Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Spring is FINALLY here!

After a couple of false starts, I think it's safe to say that Spring is finally here.  I think...

We've had an extremely wet spring, with several late snow storms, as well as lots of rain, so there is water everywhere!

This is our front yard, where we've never had water, and The Girls couldn't even walk through this in their rubber boots, the water was higher than their boots were.  Half of that little bridge in the distance was covered with water.



We've had fun making horses go through the puddles, and it's given them a chance to get the pounds of mud off their feet.  I'm sure it feels good for them! 





This is also the first year we've had this secondary seasonal creek running through our land.  It's sure pretty!


This may be my favorite picture of all time. This is a sloughy area that normally fills up in the spring, but not usually close to this amount!  The little spring fed dugout is probably 6 ft. deep, and it extends well in the low lands.  The ducks love it!



It's been really great to get out riding again, and start getting the ponies in shape for the spring.  I always say that riding is like therapy for me.... but I haven't quite decided if it's cheaper or more expensive.



This spring, we finally bit the bullet and built a new chicken house.  The house is significantly larger than our last house, and so we thought we'd fill it with 50 layers this spring.  As you can tell, 50 layers doesn't even come close to filling it.... so maybe next spring we'll do closer to 75?  We'll see how that all plays out.  I love the new house, with several windows to let natural light in, and lots of room for the chickens to roam.  There's 2 chicken doors for them to get outside into runs, as well, the large door at the end will make cleaning out this house a dream.  We'll be able to pull the skidsteer right up to the house and shovel right into the bucket.


There's also storage for feed and water, as well as some great nesting boxes which open to the other side of the wire mesh, so we don't even have to go into where the chickens are to collect eggs.  The house is finished off with a man door at the end.  We still have some work to do - we'll side the outside with old barn wood, as well as run electrical in there so we can have heat and light in the winter.... but all in all, it's been great to have some new space for these silly birds.  And having new chickens always makes it feel like spring is finally here!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Calving

The first week of March, when our snow was almost gone, we got a huge storm with -30C temperatures and about a foot of snow.  It was a bit of a blow, although completely acceptable for this time of year in Alberta.  We were crossing our fingers that our cows would cross their legs and not drop any babies until after the temperature had warmed up and some of the snow had melted, because friends, it.  was.  miserable..


Thankfully, the cows co-operated, and we had about a third of our herd have their calves in the nice, warm, muddy pasture.  It's always exciting to go and check cows during calving season, because you never know what you're going to find when you get to them.  Usually The Girls come with me, and it's almost as exciting as Christmas morning.  You scan the herd, piles of straw....looking for a mama who is licking a new baby, or seeing a new, fresh calf up and running about, trying to figure out how these things called legs work. 



This mama kept leaving her baby all over the place - under trees, in puddles.... the coyotes kept trying to get closer and closer, so we brought them in a small maternity pen close to the house in order to keep the baby safe until her mama remembered that she needs to keep a close eye on her baby.


This mama and baby are so quiet, and she loved it when the girls would come and hang out in the fresh straw.  The baby would come and lay her head on the girls' lap, just enjoying the attention.



Good thing her mama was nice and quiet - we had plenty of opportunities to pet this little lady.


This handsome guy surprised us being red.  We expected to have only black calves out certain cows....and as you can see, he is certainly NOT black.  But he's my favorite.  He's a big lug of a guy, and he reminds me of our giant dog, George.


We still have some cows to calve, but are expecting a bit of a break for a couple weeks until our next set of cows start calving. 

I'm telling you, it's the most wonderful time of the year!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Homeschooling and 4H


 January marks the start of a more intense couple of month of 4H involvement for us.  We started off the year with our Awards Banquet, and Hannah, Abby and Molly all won awards.  This year, for the awards, we put what they won on the back of a hoodie, and all the kids seemed to like that.  The Girls worked hard last year, and they can be proud of themselves!





This is the first year that Ellie Mae is in 4H, and she has waited many, many years for this, so to say she is excited may be a tad bit understated.  During our busier season of 4H, one of the things the Girls have to do is sell raffle tickets to raise money for our achievement day in May.  I took the girls to the auction market the other day, and they sold a whole lotta tickets in a short amount of time, which was great!





The beginning of February starts off with public speaking in 4H for us, so the Girls spent a whole lotta time preparing their speeches.  The all did really well, with Abby winning in her age category, after a speak off.  Molly competed against Ellie Mae in their age category, and Molly came in 2nd and Ellie Mae came in 3rd, and Hannah would've won in her age category except that she ended up with time faults, so she came in 3rd.  They all worked really hard, and we are super proud of them.  It's been so great to watch their progress and confidence increase over the years in public speaking, so much so that Hannah volunteered to emcee our district public speaking event which her sister will compete in.  I would've never thought I'd see the day that would happen!  Hooray for 4H!

We haven't started calving just yet, but some friends of ours have.  We've been over there a few times to walk through the calves, and it makes me extra excited for our calving season to start, in just over a month from now.  You must check out this sweet, silver calf!


The other day, we were at their place and they had to pull a calf.  This was a first for us to be up close and personal in helping/watching a calf be pulled.  We haven't had to pull any of our own calves....yet, so it was a great learning opportunity for all of us!  In my mind, it was the perfect homeschooling day!

First, we had to bring the cow into the barn, which she wasn't thrilled about!  But we got her in and got her checked out, and sure enough, she needed some extra help getting this calf out.


