Category Archives: Animals

Hey There

I’m back again after many moons to give you a very general update.

I often think there’s nothing left to blog about, until I go back and look at photos from the last YEAR and, oh my goodness, there’s so many things I could write about!

Like Tirzah turning 2. My favourite age. They’re so cute!

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Or the puppies we sold. (Don’t let your dogs have puppies in winter! Lesson learned. We also sold their dad, and their mom disappeared one day and never came back. We think she tangled with a bear and lost. We are still dog-less.)

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But those puppies were nice enough to buy us a dishwasher.

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And help buy this black beauty in time for my birthday. Happy Birthday to me!

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Then Chad turned 5.

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We took the kids to the Wildlife Park.

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Sadie had a huge seizure and we were flown to Children’s Hospital for a few days. She’s fine.

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Then she turned 7. I need a time machine.

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Our ducks finally hatched some eggs. One duckling is tufted. I named it Trump.

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We added another farmhand to the roster: Justice Margaret. 8lbs.

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Several family members came to visit.

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We spent some time at our little private beach. I worked hard on my tan.

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We sold our milk cow, Moola. We miss her milk (and ice cream).

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We went “camping” in a cabin at our friend’s ranch in buckshnuck and had a great time. Cause that’s what you can do when you don’t have a cow to milk.

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Our two cats had 6 kittens between them. Now we’re back down to one cat.

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We had this huge crazy storm…

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…that blew our car shelter across the vacant 10 acre property next to us and into the next neighbour’s yard.

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Sadie won a few ribbons at the fair for her artwork and a photo.

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And I found out I have the best banana bread in town.

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And the cutest duck.

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We picked sweet corn and ate it raw right off the cob. And froze a bunch too.

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Chad was finally ready for me to cut his hair.

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I think the prospect of no more knots in his hair convinced him.

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And that takes us to mid-september. I have more coming! Promise!

 

 

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Yay Updates!

Hello!  I cannot believe how fast time flies.  I have a few updates for you.

1. After the winter off (looking for work but not finding any), Darryl got a job working for West Fraser Lumber Mill.  He’s been doing that for close to 3 months and he actually enjoys it!  He’s being trained on other equipment besides the entry level jobs, which he was expecting to have to work at for the first year like everyone else, but there are 5 guys under him already and he’s moving around to different areas.  I never thought it would work, but graveyard shifts are the best fit for us right now, and though he’s still technically on-call, they’ve been giving him full time graveyards.  They work because he only has to work 6 out of 8 hours and gets paid a teeny bit more, he’s home to see us in the morning before he goes to sleep, and up again around 4:30, so we see him more.  I also get the car during the day.  You know, if I really want to go to town or something.  Usually I just go around the lake to the library.

2. Sadie is finished homeschooling Kindergarten.  Except for Math.  We can do that slowly over the summer.  I still love using Sonlight.  I’m using some of my government funding to get a new laptop.  A MacBook Pro with retina display, to be more exact.  I’m so excited for that!

3. I got a new phone.  We both got new phones.  Mostly because our contracts were up and our 3 year old phones were getting a leeetle beet slow.  Darryl got the Samsung S6 and I got the HTC One M9.  Darryl’s is really slippery.  Mine has a 20MP camera.

4. Darryl bought me a present.  It starts with S and rhymes with “eel”.  It’s orange and white.  Give up?  It’s a Stihl!!  The weed whacker model (brand spanking new!).  I’ve needed one of these babies for like ever.  I trimmed all the 2 foot tall grass around the deck and posts and stairs, then started hacking a path down to the lake through grass as tall as me.  I made it halfway before I ran out of string and had to quit for the day.  Maybe I’ll get down to the lake tonight.  Then I can exhume the canoe from all the grass and weeds and go canoeing again.

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5. We LOVE living here.  Our house is a perfect size for us, it has a built in milking parlour and chicken coop, lots of places outside to sit (if I had more outdoor furniture, that is), a killer 180 view of the lake, more grass than my animals can possibly keep up with, more yard than I can possibly mow (with the old electric mower that came with the place…I need a ride on now!), awesome storms that you can watch coming for hours, an amazing community with great people, and the best librarian on the planet.

