.00
Rye bread: two loaves at $4.79 each
Hot dog buns: two at $4.29 each (most of the bread went straight to the freezer)
Goat cheese: $7.99
Sandwich meat: smoked turkey and Montreal smoked meat, at $6 each
Figs and Port salami for the Easter basket: $9

Butterball turkey: free

I didn’t realize until now that the cashier didn’t ask me for my points card, and we were so busy loading the cart, I forgot I had one, which means I didn’t get my 4420 points. I’ll have to hang on to the receipt and claim those, because I can actually get cash off my groceries with them. We’ll be back in the city in a few days, so I should be able to take care of that.

Our next trip to the city will likely be a Walmart and Canadian Tire trip. I only got 2 bags of cat food, which won’t last long, but I didn’t want to overload my mother’s car. We’ll need at least 8 big bags, total (unfortunately, the cats don’t want to eat the larger bags of cheap stuff from the feed store) for the month. More, if I can only find the 9kg or less sized bags in stock. We also need to get more stove pellets for the litter boxes. Those come in 40 pound bags, but I think if I spread them out in the back of the car, it should be okay to get a couple of those, plus a couple of bags of cat food at the same time.

The price of beef is absolutely insane. I was looking to order another freezer pack from our local ranch supplier anyways. I’d hoped to find some good sales to supplement but, nope. The “sale” prices are still too rich for our budget! The only beef I got today were the stir fry beef that were part of a sale in the first store we went to.

On top of all this, I put $25 gas in the tank, which almost filled it, and by the time we got home, the fuel gauge was lower than when we filled!

On the way home, I asked my daughter about what she hoped to do here at the farm; things to build, fix, grow, whatever. She is very interested in having to buy as little as possible which, in the future, would include things like making shoes and weaving cloth. She wants fiber animals (goats or alpaca), but would also like to grow flax to make linen. For the space we would have available to grow flax, it would take a few years of accumulating the fibers, but then, it’ll take a few years to buy or build a spinning wheel and loom (her drop spindle won’t quite cut it!). I also have some heritage wheat seeds that I want to grow, just to collect more seeds, for future use. We would be converting parts of the outer yard into small fields for stuff like this – which requires significant clean up, first!

As for leather, once we get to the point of hunting deer, she would be interested in tanning the hides. My husband has been doing some leatherworking and has lots of tools, but the leather itself is so expensive, he hasn’t been doing anywhere near as much as he would like.

We also talked about building more smaller sheds. Most of the outbuildings here are falling apart. We’ve got way too many things crammed into one side of the garage, and that space would make a great workshop. Plus, the garage itself needs a lot of repairs. If we have someplace else to safely store this stuff, that’ll make it easier to do the repairs it needs. Right now, the only space we could use is the barn, and it’s already got so much stuff in it, much of which is probably junk, simply because of how long it’s been sitting there. Plus, the barn isn’t exactly in good shape, either. I certainly would never use it for animals again, without a lot more repairs than we are able to do ourselves.

We also talked about fixing the pump shack; the concrete floor is breaking up and the wooden walls are rotting away, but the frame is still sound, and it has a solid metal roof. It’s also possible that the only thing we need to get the old well going again is to replace the leathers in the pump. After all this time, they would need to be replaced anyhow. We just have to find out what size we need and find where to get them from. If it still doesn’t work right after that, then we would call a well company.

Of course, we want to grow as much food as possible. With the way things are going, food prices are not going to be going down again for a long time, if at all. The value of our dollar is dropping too much.

Once the snow is gone enough, the first thing we need to do for this year’s garden is start building the trellis tunnels. My plan had been to bury the vertical posts in the ground, which would still be mostly frozen. However, now that we know that that area can get flooded out, we would need to have at least low, probably mid height, raised beds at the base of the trellis tunnels, we might not need to. The vertical posts can be part of the walls of the raised beds. The tunnel part would be 4 ft wide (for accessibility reasons, all our paths will be 4 ft wide), but we would not be able to reach the beds from the inside of the tunnel once the climbing mesh is in place, so the beds would be only 2 ft wide. Once the walls, mesh and soil is all in place, we won’t need to worry about the vertical posts getting blown over. We will also be making portable trellises, but they are not as high of a priority, since they can be built much more quickly.

