Oh, what a beautiful day!

My goodness, how awesome it is out there today!

At the time I headed out to do my morning rounds, it was only -18C (about 0F), with no wind chill to speak of. As I write this, less than an hour later, we’re already warmed up to -15C/5F, again with basically no wind chill. We’re supposed to get a high of -10C/14F today. It’s going to seem tropical, after the past week!

I still wasn’t quite able to do my usual rounds. The wind has blown over many of the paths dug out in the snow. I decided it was a good day to test out the new heated gloves and do some digging, starting with the plow ridge across the driveway. My mother’s car had a hard time getting through it, yesterday!

Some of the cattens kept me company.

They love that tire that’s used to keep the doors from blowing open. It gets nice and warm! With how much warmer it is, I’m seeing them running around and playing, all over the place!

Along with the plow ridge, I also cleared the path to the compost heap. The wind had completely filled in parts of it, and the snow was brick-like on top, so that took a while. I didn’t even try to dig the path to the sign cam – too long! – but I had my nice new boots, and plowed my way through the wind packed snow. That was almost as tiring as shoveling! It’ll be easier to dig out later, though. The boots are awesome.

As for the gloves…

They are nice and warm, even without turning on the heat. They didn’t seem to get any more pliable by the time I was done, unfortunately. The long cuffs are great – except that they’re not wide enough to go over the cuffs of my parka, nor narrow enough to go under. So I ended up with both cuffs all bunched up. The stiffness of the gloves makes it hard to put on the second glove, but there was an extra problem. These XL gloves fit my wide hands just fine – but I have short fingers. So any time I tried to do something like adjust the other glove, it was hard to get a good grip with floppy finger tips! Plus, the touch screen sensitive parts on the thumb and pointer finger are slightly ridged and harder, so that gets pushed around more, too. I didn’t even try to test the touch screen sensitivity. I have to take a glove off to get my phone out of my pocket, anyhow, so there was no need – plus, just handling my phone with the gloves would be unnecessarily difficult. The last thing I wanted to do was drop my phone in the snow. I did get a lot of use out of the wrist straps while switching out the memory cards, pausing to get my phone out, or to dig out a tissue to blow my know while digging. I like being able to just drop the gloves and have them hanging!

It’s been quite a while since I switched out the trail cam memory cards. Today is the first time I saw the batteries on the solar cam at anything other than 100%! When I first opened it up and checked, it said the batteries were at 75%, but after I switched the memory card out it went up to 80%. Which tells me that it’s more about the cold. Much to my surprise, the older sign cam’s battery meter was still full bars. I suppose that makes sense, though. The gate cam is mounted on a stand in the open. It would have had the full blast of yesterday’s winds coming from the southeast. The sign cam is not only under a tree, but the sign it’s monitoring, as well as the trees across the road, would have stopped all wind from that direction, so it was quite protected.

It should be interesting to see the files over those freezing cold days! The camera that got stolen would do weird things when it got really cold, like turn everything pink. The new camera has had some cold spells before, but not quite like what we’ve had for the past week, so I’ve yet to get a good look at how it handles severe winter conditions.

Considering how many days of files I’ve got to go through, I think I’ll make some tea, first! 😄

The Re-Farmer

Snow and frost, bye-bye bitties, and this is $353

Starting last night, heavy fog started moving across our province. It was heaviest in the south, with major visibility issues. Today, it reached us.

It was pretty light by the time I was doing this part of my rounds, and gosh, it does make the trees look pretty!

Though it does cause issues with how well the trail cams work! 😄

Yesterday, I had to head out in the morning to pick up some parcels at the post office before it closed for the holidays. The road had been plowed. Which is nice, but I started to get stuck trying to get through it with the van. So in the afternoon, I headed out with a shovel to clear it.

Which is really hard to see, even after trying to increase the contrast when I resized the photo! 😄 I did the end of the driveway, from the gate to the road, with a shovel rather than breaking out Spewie. The plow ridge was too much for that little snow blower.

Which meant getting out today was much, much easier!

Today, we said goodbye to the bitties.

Tissue is the last of the inside cats that needed to be spayed. She is available for adoption, but we will be bringing her back home on the 4th. They’re scheduled to be spayed on the 2nd.

Walnut (who would be Tissue’s baby sister) may not be spayed right away, though. The littles are all dealing with upper respiratory issues, and the vet might not be willing to spay her until that’s been treated. Talking to the Cat Lady, she was thinking either the vet would spay her, and they’d keep her for 2 weeks of antibiotic treatment, or the vet won’t do it, they’ll treat her for 2 weeks, and then hope for another spay clinic (which is $75, instead of $350).