After some pushing on her part and pulling on ours, she had a big (huge, really) healthy bull calf.  We figured he was about 120 lbs.!  After he was born, our friends showed the girls how to make sure he was breathing, and recovering as quickly as possible.


Then, the Girls got a lesson in how the placenta works inside of a calf.  This was laying outside, from another cow that had just calved, and the Girls were fairly fascinated to see how everything works.  Things like this always make me amazed at how God has created us!


Our last task of the day was to bring in a twin who's mother decided she wasn't interested in mothering it (she took the other twin instead), and give it a bag of colostrum.  Did you know that calves aren't born with any immunity, so it's imperative that they receive colostrum from their mamas within 6 hrs. of being born.  After that, their intestines start closing up and they aren't able to receive those good antibodies after that time.  Fascinating. 


Anyhow, after this twin got loved on by our girls, and got some warm milk in him, the next day she got a new mama - a jersey cow that our friends had bought at the market.  Hooray for happy endings!



Friday, January 27, 2017

Outdoor Winter Activities

Since I talked about some indoor activities on my last post, I thought I'd share some pictures of our favorite OUTDOOR winter activities on this post. 

Firstly, winter in Alberta means feeding cattle.  This year, we started bale grazing for the cold winter months, so we placed bales in the pasture, cut all the strings, and have electric fence to limit how and when the cows get them.  It's working great so far!



We have really, really great neighbors here.  And our great neighbors have been toys tools.  Just before Christmas, they came over and lifted Art up in their picker truck so that he could put snow stop on the shop roof.  This chore also involved rides for the kids.  Naturally.



We spend lots of time going on walks out in the pastures....


....sometimes to check cows....


.....to exercise the dogs (and ourselves!)...


....or to enjoy a sunset!


We spend some time spreading straw for the livestock, so they stay warm and dry(ish).


....and rush outside to catch a picture of the sunrise!


We have spent many hours combing the woods, doing some shed hunting.  For those that don't know, this means looking meticulously under every tree and branch for antlers that have been shed by moose, deer or elk.  The great thing about shed hunting is that it's extremely beautiful in the isolated bush that we walk.



Sometimes we take the dogs, sometimes family who is visiting gets roped into coming....


....and The Girls always want to go!


Lastly, and perhaps the most favorite winter activity of them all is skating.  Art and The Girls have been working faithfully on getting our skating rink up and running, and the Girls enjoy it every day they can, along with friends and neighbors.


So there you have it.  Winter activities around our ranch.  Always beautiful, always fun, and we (mostly) stay warm!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Indoor Winter Activities

The great thing about winter is that it gives us a chance to relax, and instead of working outside all the time, with short days and long nights, we spend the majority of our time inside.  It feels good to start a fire and hunker down inside, while the cold wind and snow blows outside. 

One of our favorite inside winter activities include Lego (lots and lots of Lego!!).  The Girls have collected much Lego over the years, and they also have Art's from when he was a child, so their imaginations run wild with Lego!  Thankfully, I've only stepped on a few pieces this year!


Every year, around Christmas, we pull out a puzzle.  We do a new puzzle every year, and it usually stays out until it's complete.  Not all of us are puzzlers, so those that aren't can often be found curled up the couch, reading a book, while the others puzzle.  It's just nice to be in the same room, hanging out together.


We also enjoy baking.  Lots and lots of baking!  Truth be told, this happens all year round at this home, but it's fun to work on special baking projects, especially around Christmas!


This year, I taught The Girls to embroider.  I sat down to embroider a few flour sack tea towels as gifts, and a couple of the Girls asked me to teach them.  I was surprised at how quickly they caught on - the little girls especially.  They enjoyed embroidering some tea towels, and especially loved giving them away to friends.  I thought they did a fantastic job, and I'm always a little sad to see the towels go, after spending a few hours working on them.  An extra fun thing was that when my parents came out after Christmas, my Mom also got in on the embroidering bug, and her and I spent time visiting and embroidering together.  After my Mom went home, she was talking to my Grandma, who is 97 yrs. old, about flour sacks, and this is what she had to say: 

Flour sacks were precious as they were used for many things like aprons, boys boxer shorts underwear.  They were always in short supply.  Curtains were made from flour sacks and cut them with a scalloped edge, then crocheted around the edges.  They were the prettiest curtains and really make the old rundown house more beautiful and homey.  Nothing was ever wasted so even the thread from the flour sack was used to crochet around edges.   Women crocheted around edges of almost everything like tea towels, tablecloths, pillowcases, and aprons.  Anything to make it look pretty and some items were embroidered like the aprons.  My Grandma said she did a lot of embroidery even before 10 years old.

I'm fairly certain my Grandma could out-embroider me any day of the week, even when she was 10 yrs. old!  I really didn't learn, as a child, to embroider, so this is my attempt to try, and also to teach my Girls.  I think embroidery is such a lost art (as is baking such things as pies and bread!), but I'm thrilled to pass it on.  Here's a fact about me: every time I go to a thrift store, I look for hand made items such as embroidered table cloths, linens and aprons.  I just can't help myself from buying them, knowing how many hours went into making them.  And to buy them for a dollar or two.... it seems like they're grossly undervalued!



Of course, many hours are also spent reading, playing games, doing crafts and watching the occasional movie....

The great thing about living in the Prairies during our long winters is time spent together!