6. A bear killed our dog.  A couple months ago he must have heard a bear trying to cross our property down by the lake and went to tell him where to go.  The bear didn’t like what he said and got outta there, as soon as the threat (our dog) was incapacitated.  Kai died valiantly doing his job.

7. We got new dogs.  I found them on kijiji and they were brought down here for us to try out for a weekend.  They did something horrible every day so we asked for more time and tried them out for 2 weeks.  After a week they learned a few of the rules and settled down better, so we kept them.  They’re 2 year old Australian Shepherds, a male and female from different litters.  They’ve had one litter of puppies before we got them, so we’re hoping they will have more this summer.  The male is a very handsome red and white dog whose grandpa was a show dog.  His name is Jake.  The female is not quite so well bred but she makes up for it in sweetness.  Her name is Junie.  We didn’t name them.  Sorry for the horrible picture, but these two aren’t trained and don’t yet know how to stay.

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8. I got chicks the other day.  We do plan to get more layers this year too but I really wanted some prettier chickens that will raise their own babies.  I got 3 black orpingtons and 3 buff orpingtons.  They’re 2 weeks old already so I have even less time to build a pen for them until they’re big enough to join the 5 current laying hens.

9. The kids are doing great.  Sadie turned 6 and got a bike for her birthday, so she’s been busy riding that around.  She also likes to build forts outside, draw at least 8 pictures an hour, “read” books, and pick wildflowers for me.  Chad is 4 and plays with his cars for days and days and days.  Or he goes outside and plays with his cars.  Tirzah is walking finally.  She likes to push a plastic kids chair back and forth across the house, and she likes to go outside, but I have to carry her in the mornings.  In the afternoon she’s ok if I put her down.  She eats more bananas than a monkey.  Her eczema is mostly cleared up with a few itchy spots on her legs and some days her cheeks are a teensy bit red.

10. I can’t stop at 9 things so I’ll write a poem here for you.

Moola was a nice jersey cow

Who liked grass as tall as her lips

She ate so much that her head had to bow

But the grass still went straight to her hips

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Well that’s enough fun for now.  If you’re still following me, I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment telling me what you would name a baby (girl) calf if her mom’s name was Moola.

Pasture Status

I know… odd title, and it probably sounds boring.

When you have grazing animals, however, it becomes one of the most fascinating of topics.  One of those topics where the more you learn, the less you know.

I know nothing about it.  Except that other people are grazing their animals year round.  In the Yukon.  I want to know how to do that too.  And so I study.

I was talking to a local rancher’s wife who told me that around here, the best grazing anyone can get is 5 acres per head (of cows).  That was after I told her we thought we could get around 8 or 9 animals on our 10 acres of pasture.  I think she snorted on the inside.

I don’t think my numbers were too far off though, based on the grazing we got from the lower pasture last fall.

These pictures are a progression of snowmelt over the last month of so.  All the same section of the lower pasture.

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The property, as it stands today, could not handle 8 or 9 head, but I think the potential is there in a year or two with better grazing management.  There are patches of “grass” that haven’t recovered in the 2 years since they were overgrazed, other patches of mostly canada thistle, and areas with large burdock plants taller than me.  I have another garbage bag worth of burrs to pick off the lower pasture, and then I can start on the upper pasture.  The canada thistle is impossible to remove, so it will have to be choked out with lots of healthy grass.

The biggest problem I see with the traditional ranching methods is they don’t take into account what the grass does when it’s grazed.  The first bite is fine.  That’s when the roots “cut” themselves off to mirror the new size of the top of the plant and start decomposing, feeding the plant.  The next bite, taken a day or a few days later, is detrimental to the plant’s health and it has a hard time recovering.  If the plant is grazed to an inch high, the roots are only an inch long, making the plant susceptible to drought, trampling, or erosion.  The plant needs time to recover between bites and restore the root system.