While I was working on this post, however, I started getting messages from the Cat Lady, asking what we know about Walnut’s age. We know she’s at least 6 months old, even though she is so tiny. Well, it turns out the Cat Lady has someone who is interested in adopting a tiny cat. Walnut may already have a forever home lined up! The bitties, of course, won’t be up for adoption for a while, yet.

Meanwhile, because of the respiratory issues, Tissue is currently isolated from the rest of the Cat Lady’s cats, who are all sniffling right now. The bitties, of course, will be isolated in their own kennel for awhile, too. Apparently, this particular strain of upper respiratory problems, which has been a problem for at least 30 years, is especially bad this year. Another rescue she is connected with has lost ALL their adult cats to it! For it to take out adult cats is very unusual. When she was last at the vet, all the other people with cats in the waiting room, their cats were stuffy and sneezing.

The lysine we’ve been giving them – even though they are probably not getting much of a dose – will help. It used to be, lysine treatment was only for a month, but the vet is telling her that now, it’s lysine for life. !!!

So we will all be taking extra care with the cats. Being as isolated as we are, we don’t have to worry too much about the cats being in contact with other colonies compared to more populated areas, but the Cat Lady has to take extra care, just in her own house, and she has more than 20 right now.

We meet in a parking lot near a Walmart, so after we parted ways, I took advantage of the situation and did some shopping. We are well stocked with most things, which meant that – aside from cat food (the Cat Lady casually loaded another bag of cat food into our van, along with another cat bed, while we were chatting!) – we could indulge a bit for New Year’s treats.

Which is why this cart load is $353 and change (plus a donation to the Children’s Hospital).

There’s 5 different types of frozen appetizers in there, which we’re having today – early, because none of us intend to stay up to midnight! – as well as a couple of cheeses, a couple of charcuterie combos and a couple of baguettes for tomorrow. I got a couple of pies as well, and some cranberry ginger ale. Along with the dry and wet cat food, I had a request for some “healthy-ish” cereal for my husband, plus a large jar of olives, both for the charcuterie, and for general snacking. There’s a bag of clementines, and two bags of avocados. Those were under $2 for a bag of five avocados! These days, we’re lucky to pay less than $2 for just one.

There’s also a couple of bags of pistachios for van snacks, and a couple of popcorn seasonings. Last of all are a couple of Command Strip hooks I remembered to get, some batteries my daughters needed, and some painkillers for me. I ran out a while ago.

That’s it. The cart isn’t even full, and it was over $350

Before heading for home, I messaged the family to let them know I’d need help unloading. We can’t drive up to the house right now, and the path shoveled to the garage is not wide enough for the wagon.

When I got home, however, I found my daughter had broken Spewie out and widened the path, and even got paths to the burn ring and almost all the way to the electricity meter. The extension cord wasn’t long enough to reach all the way, and she didn’t want to break out another one. So she was shoveling in front of the garage, instead.

When I came in, though, I had another surprise.

The driveway was cleared again!

I was going to work on it tomorrow, with Spewie, but now we just need to clear the rest right in front of the garage, and paths in the yard.

As you can see, even though I increased the contrast in the photo, we still had fog.

Driving out, the fog got thicker the further south I went. By the time I was driving home, it was the other way around. When I was loading the van, there wasn’t any fog anymore, but the further north I drove, the denser it got. One stretch of my route is nothing but open fields in all directions, with just the occasional shelter belt around a farmyard visible. With the white snow and the dense fog, there was no horizon, except on the highway itself – and even then, I was seeing a vehicle in front of me slowly disappearing, even though we were not getting any further apart.

That combination of snow and fog really affects the visibility!

I was certainly glad to get home!

So now, we will celebrate New Year’s early, and be in bed well before midnight! 😄😄

The Re-Farmer

Could I please win the lotto now?

Okay, I suppose I should buy a ticket, first.

What a day this turned out to be – and it’s still the afternoon, as I write this!

Here’s a bitty, so start things out on a positive note!

I eventually saw both bitties, then I saw the tuxedo eating in the sun room. As I finished my rounds, I spotted him in the cuddle pile on the swing bench!

At least the morning started off well.

My mother had called yesterday, and we arranged for me to come over to help her run errands. With that in mind, while doing my rounds, I started her car and let it run for a while. Everything seemed fine, so I shut it off and plugged it back in before going inside.

The woman I’ve been getting our cardboard for the garden from has been selling eggs. I decided to get 2 flats of eggs from her, instead of Costco, and we made arrangements for me to get them while on my way to the city, tomorrow. She’ll be away, though, so her mother has the eggs, in the town nearest to us – but not the town I normally go through on the way to the city. I got her contact information, and was going to just make a side trip to get them on the way out, but since I was going to be running around today, and picking up cash for the eggs in the process, I figured why not make the side trip to get the eggs today, on my way home, instead of tomorrow, on the way to the city?

