Farm life never sleeps

Farm life never sleeps

Whoever said that writing a blog, consulting, taking care of a newborn, taking care of a toddler, building a social life in a new place, and running a farm wouldn’t be easy (and that was pretty much everybody I know) wasn’t lying. It is indeed a challenge. I have a two week old baby and I am prepping for an interview for a second consulting contract in two days. It is nearly midnight and I just took a quick shower after finishing laundry and Rob is still downstairs finishing off the jam that we were making tonight with the kilos of strawberries that are growing in the garden. We froze strawberries, fed them to all the neighbors we had over last night as a little get together to introduce Sam, and have now made two batches of jam, a batch of syrup and two batches of strawberry muffins. In addition to Klara eating them constantly too. Although, Klara is such a help in picking them that her eating as much as she can take (or even me eating so many) isn’t putting a dent in the amount we are harvesting. 

We have so many projects ongoing but they are being overrun by this damned pool! I’ve spent countless hours trying to clean the pool (figuring out how to setup the vacuum, putting chemicals in, vacuuming, putting more chemicals, waking up in the night and running outside to turn off the filter because I can’t sleep knowing how much electricity that thing it consuming!). Rob built a fence around it which took a while too, once we figured out how we should build it. In general, pools are such a complete waste of resources but now that we’ve invested so much in this one I at least want to enjoy it. Rob’s daughters are arriving in a few weeks too and the whole experience here for a 8 and 9 year old is considerably different with a pool.

Other projects were building raised beds: buying the wood and treating it, digging out all the plants from the hoop house beside the pig field to access the sand, carrying up the sand from the field in a wheelbarrow, buying soil and peat moss, etc. to fill the raised bed, building the bed. Then finally planting the beds.

We’ve also started work on the deck. With my mom here for two weeks it was a huge huge help and she actually helped with projects around the house too. I would wake up from a nap and she had scraped old paint off the deck so I could treat the wood. In addition to taking care of the kids and cooking and cleaning up. Completely amazing. I am trying to keep on top of things since she left, hence the title of the blog post – farm life never sleeps. The work has now taken the place of my nap. With a newborn feeding every 2 hours minimum, although Sam is an angel who sleeps well and hardly ever cries, he likes to be held always and I do need to be up half the night feeding him.

It is so fun though!!!

Then a dog killed a chicken

Then a dog killed a chicken

This is Summer. The chickens peck at her enough that she would never hurt them. They even eat her food and she runs away.

Just when things were calming down before the baby. I was taking a nap and Rob comes into the bedroom with an awful look on his face. He had gone outside to find Eva lying on the ground, a chicken on her paws and Eva licking it. Oh, and the chicken was ripped open with a leg over her shoulder! Rob ran to yell at Eva and as Eva ran off the other chickens came to peck at their friend. They started with the yolk of the egg that was inside her… great friends!

We weren’t sure if Eva killed her. Innocent until proven guilty and all. But there was no way a hawk came down with Eva and Summer outside and no other animal could have gotten in there either. I googled it and wrote to the dog training school nearby, both sources said it was most likely Eva playing with the chicken and accidentally killing it. 

Then there was the matter of what to do with this dead, ripped open chicken. We weren’t going to eat it and couldn’t give it to Eva. We googled again if we could give it to the pigs. Apparently yes, so the pigs got their treat. 

That evening, as I was putting the pigs to bed (giving them some last food and closing the door to their house) I noticed that the head and throat and both wings of the chicken were lying on the ground near the pig house. Not wanting to attract bears or other animals to the pigs, I had to pick them up and get rid of them. So, I walked all the way to the river with the dogs and threw the head and wings in. 

Now Eva has to stay on a leash whenever we aren’t outside with her. We asked the dog trainer for a private lesson at the farm for tips but the trainer mentioned a method involving tying a dead chicken to Eva’s neck! Ew!

Her personality did not change a bit after she was spayed. A week later she was back outside harassing those poor chickens.