Then there is my priority to have a chicken coop. Our homesteading neighbor that has a shed he needs to get rid of promised to bring it over to us in the spring, once the snow is clear. We need to figure out where, exactly, to put it. It then needs a floor and a modification to the roof to make it into an angled shed roof, rather than a flat roof (which started leaking and is why it needs a new floor). Heck, as long as we have the floor, we can throw a tarp over the roof to start with. As for nesting boxes, I think we actually have some in the barn, and it wouldn’t take much to make roosts.

This would do to start with. I also want to get that antique wagon frame from the car graveyard and see if it’s salvageable to make a chicken wagon. For the amount of eggs we go through, having chickens will be a huge help with the food bill. Eventually, I’d like to have a couple of pigs; both chickens and pigs can be a huge help in clearing and reclaiming land so it can be used to grow food. Plus, of course, we will have manure for fertilizer. The fiber goats my daughter wants to get would be helpful with that, too, but I think that’s for a bit further in the future. Plus, we would get a couple of piglets in the spring and they would be butchered in the fall, so that makes them a priority over goats. Unless we get a milk goat, first. Then my daughters wouldn’t have to buy soy milk.

The main thing is, the more we can grow ourselves, the easier it will be on the budget, and the more food security we will have.

After spending more then $550 today (though we did spend more than usual on non-food items), and not having anywhere near what we need for a month’s stocking up, this isn’t even a matter of choice anymore.

The Re-Farmer

These are two different cats, plus some updates

A while back, I was seeing the one ‘iccus that was still around. Chaddicus? Thadiccus? I know it’s not Bradiccus, because he had a white tail tip and was… well… male… and I don’t think it’s Saddicus…). This cat was very pregnant, so when I heard a kitten squeaking that one day, I assumed it was … Thadiccus. I’ll settle on Thadiccus.

But then I started seeing the mama, and finding dead babies, and when she came to me for comfort and cuddles, I realized it was Junk Pile.

Except this morning, I saw both of them at the same time.

That’s Junk Pile on the right, sitting on the roof. She no longer lets me touch her, never mind carry her, but at least she doesn’t run off quite as much.

That’s Thaddicus in the kibble house.

Junk Pile has more white on her chest area, but if you can’t see that area, they look almost identical. We also don’t often see them both at the same time, and I hadn’t seen Junk Pile for days before the kitten sadness.

Thaddicus is not pregnant anymore.

Which means, there is a litter of kittens somewhere outside the yard. If they survived being born this early in the year.


Thaddicus tends not to relax when people are around, so the chances of her lying in a position where I might see if she’s nursing is very low.

Meanwhile, Rosencrantz is also getting pretty big. She tends to have her litters in the junk pile by the chain link fence. I was really hoping we’d be able to catch her and get her fixed before she got pregnant again.

At least last year’s kittens were mostly male, and the Cat Lady has been able to help us with the females that we’d been able to socialize. Still, we have three calicos and two torties that are quite feral, so we will potentially have quite a few litters again this year.


Well, we’ll see how many of the males disappear over the summer, and find their own territory somewhere else.


My attempt to find a new doctor has not been successful. I found a third clinic in the town we’ve been going to and called them this morning, but they are not accepting new patients. When I asked, the receptionist knew of only one doctor that was accepting new patients, and that was in the smaller city where the specialist I took my mother to see is located, and I know that would be more than my mother would be willing to put up with. My husband and I still have some options to explore, but unless we’re willing to go to the cities, there are no doctors available for my mother.

So, we’ll likely wait to see when new doctors transfer to our doctor’s clinic, to replace the three that are leaving.

In between all that, I’ve been cleaning up and cleaning out this blog, to reclaim media storage space. It has been unexpectedly frustrating.

I’ve been taking out my old Critter of the Day and Photo of the Day posts. I hadn’t realized just how many of them there were! I started doing these in 2018! Most of these had only a line or two of text, or none at all. All had at least one image, with some having two or three images. So far, I’ve deleted images from and trashed over 270 posts. The first frustration is that so far, this has only recovered a little over 1% of my 13 gigs of storage space. On the plus side, 1% storage space is enough for a lot of photos!