So that was arranged before I headed out to my mother’s. I was planning on going to the bank then pick up lunch, first, so I headed out very early. I even remembered to grab the empty water jugs to refill.

It’s a good thing I headed out as early as I did!

First, my mother’s car wouldn’t start.

I turned the ignition, and there was nothing. No sound. The fan and the radio turned on, but that was it.

After trying several times without success, I plugged it back in, then headed inside to switch keys. I asked my husband to call my mom and let her know I’d be coming with the van and why, then headed to the garage again.

The van started fine, and I backed out. My daughter had cleared in front of the garage, but had not been able to get back out again since then. I ended up backing into the ridge of snow, so I went back and forth a bit to be in the clear, before pausing to send a message to my brother about my mother’s car, since he likes to keep on top of that. I had to get the van out of the garage to send the message, because there’s no wifi signal in the garage.

I had just finished that and started to move the van, when an alarm sounded and a warning light turned on. The onboard computer displayed the message “check brake system”.

WTH???

I decided to try plugging in the OBDII reader to see if it could tell me something useful.

It wouldn’t connect.

The app just kept scanning for a device to connect with, and never found anything.

After following the instructions to connect, several times over, I gave up. To use the scanner, the vehicle ignition is supposed to be in the “on” position, but without the engine running. I was going to drive it back into the garage and cancel with my mother, but when I started it, there was no more warning.

Did I dare go to my mother’s?

I decided to give it a go.

And promptly got stuck.

The snow on the driveway was deeper than I thought.

Thankfully, I was able to easily back into the cleared area again, reposition the van, and go for it.

I barely made it to the road, but I did get through.

My mother’s car would not have made it, so… silver lining!

I drove until I reached the highway, when I could finally pull over to message my family, asking if the driveway could be done while I was gone. Then I continued to my mother’s town.

It wasn’t until I was pulling into the parking space at the bank that the warning light turned on again. I went to get some cash, started the engine, and it was still there. I drove to the Chinese take out place and parked, but when I started it again to go to my mother’s, the warning was gone.

In the middle of all this, I was contacted by the egg lady’s mother, with an address to pick up the eggs, and had to cancel that, though I offered to pay for delivery, if that were possible.

My mother and I had lunch and visited for a while. I updated the family, and my brother, about the situation, and my husband was able to book the van into the garage to get checked – and for an oil change – the day after tomorrow. I was just starting to message the egg lady’s mother, when she responded to my question about delivery, saying she didn’t drive. Thankfully, I was able to tell her I’d be in town on Thursday with the van, and should be able to get the eggs, then.

Needless to say, I was rather on edge while doing errands with my mother! The warning light did turn on again, in between errands, but then it turned off.

We did groceries last, and I stayed long enough to put away the refrigerator stuff before my mother kicked me out to go home. Usually, I stop to get gas (and buy a lotto ticket!) before going home, but I didn’t even do that. It was straight home – and the warning light stayed off the for the entire drive.

My younger daughter, meanwhile, had spent most of that time doing a marvelous job with little Spewie. It was a real struggle, but she’d managed to clear a lane just wide enough to drive through. I had to stop to let her know I’d arrived, and move the extension cord, because she couldn’t hear me over the snow blower. Still startled the heck out of her!

Did I mention she’d cleared a path just wide enough to drive through? 😄 Getting in and out of the van was a bit of a challenge!

With how hard of a time the little snow blower was having, clearing such densely packed snow, once I was parked and we could see she didn’t need to clear much more by the garage, she went and cleared a path to the gate cam, and enough space to be able to close the gates. I’ll have to open them again tomorrow, for the pharmacy delivery driver, but at least it’s an option, now!

As for us, we are going nowhere tomorrow.

We’re supposed to stay pretty cold over the next four days or so, before things start becoming relatively mild. We’re getting extreme cold warnings, but that’s a relative thing. Some friends in the city we were living in before moving here have been posting screenshots of their weather apps. They’re getting -33C/-27F with wind chills of -45C/-49F today. We’re not supposed to get anywhere near that cold. I’ll be just find with highs of -22C/-8F we’re expected to get a few times in the next week. Even right now, we’re at -21C/-6F, with a wind chill of -30C/-22F, and nowhere near as cold as they are!

Still, this cold is doing a number on both our van and my mother’s car. We’ll be taking the van in, but there is nothing we can do about her car until probably February.

Unless it just starts working again. I’ll try starting it again tomorrow morning, while doing my rounds.

Both vehicles really need to be replaced, but the priority is on replacing our van right now. It’s the most needed vehicle.