I’ve seen this principle at work everywhere.  Have you ever noticed that ditches have the thickest, lushest, greenest grass, even in dry weather?  They might get mowed once or twice a season, and the grass clippings stay right there.  Compare that with a lawn.  They get chopped once or twice a week, and they need plenty of water and fertilizer to stay green through the summer.

When we lived in the bush, by daily rotations we were able to graze 2 horses for the summer on just over 2 acres of grass that was pretty thin in places.  We saw a huge improvement in the thickness and drought-tolerance of that grass over a few seasons.  We did have to rotate irrigation daily the first year and probably could have grazed longer the following year if we’d kept that up.  I spread composted manure on the main pasture every spring.

We moved here in the middle of August and set up a grazing rotation right away with electric fencing and step-in posts.  We didn’t move the fence behind them, so they had a new patch of grass everyday but still had access to the whole area.  We gave them a new strip the length of half the pasture every day, and once they were done one half, we let them into the other half and blocked off the first half completely.  Not the ideal way to do it, but we didn’t have enough posts at the time to build them an alleyway to reach the water trough at the gate.  Even so, before we moved them to the second half, the grass in the first half had started recovering and quickly grew to 6+ inches high before we started getting frost.  That lower pasture is probably around 2 ½ acres.  The second half was half thistle.  We grazed the cow and horse from mid August to mid November.  Three months.

If we never grazed the upper pasture, we could get a 3 month rotation from the lower, giving the grass 90 days to recover from the first bite.  By year 2, we would need more animals to keep up with it all.  Or we could hay it.  But that causes other issues because you’re removing all those nutrients off the land.  But that’s a whole other topic.

If we grazed 3 head, we could get a 60 day rotation.  If we pretend the upper pasture has the same amount of decent grass overall (it has a few issues), that would double our numbers to 6 head.  Next year the grass should be even better and the 6-ish acre upper pasture should allow us to handle a couple more.

There are other variables to consider.  We began grazing in mid-august, the driest time of year, except that last summer happened to be a wetter year.  We will get more posts so we can follow the animals with the fence and avoid that second bite before the grass recovers.  There are more nutrients on it now thanks to the animals, and the thistles have had a good trampling.

I’m so impressed with the grass coming back this spring in the lower pasture.

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The snow barely melted and it’s coming up thick and fast.  Better than anywhere else on the property, other than right beside the house where it didn’t get trimmed last year and it gets water every time it rains.  Last year’s grass is still there, protecting the soil and slowly adding nutrients as it decomposes.

We have lots of plans for animals this year, including turkeys and ducks and hopefully more cows.  But right now we’re trying to keep as much water (and nutrients) on our land as possible.  All the runoff is draining right through the property and going to the lake.  And with the little amount of snow we had, it might be a dry summer.

Winter On The Farm

We are totally enjoying living here.  The view is incredible, the house is cozy and warm, the people are welcoming, the drive to town is relaxing and the weather is lovely.  At least, this year it is.

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A snowblower came with the house so Darryl was able to clear the driveway with it for most of the winter, until something on it broke.  Luckily we haven’t had a serious snowfall since, and it doesn’t look like that’ll happen until next winter.

One of the great things you can do with a snowblower is make mountains.  Right in front of the carport is a turnaround with bushes in the middle.  Darryl blew the snow into the middle every time he went around the driveway and got that hill close to 9 feet tall.  The kids LOVE climbing up and sliding down.

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Here’s Chad sliding down the snow mountain.

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We got about 2 feet of snow at the deepest, but with all the warm spells this winter, it didn’t last long.

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I used trees to make the front door look more like the front door.  It turned out to be a convenient place to store the snowshoes too.  We strapped those on a few times.

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This is the lower pasture in the morning, taken from the upper deck.  The lake has been frozen over all winter.

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While I was up there getting that picture, I snapped one of Darryl with the milk pail.