EDIT: Eva has since killed another chicken! I didn’t put her on the leash one day since I thought Rob was taking her for a walk. We were sitting inside with my sister and nephew talking and I forgot about the walk. Then my sister left and about an hour later Rob goes outside to find Eva chewing on a poor chicken’s neck. The chicken was still alive and apparently he could see the heart beating inside the open chicken. My nephew was in for a treat as he then witnessed Rob chop the head off the chicken and feed it to the pigs. We couldn’t eat this one either as it was probably full of Eva’s bacteria – and she eats all the chicken and dog poo outside so she has tons of bacteria. She has been spayed since but that changed nothing. Eva is a hunting dog and now needs to be on a leash whenever we aren’t outside or the chickens aren’t in bed. Luckily we are outside a lot and she sleeps outside now so gets to run around at night. However, we are down to 6 chickens…

The Mystery of our Swiss Cat

The Mystery of our Swiss Cat

Poor little Minette. “Saved” from the cat refuge in Switzerland last year by us and brought to Canada this year, that little kitty had no idea what was coming. 

Minette slept inside in Switzerland but we left her outside for weeks on end while on vacation. She lasted much longer than the other two cats we had adopted there – one running away after a week and the other dropping dead after a month (two apartment cats which had been given to us from friends moving to the Seychelles). I felt terrible for those two cats. As for the one that dropped dead, he had no injuries or anything. Minette on the other hand got stronger and stronger living with us and we felt that she was ready for Canada. 

Coming here, she stayed inside for 2.5 weeks but once she was outside she refused to sleep inside anymore (could be because the dogs sleep inside at night, even though she slept upstairs and they sleep downstairs).  But then she disappeared. Three nights away, not eating her food or coming by for the daily evening cuddle: we were worried. Then she showed up. Totally battered. She slept on the couch downstairs (which she would never do before – scared of the dogs) and finally went upstairs to the guest bedroom and slept under the duvet for 18 hours straight. Then she went outside again and now it has been 3 nights without her again. I am fearing the worst. 

I’ve been speaking to parents at Klara’s playgroup events and the stories are not reassuring. There is a playgroup somewhere every day of the week, within a 30min drive of our place, where I can take Klara for a few hours and there is no shortage of small talk for me while there. Today, two parents ended up being almost neighbours and had the bad stories. One told me that she had 5 alpacas and 4 were killed by a cougar one night. The cougar jumped the 1.8m fence, killed the alpacas and dragged them back over the fence! The cougar was killed by conservation officers afterwards. A second cougar was killed by the elementary school after days and days of the children not being allowed outside to play during school. Also hearing stories of coyotes, bears and raccoons. 

Obviously, Minette wouldn’t have come home after a cougar or bear attack but just hoping she recovered out there on her own. My deepest hope is that she came in to sleep the 18hours and then turned into the Punisher and went back out to hunt the animal who attacked her. And that she won. 

Ouch!

EDIT: 5 days later Minette finally came home! Looking scarier than I could imagine, missing the fur below her ear and with a permanent angry expression. The good thing is she is cuddling and jumping and overall looks to be healthy. She has just indeed become the Punisher. 

Finally things are getting going on Paradise Farm

Finally things are getting going on Paradise Farm

After an intense first two months (six weeks for me as Rob got here a bit earlier than me), the pace of life here is finally slowing down as we get into the groove of farm life. 

Rob first built a 1.8m heigh fence around the front of the property, renting out a machine that allowed him to dig fence posts. He also installed the gate. He built the chicken house, and we made a chicken run to use in emergencies. He also built the pig house and made all the pig fencing. 

We had also converted a tractor storage area into a hoop house and now it has two kinds of cucumber growing in it with watermelon and soon tomato and peppers. 

In the front garden we already had two kinds of apple trees, two peaches and a plum. In addition to asparagus, blackberry, lots of strawberries and some grapes. We added a pear and cherry tree, 3 blueberry bushes, 6 raspberry bushes and some more grapes. 

I’ve got the veggie bed planted and mulched in the walkways. It now has beds with seedlings or direct seed of fennel, carrot, potatoes, two kinds of onions, garlic, two kinds of lettuce, white chard, normal swiss chard, two kinds of squash, zucchini, two kinds of beets and two kinds of broccoli. The reason for the doubling up of veggies in the garden is because we received such a nice present from my old colleague Nathalie (thanks Nathalie) that contained ancient varieties of veggies, so we planted them alongside traditional varieties. We did this last year in Switzerland and I realised why industry had changed the varieties (cucumbers with super thick skin and slightly bitter, etc.) but I am still hoping some of these ancient varieties that Nathalie gave will compete with their evolved or modified ancestors. 