Something to talk about while at the garage. Our mechanic now sells used cars, too, and I’ve already talked to him about what we need. Our van is so far gone, if we use it as a trade in, he’d just be sending it to the scrap yard for a few hundred bucks. He suggested we try selling it privately. Someone who can do the work themselves could do well by it, even as just a parts vehicle. But we can’t sell it without having something to replace it, immediately.

*sigh*

So, yeah… a lotto win would sure come in handy right now! I just gotta remember to buy a ticket! 😄

The Re-Farmer

Some things are still fluffy!

Yesterday, one of my daughters worked on shoveling paths in the yard, to the burn barrel and the electricity meter, while the other broke out little Spewie and started on the driveway.

The problem is that, with the winds we’ve been having, what had earlier been light and fluffy snow is now hard packed. Since the wind was also coming from the north, it was blowing the snow off the garage roof and forming a drift, right in front of the garage doors.

That little snow blower worked mightily!

My daughter focused on clearing the turning radius in front of the garage. She worked for a couple of hours, came in to warm up, then headed back out again, taking advantage of the fact that Spewie has a headlight.

This is what she was working on.

This is not drifted snow.

You can see my boot prints to the gate cam. All of that needs to be cleared.

For perspective…

I added the little red lines to show where the top of the snow it. It’s about 3/4s up to my knees.

Also, I need new boots. These are supposed to be good to -40C/-40F. They are not! Plus, they’re starting crack in places. Having finally run out of Toe Warmers, it means my days of clearing snow are ended until I either replace the boots or get more Toe Warmers. Just the time it takes to do my morning rounds leaves me with freezing toes – and that’s with extra liners in my boots!

Ah, well. We’ll see what I can find when I’m in the city in a few days.

The snow may no longer be fluffy, but some things still are!

Here is a fluffy Brussel.

What a gorgeous cat! I so want to snuggle her, but she won’t let me come close. 😥 (I’m just assuming it’s female, because it’s a calico.)

We have SO many long haired yard cats now!

I think I counted 27 cats this morning. Or it might have been 24. Every time I counted, I got a different number! I did see both remaining bitties in the cat house this time, so that’s good. Unfortunately, we’re now out of the big cans of cat food the cat lady donated for the outside cats, so they’re not getting their treats anymore.

One of cats that got counted was this beat up boy.

What a face!

Shop Towel actually came around to eat while I was still putting out the food and water, and after they were all done eating, he stayed sheltered under the water house. If it were summer, I’d discourage him from hanging around, but not in the winter!

The water shelter is a lot higher than the kibble house and cat house. I’m trying to think of what I could put around the bottom to help keep out the wind and snow. Carpet cut into strips, like what is in front of the cat house entry, would probably work. There are rolls of scrap carpet in the barn. I have no idea how old they are, but some might still be useable.

Over the next couple of days, our focus is going to be slowly clearing away the driveway. I want to dig out the gas powered snow blower and try starting it again. We were never able to bring it in to get checked – dragging it in and out of the back of the van is a real pain. It had started when I tested it, two winters ago, then suddenly wouldn’t when I actually needed to use it. Who knows? It might suddenly start working again. It’s not like anything has changed. It would make things SO much easier if we could get that big beast going!

On the plus side, we’re not expected to get any significant amounts of snow for the next while, so at least the job shouldn’t get any bigger.

The Re-Farmer

Good company

If you’re going to have someone invade your space while you’re in the bathroom, you can’t do better than David.

He loves that sink.

He fills that sink!

What a chill, laid back, precious boy!

Then there’s these guys.

By the time I’m done my morning rounds, the outside cats have finished eating and are settling into their favourite spots to hang out. The littles just love sitting on top of the board the heat bulb’s fixture is attached to! They don’t hang out under the bulb, which you’d think would be warmer. They like to be above it!

While doing my rounds, I did a bit of shoveling, but the snow is deep enough, we’re going to have to clear the driveway. Not because it’s too deep to get out, but because I don’t want it to accumulate too much the next time it snows.

We’re supposed to get more snow today – 97% chance of precipitation – and a high of -11C/12F this afternoon. The next two days are supposed to have highs of -16C/3F, which still isn’t too bad. It’s the wind that’s going to make it miserable. After that, we’re supposed to start going below -20C/-4F, or close to it, probably for the rest of the year – depending one which app I look at. Another tells me we’ll be around -10C/14F during the week around Christmas, which is about half what my desktop app tells me. Well within the 30 year average, either way, so not a major concern. It’s January and February that are typically the harshest. The AccuWeather website has long range forecasts all the way to March 16 and, according to them, January and February are going to be downright tropical, compared to the last few years! If they’re right, we’ll be warmer than -10C/14F for most of those two months!

I’m not counting on that. 😄

It’d be nice, though.