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Moola and Banner have lovely thick coats.  They’ve done well this winter.  They have run of the whole upper pasture, but Banner has one path up to the top by the neighbour horses and Moola doesn’t venture beyond the water trough.

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Kai can’t get enough of chasing snowballs and he’ll spend 4 hours straight following the snowblower around, leaping into the air to catch the snow coming out the chute.

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Then he can’t move the next day.

Deer wander across the property almost every day.  I caught a few pictures as this group of 9 walked up the driveway one morning, stopping to sample hay by the barn and check the bird feeder.

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This winter has gone by so fast!  It’s been gorgeous.  We love being able to see so far, and watch storms coming in.  We’re getting pretty good at predicting the weather by watching the smoke from neighbour’s chimneys, the outside temperature, and the barometer.

On sunny days, the house is bright and airy inside, and on cold or cloudy days, we’re cozy and warm, though it’s usually too hot to sit by the fire very long and we have to open the back door for a few minutes to cool off.  I haven’t been able to wear a sweater in the house all winter.

Hope you enjoyed these photos of our first winter in the Cariboo!

Just For Fun

I’m always trying to get great pictures of Banner running.  Sometimes I resort to chasing him around the pasture.  But when he starts running for any reason at all and I see him, I grab my camera and quickly switch to the zoom lens.

In this case, Moola had gotten out through the electric fence and Banner thought she was leaving him all alone forever.  So I grabbed my camera.

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Her mooing because she couldn’t figure out what happened only made Banner more concerned.

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He kept running to the fence and back to the barn again.

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Most of the decent shots I got were of him running away from me, so I didn’t include those.  I don’t think he realized (or cared) that he was holding his tail to the side and exposing himself to the world through my camera.

He stopped running so I recruited my kids to pose for me.

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The fences were looking particularly lovely that day, so I got pictures of them too.

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Even though my horse or children aren’t always very photogenic, at least my fences are!

2013 Anniversary Photo

Hey.  I know, it’s been a while.

Just wanted to share our anniversary photo(s) with you!

I had 6 spots left on my camera, and trying to get everyone in the photo is tricky when you’re dealing with a cow not used to being led, a dog who is scared of the cow, and a chicken who would rather be anywhere else.  And then getting a 2 year old boy to look AT the camera when we’re behind him telling him to look at the camera.  Gets a little crazy.

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The horses, especially the white one, were pretty dirty and their manes are full of burrs, so we were content to show their rear ends instead of their heads.  The cow was supposed to be standing in front of the garbage cans.  She’s not very cooperative though.  I’m holding a chicken in the photo above, but Kai didn’t make it into that photo.

He’s in this one though!  Grovelling at our feet trying to look as harmless to the cow as possible.  She’s eyeing him up for an attack.

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I cropped the next one so the quality isn’t as good.  But it kind of reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting, with the dog wandering off (getting away from the cow as quickly as possible), Chad looking the wrong way, and Sadie looking frightfully bored with it all.

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I probably could crop out the truck in the first two photos, since just that day Darryl was pulled over and told he’d have to get it fixed and inspected before he drove it again cause it’s been belching a lot of smoke lately.  It needs a new engine, but I think we’ll just try to get a different truck eventually.  One with 4 doors!

Only two months till we meet the next addition to our family!  Yay!

RIP Russell Crow

It’s a good thing I finally got around to taking a picture of Russell, cause this picture is all that’s left of him.

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He was taken out by a coyote yesterday morning.

Darryl saw the mound of feathers and the coyote slinking away, but by the time he got back out there with his rifle, the coyote was gone.

Coward.

The girls are all still here, but they’re staying close to the coop.

I already miss hearing Russell crow.  Hehe.

He was a great rooster.  He warned the girls of any possible predator, including ravens flying over the yard.  He never attacked the kids or us.  He was gorgeous, as far as roosters go.

He will not be easy to replace.

I don’t think we’ll try.

Rest in peace, Russell.

 

PS. If you’re reading this in your e-mail, click over to the actual blog once in a while.  I change up the headers every month.  This month is one of my favourites.  Check it out.