Then we have the famous herbs. Rob prepared two garden beds in different locations of the lower field today. These will be test plots for herbs. As the soil is incredibly sandy, I don’t think we will have much success with herbs other than rosemary, thyme, lavender and other mediterranean herbs, but we will see. We have those in the greenhouse ready to plant out but also have tons of lemon balm and basil to plant, as well as savoury, marjoram, chervil, nettle, cilantro and dill.

The dilemma is, if only those few mediterranean herbs grow on the lower field, is that all we grow? We only sell those herbs, plus the flowers (chamomile, verbena, calendula, rose hips) for tea that we grow on the pig field when they are done digging it up. 

Or, do we make nice beds for the cilantro, dill, etc. which need rich soil in the front garden? Seems pointless if these herbs can’t grow on the land since we can’t grow large quantities. On the other hand, limiting ourselves to so few herbs lower down is pretty risky. We have 8 acres and that land was meant for growing large quantities of herbs. 

Another two options are trading some pork with our neighbour for large quantities of her horse’s manure in the fall and digging that into some of the lower field. That could give us richer soil – who knows if it’ll be enough. 

Or, just planting asparagus. We have ideal conditions for asparagus. Hesitated for a minute to switch and grow that but it is totally the opposite of our plan – and we must stick to the plan!

Now that the house is setup, we have our things and furniture, animals are ok (other than kitty – but I wrote a separate post for that), and garden is ok, I am feeling a bit better. Luckily the little bit of consulting work is keeping my worries of financial ruin at bay as well, and when that stops we will figure something out. 

To home birth…hopefully with the midwife

To home birth…hopefully with the midwife

Five minutes after publishing my last home birthing post, the phone rang. It was one of the midwives from the association that I am using. She talked about home birth and explained why I should really consider doing it at home, that the animals wouldn’t be a problem, that medically I shouldn’t be worried, that it would probably be a short birth and everything would be ok. I was convinced and Rob was convinced.

She said I needed to get ready ASAP. Next thing to do was make sure my parents would be here to take Klara to my sister’s place and stay there for labour; cancel the Airbnb; madly put together all the IKEA furniture; prepare the house; purchase everything on the super long list of things to have on hand at home (12 receiving blankets, 12 towels, large ziploc bags, cookie sheet, snacks, garbage bags, pads, gauze, birthing ball, etc.) and setup a home visit for the midwife.

I was feeling good. I was feeling relaxed because I can really picture this and feel so much more comfortable than I would going to hospital.

My midwife appointment for the home visit was May 9th at 2pm. That day the appointment was confirmed and then cancelled and carried to May 10th. On May 10th, again cancelled and moved to May 11th. On May 11th, cancelled and moved to May 12th! And today, cancelled again and moved to tomorrow. I actually cried yesterday when they cancelled 3rd time. Today I don’t even care anymore.

The midwife assures me that they will come tomorrow and says that if I was in labour they would have someone come immediately. Yeah, I hope so…

What a roller-coaster of emotions, just to figure out how to give birth.

Filling the pond and hoping for some nice herbs

Filling the pond and hoping for some nice herbs

That was not small feat! We had a pond in the back garden. Not only was it a hazard for small children to fall in but all the goldfish died over the winter so there was nothing much going on with it. Also, stagnant water is a breading ground for mosquitoes, which are crazy in the summer here. So, we decided to get rid of it.

I started emptying it by digging a trench for the water to flow out down the hill. Unfortunately, the pond was not deep enough for the goldfish to survive the winter but deep enough for it to be mega annoying to empty! The pond liner was covered in heavy rocks, the plants and water at the bottom were pretty gross, and filling it took days and days. Rob had to remove all the rocks and pull back the liner and then we decided to put in half sandpit and half herb garden.

After 5 bags of sand in the sand pit the bottom is hardly covered (luckily, or unluckily, a large portion of our land seems to be just sand, so we can sift out much more). On the other side, filling with garden debris, soil and four 85-112 L bags of purchased organic soil, still didn’t cover to the top either. At least the pond looks covered though. 

By far, the hardest part for me was the planting though. We put sunflower seeds in the back and calendula seeds in the front but wanted to transplant the chamomile to the middle. While Klara and Rob took a nap, after spending the morning looking through boxes and boxes of children’s clothes (only to realize we gave all our newborn clothes away and to need to buy more now), I tried to transplant all the seedlings into the middle of the pond. This of course without being able to step on the pond and with a gigantic belly weighing me down. What an awkward and uncomfortable experience but finally this project is done!

Hope some of these flowers and herbs grow now so we can make some nice tea soon!

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