I was happy to see the road seems to be well plowed. I say “seems to be”, only because everything is so glaringly white, it’s blinding. We’ll have no problems getting out anywhere, if we need to.

With the Christmas and New Year’s holidays coming up, it changes when my husband’s disability payments come in. CPP Disability, which typically comes in just a couple business days before his private insurance payment, will be coming in on the 21st. Which means (weather willing) that’s when I’ll be making a trip to the city for what will not only be our last Christmas dinner shop, for the fresh things we won’t buy in advance (we don’t really buy gifts anymore), but it will be our first large shop for January.

I’m not looking forward to shopping so close to Christmas, but it does mean we will probably not need to do any sort of major trip again until next year.

We can go back to turtling into our shells again!

The Re-Farmer

Peeking – and we’re just flabbergasted!

I had a little one peeking, while I was adding lysine to the kibble for the outside cats.

The ledge on the outside of that window is not only quite narrow, but at an angle, so that snow and rain would flow away, back when this was an outside window. Only the smallest of the kittens can sit on there without falling off!

I just got some updates from the cat lady. She’s still got some of our littles as they are being treated before going to their forever homes (except Muffin, who is staying with them). She had taken them to the vet today for an exam, and they got treated for ear mites. They were supposed to be checked for ear mites while they were being spayed, but that didn’t happen! The mites were very deep in the ears and difficult to find.

Princess, however, had a surprise for everyone.

The vet pulled out a small piece of metal. About the size of a pellet. The ear drum needed to be sewn together. Apparently, she’s been deaf in that ear, all this time. She can probably hear now – or at least will, then it’s healed up and no longer packed.

She exhibited no signs of pain and had no balance problems. The only reason they looked in her ear at all was because she was there for an exam. With Princess, the vet’s reaction was “where are the ear drums?” !!! The vet thinks it’s been there for months. Princess is the youngest of the kittens the cat lady took in. I’m guessing she was born in June, but we don’t know for sure. Which means she may have had that in her ear for most of her life!

We’re just flabbergasted. For a piece of metal to get into her ear is weird enough, but for it to get so deep into her ear that it damaged her ear drum? The vet wondered if she’d fallen on something metal and a small piece broke off. With yard cats, who knows? There is just so much stuff they can get into, all over the place.

The people that are adopting her have been informed. They will monitor her and take her to their own vet for follow ups.

It does mean we’ll likely have to treat the inside cats for ear mites, too. There isn’t anything we can do about the outside cats. Mineral oil in each ear for 10 days will kill them.

We’ll need to get more mineral oil. 😄

So that is our weird and rather shocking news of the day!

In other things, we were able to get at least some shoveling done, before the snow started to fall again. From the beeping sounds I’m hearing outside, the plows are out, which is good. From what I’ve been hearing from friends online that live in the area, the highways are pretty dangerous right now.

I’m so glad we don’t need to go anywhere!

The Re-Farmer

When I look up…

… while sitting at my computer, this is what I often see.

She loves that spot!

The problem is, other cats like that spot. Especially Leyendecker. Every now and then, he’ll go up there and, even if he’s just lying on the lower spot beside her, she starts stressing out and backing off – and has fallen right off the shelf, several times!

Silly Anxiety Bear.

Ginger has gotten very difficult to get pictures of! If his head is anywhere near my hands, he will grab my hand and pull it to his head, so I can scratch his ears for him, and he doesn’t care if there’s a phone in my hand, as I try to get his picture! 😄

The snow has continued, off and on, all night. There’s about 6 inches/15cm in most places. Very light and fluffy snow, but deep enough that it’ll be worth breaking out little Spewie to clear the paths and driveway. By tomorrow morning, we’re supposed to get another 5-10 cm/2-4 inches of snow.

We’re at -7C/19F right now, and are expected to get only a degree warmer, with one more relatively mild day before the temperatures start to drop. We’re at the edge of a large system that’s slowly spinning counter-clockwise, and most of the severe weather is at the south end of our province, and in the US.

At times like this, I really appreciate that our “job” is to take care of this place, and we don’t have to commute anywhere.

The Re-Farmer

Let it snow, let it snow…

… okay, it can stop now. I’m good.

😄

Actually, we’ve got it pretty good. A friend of ours is on the East coast, and they got hit with a major storm and no power. As I write this, they still don’t have electricity! Thankfully, they have a fire place to keep warm around, and are in an urban area, so they can drive to places that do have power, to recharge their devices, have a hot meal and stay warm!