I was going to start with the oldest posts and work my way to the more recent, since it was a while before we figured out how much to reduce our file sizes and not use up memory too quickly, so a lot of those files are larger, even though we had already started to crop and resize fairly quickly. A number of them won’t be removed, since the images in them are stored on Flickr. Flickr limits the number of files you can upload, however, so I can’t use that anymore, without getting a Pro account. I don’t want more annual fees.

The biggest frustrations I’ve been having is with WordPress’ lack of media organization. Everything that’s uploaded is there by date of upload, but if you try to do a search for, say, all images uploaded in a specific year and month, the only thing that will come up are images where the year and month are part of the file name. The only way to see all the images for a month is to keep scrolling back in time. Which is fine for the most recent couple of years, but this is a very photo heavy blog, and after a while, WordPress starts really struggling. Then I start getting pop ups saying WordPress is not responding, asking me if I want to wait or cancel, as thumbnails of images stop loading for a while before suddenly whole groups of them will appear. Then I can scroll down a bit more, and the while thing starts over again.

Last night, I did that for hours, just to reach 2019, when suddenly there was a glitch and I had to reload – but the reload put me right back at the start.

There’s a reason I was trying to scroll back through all the images to get to 2018 (I never got past 2019). What I had started to do was do a search for all Critter of the Day posts. You’d think all the posts with Critter of the Day in the title would show up, but nope. Every post with the word “critter” or “day” would also show up. Still, it made it easier to go through the old posts, and I did even get some going back to 2018 that I tried to deal with. I would open each appropriate post in a new tab in edit mode, then open the image/s I wanted to get rid of in another tab. From there, I would cut and past the file name of the image into another tab I had for the media files and do a search for that specific file. Once it came up, I could delete the image, go back to trash the post, then move on to the next one.

The problem?

Sometimes, the searches just didn’t work.

Obviously, the image is somewhere in my media storage, but they don’t come up in the search. This was a particular problem with early images, when I was using only descriptive words for the file names. I’ve since changed to starting every image file with the numerical year, month and day. That way, if nothing else, I can do a search for the numerical part of the file name and a whole bunch of files will come up. I then find the exact one I’m after, delete that one, then trash the post it was in.

Except sometimes, even that didn’t work. There are some files that simply will not come up in the media search, even though I am copying and pasting the exact file name as it shows on the image. The search cannot have the .jpg or .png file extension, or it won’t come up. Some images had an _ added to them for some reason, and most of the time, if those were there, the image wouldn’t come up in a search (but today, I had a whole bunch work, anyway!).

So while I was able to clean out almost 300 images, there are some that I will have to find the hard way. By scrolling through years of images to get to the date the post was made.

After much wasted time and frustration yesterday, I tried again today, slowly scrolling through media files in between doing other things. I still barely made it to 2019.

So instead, I’ve been going through the post files, looking for the picture of the day titles, from more recent to older. These newer posts have images that are all coming up in a media search, so it’s been a lot more productive.

But I still have only freed up about 1% of storage space total.

This is going to be a long, slow, monotonous job.

Looking through all those old photos, though… Gosh, there are some really good photos! I had fun with them, too. Especially the silly deer faces – I had a whole daily series of photos just for silly deer faces! But, this is not a photography blog and, unlike other posts that are still getting hits years later, they are just taking up space. Aside for the first day or two after being uploaded, no one sees them.

Ah, well. This is all a learning process!

I’m done with that for today, though. There’s probably another two or three hundred more posts to go through before I’m done!

Time for a break from that!

The Re-Farmer

Finally done! (video)

I’ve been working on a project for some time now – with a major delay while we fought with the cat barriers and other things.

One of the things we are planning to build is an off-grid type outdoor kitchen. Before we can build the cooking areas, though, we need a shelter. After much discussion with the girls, we hashed out a plan, discussed location and materials, and figured things out as much as we could. Then, to help figure out some of the details, I made a scale model.

Here is the making of the model, and our plans explained.

I hope you like it!

The Re-Farmer