We’ve been getting a gentle snowfall all day yesterday, and it’s continuing today. It is supposed to continue for the next three days, after which the temperatures are supposed to drop quite a bit. Nothing unusual for our region, but it’s going to be when we’ll get a good idea of whether or not the new roof will make a difference in how cold it gets upstairs. Looking at our 30 year records, on this date we reached a record high of 6C/43F in 1997 – and a record low of -36C/-33F in 2013!! So I’m quite content with our current -2C/28F.

The outside cats don’t seem to mind it, either!

Thanks to the cat lady’s donation of wet cat food for them, I’m still doling out a large tin of cat food, with lysine mixed in, twice a day. After I put the last and largest amount of it in the tray inside the cat house for the bitties, the bigger kittens are quite content to clean the bowl and spoon for me!

Yesterday, I counted 27, including the bitties. This morning, I “only” counted 23. I couldn’t see the bitty tuxedo in shadows, so I’ll just assume the head count was actually 24. 😁

As for the inside cats, Marlee is still doing very well. When the girls come in, she’ll go right over for pets. With one of my daughters, she really likes to hop up on the bed and start rolling around, showing us her belly.

Which had been shaved! When the cat lady trapped Marlee and was finally able to get a vet to look at her, one of the things they did was see if she need to be spayed. She had already been spayed, but had no tattoo, so along with getting other basic treatments, they gave her a tattoo. The cat lady didn’t mention they’d shaved her belly in the process, but there is a very distinct area of shorter fur still growing back. It’s a reminder of just how short the time has been, since she was rescued.

She is such a sweet little lady!

She still snarls at the other cats, though. Of course, she’s only been here less than a week, so that’s not much of a surprise!

In other things, the girls and I finally were able to do some decorating for Christmas. They’d hung the tree against the dining room door a while back, before everybody got sick. Since then, the only decorations on it where the berlingot decorations I’d hung up while the glue I’d hung while the tips dried.

Because of the cats, my daughter had to hang the tree pretty high against the door, which made adding the tree topper a bit of a challenge! 😄

Aside from the tree, we added lights and garlands along the walls and cabinets, up near the ceiling, where the cats can’t reach.

I think that’s about all we’ll do for decorating the house. It’s just too much of a pain to try and protect everything from the cats! As it is, during the night, they knocked one of the boxes of decorations onto the floor. My daughter found most of them and put them away, but I found an apple decoration somehow jammed into the toe of one of my snow boots this morning!

The girls and I also had a chance to talk about future plans. For me, it’s getting a chicken coop built and getting chickens as quickly as possible. They, on the other hand, keep trying to delay it until we can adopt out more cats. My daughter is the one that’s been paying most of the more recent vet bills, and we’ve had some very expensive cats. They’re just going on the assumption that if we get chickens, they’re all just going to get sick and we’ll have lots of vet bills. So that’s another objection they have.

When I was a kid, we had lots of chickens. At least 50, probably closer to 100, at any given time. Not once did we call a vet for them. If they died, they died. Very few of them ever got sick. Which is pretty amazing, considering my parents really didn’t make any extra effort to prevent it. We had more losses due to skunks than anything else. I keep forgetting. My daughters are essentially city girls.

One of the main reasons I want to have a mobile chicken coop that is suitable for our winters, rather than just a chicken tractor, is because I want to incorporate the chickens into prepping soil in our gardens for us. They would be excellent for eating up weed seeds, insects and other pests, while loosening the soil and fertilizing it at the same time. For that, I want to be able to move their coop to different locations, and have electric chicken fencing to keep them in place – and most predators out. My daughters, however, are concerned about things like coyotes, the cats, hawks, eagles and owls. So they are thinking of having a completely enclosed chicken yard. Which we would definitely have for the winter months.

So… I expect to be on my own when it comes to getting ready for chickens.

What they are really interested in getting started on is building our outdoor kitchen. My younger daughter and I spent quite a bit of time talking about it, while she sketched things out. We’ve worked out where we want to build it – basically, about where the shed with the collapsed roof is. If we can dismantle that and build it in the same spot, that would be great. Otherwise, right in front of it would be good, too. Among the things we need to consider is that it’s a space free of trees, and where the prevailing winds are. In that location, it’s wind from the south that we’d have to shelter from the most.

One wall will have a multi-function cooking area. We want to incorporate an oven, much like the earthen or cob ovens, where the fire gets built up inside, then the ashes removed for baking and roasting. There will be an area with a grill, and my daughter specifically wanted an area where we can incorporate a wok, both of which would have their own smaller fire areas under them. We will also incorporate a smoker, so smoke from the cob-style oven and under the wok will be directed into the smoker. We’ll just have to make sure we can allow the smoke to escape if we’re cooking, but not smoking anything.

The question is, what will we build all this out of? For the shelter itself, it will likely be a timber frame, and we’ve agreed that a metal roof, with the rafters and any other wood above treated against fire. We plan to incorporate stone a lot – we have so much of it! – but for the cooking area, we will probably hit a salvage yard for bricks. We wouldn’t be able to “harvest” our own stones for that, as what we have is porous and can absorb moisture; it has been known to explode when exposed to heat. It would be great to find fire bricks from a salvage yard, too, but that’s something I’d consider worth buying new. The cooking area would also basically make up one wall, but for the other sides, we’re thinking to have at least half-walls. Likely of stone – again, because we have so much of it!

We’ll need a lot of mortar.

For the top half of the walls, I’d like to have the option of switching between screens in the summer, and wall panels in the winter.

Along with the cooking area, we will have another wall with a work table from end to end. That can be mobile, along with any seating. We’re also going to include a sort of cut-out corner for an open fire pit, too. Something we can sit around and have a nice, sheltered, wiener roast. Our current fire pit is much enjoyed, but over the years, the trees have grown too large, and there are too many branches the sparks could potentially ignite. Winds from either the northwest or the southeast can be quite a problem, too. For that area, we will likely build a gazebo shelter that we can use for things like hanging garlic, or laying out potatoes to cure, and not have to worry about it getting rained on. We’ve used our 10×10 market tents for that, but we want a permanent structure.

Somewhere around the outdoor kitchen, my younger daughter also wants to built a forge for the blacksmithing she wants to do. We found some of my late fathers old blacksmithing tools while cleaning up around the pump shack, but what he used for a forge had been gutted, and no longer had the blower fan that had been in there. Who knows, though; perhaps my daughter can still find a way to use that old thing!

So we were able to hash out some plans and ideas. My daughter is now doing more research on blacksmithing and building a forge, while I’ve been doing more research on building a timber frame shelter, and different ideas for the cooking area. There are actually a few multi-function designs out there – some even incorporating a smoker – but of course there are none with all the stuff we have in mind. Which is fine. It’s the different ways to build them that interests me.

When we’ll actually be able to start building this is the question. We’ll need to start accumulating the materials. Once we know what materials we can find or acquire, we’ll be able to make final decisions on the construction and know which materials we’ll have to buy, as well.

I did find an entire playlist on YouTube with a guy building a timber frame “forest kitchen”, by himself. I’ll be spending some time watching those!

That’s one benefit of our long winters, when you can’t do much outside. It’s a good time for making plans and doing research!

The Re-Farmer

I started, then I couldn’t stop!

With today already being so much warmer, my morning rounds ended with extra outside activities, like doing a burn, and then some shovelling.

I was going to do the vehicle turn around space and leave the paths to the girls, but since I was going through the paths while doing my rounds, I just grabbed a shovel and started clearing a path to the garage, while on my way to the gate camera.

Then I cleared a path to the burn barrel and the electricity meter.

Then I started to clear the path around the house before going to the sign trail cam way out in the corner across the old garden area, and ended up clearing a path to the sign cam.

Then I finished making a path around the house, and since I was on that side anyhow, I went ahead and did the the fire pit area.

I was going to leave the turn around space for the girls, but it was a balmy -7C/19F, with no wind, and lovely sunshine.

Yeah. I cleared that, too.

What can I say? I like shovelling.

The kittens were very excited when I was done. Well… these ones, anyhow.

From left to right, we have Princess, Judgement, Plushy trying to climb my legs, and Gooby.

Who isn’t gooby anymore. That lysine really worked! There’s a few kittens with eyes that look a bit leaky, but that could just as easily be from the cold winds. I didn’t notice any leaky eyes today.

I did notice a little, bitty ball of fluff, though.

The bitty baby was out and about, running around, stalking its bigger cousins, and generally having a blast in the snow. When I came close, he ran off and I was only able to pet him while we was under a step to the storage house, where I could just barely reach. He most definitely did not want me around, though.

He’s doing great, which makes me happy. We’ll still keep an eye on him (along with the others, of course) but with the warmer temperatures we’re supposed to be getting, he should be just fine out there.

Oh, my goodness! I just went looking at the AccuWeather website for our area. The app that came with my desktop is now saying that we will hit 3C/37F on Friday, instead of Saturday, but AccuWeather is saying we should reach a high of 5C/41F on Friday! That’ll feel downright tropical!

We’ll see how things work out, but if the long range forecasts I’m looking at are in any way accurate, we’re going to have that mild winter I’m hoping for. Here’s hoping!

The Re-Farmer

Cold, but the kitties are okay, and meandering thoughts

We did eventually warm up to our predicted high of -12C/10F, though it came with wind chills colder than -20C/-4F at times.

When I fed the yard cats in the morning, I counted “only” 24 or 25, including the bitty baby – who never came outside!

You can just make him out through the frost, near the bottom of the window.

Thankfully, the south yard is pretty sheltered from the winds coming mostly from the north. Though we had blowing snow all night, there wasn’t anywhere near as much on the ground as it had looked like there should be. I started shovelling the more sheltered walkways, then got a bit carried away.

I used the tire tracks from when I lasted back up to the house as a guide for where to clear away the snow. You can even see the packed down snow under the tire tracks. I didn’t feel like bringing out the ice chipper to break those up, and the shovel I was using already has a crack in it, so I wasn’t going to bash around with it any more than I had to.

As we warm up over the next week, things should actually start melting a bit, and I want these high traffic areas to clear away completely. I think tomorrow, I’ll keep working to clear the space we use to drive into the yard and turn the vehicle around. I’ll leave the paths around the house, and the fire pit, for the girls to do. They’re planning on getting the fire pit going, just because they can, in the near future.

Meanwhile…

Not too long ago, I was outside again and did the evening feeding.

I counted 30 this time, including the bitty baby. He was in the larger window by himself, and even tried to play with me through it, before going to the entry where the food tray is. He never came out, but he’ll have to if he wants the water. If he had come out, I probably would have snagged him and brought him inside. To be honest, though, the next youngest litter of kittens, being all short haired, are probably colder than he is! It isn’t stopping them from playing in the snow, so their undercoats must be well developed for the winter already.

As I write this, it’s -13C/9F, and that’s as cold as we’re supposed to get, including overnight lows, for at least the next 10 days. In fact, the forecast has changed to predict even milder temperatures than before!

Not only are they now predicting three days with highs of 0C/32F, but we’re looking at 3C/37F a week from now! The last time I saw temperatures that high was in the long range forecast, in December.

Of course, it depends on which app I look at. Another app I have shows the first two of those 0C days as reaching 1C/34F, while another shows two days at 0C, then lower temperatures than in the image, though the Saturday is still supposed to be above freezing. All of them are predicting conditions well within average, though.

There is a saying, that a man with two watches, never knows the time. It’s much the same having multiple weather apps! Each company is linked to different data sources, so while one of them might be linked to data from the weather station at the nearest town to the west of us (one that is much closer to the lake, where conditions can be very different from where we are) another might be linked with a station to the north of us (which would probably be the one with conditions closest to what we get here, even though that station would be further away than the others), and yet another might be linked to a station to the south of us.

Well, at least between them all, it gives us a general idea of what to expect. I had been hoping that we might have the roofers coming out during that warm spell we’re supposed to get, but now I’m not so sure. My brother wanted to be here while they are here, and he’s the one that has Power of Attorney for our mother, to make sure they get paid – something my mother would have difficulty understanding how to do anymore. However, he and his wife are currently out of province due to a medical emergency. I got a call from them while they were still on the road, but they should have arrived by now. Hopefully, all will go well, and they will be coming home soon, but I know that they will want to stay there as long as possible, to be able to help. There is going to be a long road to recovery involved. My SIL might be able to stay longer, at least, as she is now officially retired, but not my brother. We are definitely keeping them all in our prayers right now! At least the roads should be good and they should have safe driving.

With my husband’s health, we are well aware of how suddenly everything can be turned upside down. All it takes is a moment. A car accident. A trip and fall. A heart attack or stroke. A bad reaction to medication. One moment, you’re able bodied and doing fine. The next… you’re not. A friend of mine in the disabled community has a term she uses for those who aren’t disabled: TABs. Temporarily Able Bodied. She says it tongue in cheek, but really, she’s right. At some point, we’re all going to start having issues, even if is just from getting old and the body wearing out. Not something we tend to think about while in our prime. For us, after all we’ve been through, we now work on the assumption at, at some point, we’re going to be dealing with stuff like this even more than we are now. So when we plan things like garden beds, or chicken coops, or repairing/replacing sidewalks and doorways, accessibility and mobility needs are part of the plan. I mean, yeah, I can slap together a perfectly functional chicken coop rather quickly, but what good is that, if we don’t have the mobility to get in and clean it? It takes longer to get things done, but at least when they do get done, it’ll be with “age in place” and future mobility needs in mind.

This house will never be fully accessible, though, which is why our long term plans include the possibility of building a smaller, fully accessible, house for my husband and I, while also acknowledging that at some point, we might simply not be able to live here anymore. We may have to move into a place like where my mother lives – but even her building is not fully accessible! They dropped the ball when designing that place, that’s for sure.

I’m digressing, to be sure, and yet this is all very much a part of things we have to think about. What we do with this place now is setting up for the future, for when our daughters will take over and, eventually, my nephew’s sons inherit the property. But even that isn’t written in stone.

Nothing ever is, is it?

The Re-Farmer