Wednesday, October 5, 2016

scenes of summer part #2

The competitions began early in the week while up north.

And then the zip line went up. My uncle thoughtfully measured, put all the supplies together and up went a homemade zipline. 

The kids LOVED the zipline.
Whenever I would look out of the front window of our cottage I would see a kid's face go zooming by.

Finally with the kids tuckered out, Adam had his chance to go on the zipline. The faster the better in his mind. On the picture you see my brother in law struggling with a kid's fishing rod on the picnic table beside the zipline.
Adam should of known better than to attempt the zipline with that brother in law in such close proximity.

And here he comes.

 A mighty push.

And Adam goes flying...inches off of the ground.

Zipping into the beautiful arch of a rainbow.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Scenes of Summer part 1

School was hardly out when we arrived at a bus stop late one Friday night, eager to pick up our "American Son", our fresh air boy. We hadn't seen him in a year but it felt like just the other day when we were able to give him a big welcome hug.
Early the next morning, we all loaded up in the van and headed up to the cottage for a week. Cesar hardly had a chance to blink and he was in a totally different surroundings... the Bronx, New York one day and way up north, in the rugged, barren landscape of Northern Ontario.
He fit right in though. Playing with friends and reading when he needed some quiet time.
About half way through the week he went through "I miss technology!" withdrawal, but then he embraced his surroundings, jumped in the boats, and had fun swimming.
An ugly old snapper was caught as he went swimming by. How much more relaxing the lake would be if you didn't have to worry about snappers.
 This week at the cottage had an abundance of teenagers. It was so fun to watch them interact and include all around them.
  We had Cesar at home with us for one more week before he had to go back home. We had friends over to swim and spent a lot of time playing around here at home.
Cesar had never been on a bike ride before so he enjoyed being on the back of Adam's bike and experiencing a bike ride.
In August, we spent a Saturday watching a war re-enactment. Learning history becomes so much more interesting to young boys when they can see it, hear it, and smell it. The actors live on the battle grounds for the weekend totally playing the part, eager to answer any questions and talk about everything they have learned through all of their research.
  Our neighbours. Seriously.
Our neighbour who is Cherokee had a booth set up selling all things boys love; blades, arrow heads, flint, and animal skins. Dangling directly above the boys' heads were cool necklaces with real bear claws. These boys eyed the necklaces with a look of, "if only I could have these..."
Adam, not one to impulsively buy anything, told the boys they could each pick one out. This he reasoned, would support our neighbour who has struggled with grape growing for a number of years. Our neighbour has also been very giving, allowing us to borrow farm equipment from time to time. Buying these bear claws would be a win-win. After the bear claws were carefully chosen by each son, we placed them over their necks. Then it was time to pay.  I saw Adam do a big gulp when he heard the price of the bear claws. Each necklace was $20.00 bucks. It was too late to back out now. We now owned $100.00 worth of bear claws!
It turned out, the youngest boy was too afraid to look at the bear claw and turned the necklace backwards so the claw was hanging down his back. And then a few days later when the fourth son was asked where his necklace was he responded that it "drowned in the pond."
Don't ask me where the other bear claws are but it gave the grandparents a good laugh watching this unfold.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

the story of the chase

See these beautiful limosine cows...well they can run. Fast.

This year, before the drought began in earnest, we decided to plant hundreds of bushes in our back field for cuttings. We spent hours of hard, back hurting labour way out there in the field with the cows and pigs cautiously watching us through the electric wire.
Besides being active with our planting, we soon learned that the pigs in particular wanted to be active as they watched the gate for any chance that it would be open, and they would bolt out of the pasture and on to our lawn.
This happened...too many times...and it would take a great deal of burning in the leg muscles as we ran around in our rubber boots chasing them back. Pigs have the awful habit of scattering once they taste freedom leaving the pursers frustrated with the chasing.

On a beautiful Saturday in June, a family picnic was being held at our home. As we were eating our scrumptious pork on buns, someone shouted, "The pigs are on the beach!" Sure enough right before our eyes were the four pigs happily snouting their way through the sand.
Towards them chased the men and children, and the pigs did what they did best, they scattered.
One even managed to run through a true pig-farmers legs. Eventually we rounded them all up and secured the gate.

But the gate was not secure enough and the pigs knew it. We have heard pigs are smart animals and it proved to be true.
Three days later as the boys and myself were driving home, we came upon our driveway. Past the driveway, almost on the road, stood our 3 cows, a long distance from the field and the wide open gate.
I am ashamed to say but a word that I had put out of vocabulary years ago, (because its just better not say anything about poop), came squirting out of my mouth. I sped the van into the second driveway and yelled for the boys to get out.
With my dress and flimsy footflops on, and the boys in bare feet, we chased the alert cows through the tall prickly weeds.
Finally we reached the gate but to our great dismay our unsmart dog came upon the scene barking and growling away. The cows took off in a loud gallop.
The next few minutes are a bit blurry with my panic at the highest level. I made it back to the van and tore down the road hoping to catch up to these cows.
Around that time I had the horrible realization that the pigs must be out there somewhere too.
Even though math is a very weak subject, I quickly calculated the cows were worth far more money than the pigs. They had to be hunted down first. On top of that, with a busier road near by, it was absolutely crucial to catch the cows first before they caused an accident.
I drove up and down our road like a mad woman, staring down the long rows of grapes and orchard trees desperately hoping to catch a glimpse of these cows.
It was around this time I had the sudden realization I didn't know where any of my children were. Inside of the jerking van I yelled, into the air, "where are the boys?!!!"
"Here I am" came a small little voice from the back seat. And there was Caleb, trying to hold onto the roof handle, with white drool sliding down the corners of his mouth. He had gotten into my purse, stuffing every candy he could find into his mouth.
At this point, I forced the van at full speed into the neighbours fruit farm, along the rutted driveway. I pressed the horn with all my might, hoping they would all pop out of the barn ready to see what the great emergency was and totally ready to help with the chase.
Instead there was no one in sight.
I pulled out my cell phone and after numerous tries (shaky hands) I managed to get hold of Adam.
He heard loud breathing, a strangled and hoarse voice..."the cows....the cows...they escaped....HELP...come home!"
Now it was Adam's turn to speed down the roads.
It wasn't just the loss of the cost of the cows, it was the delicious beef that fed our family all year long, the full freezer, the realization that these cows could cause an accident. It was all overwhelming.
At this time I started to drive our van like an off road vehicle tearing down through the orchard lanes, hitting every pothole with loud thumps. Each bump would cause the pig food I had grabbed to come pouring out of its container covering the passenger side of the van.
I caught a glance of the pigs way out in a back field, eating the neighbours soy beans but still no cows, no kids except the kid in the back holding on to the handle for dear life.
I found myself back on the road again and spotted our Jamaican migrant neighbour out in the field with the tractor.
I jumped out of the van and furiously waved and jumped up and down. Finally some help. Spouting out something about cows escaping, I realized how crumpled and cooky I must look.
To my disbelief, the Jamaican refused to help telling me something about his boss being nearby. This was an emergency! I was so mad at him. I gave him a haughty look, and jumped back into my van/off road vehicle and took off to the other neighbours. I sped into their driveway with my horn blasting again.
The neighbour came running out, with a friend close behind him. "The cows!" I gasped. "The cows..I need help."
These men, in a calm demeanour got into their van and followed me.
I was frantic searching for cows and kids I couldn't find.
We decided to go back to homebase and met Adam also arriving at our driveway.
As we ran breathless to the back field, there stood Liam, calmly. The cows were in front of him, waiting to be led into the gate.
It was a sight to behold.
As I was panicked, running around chasing after cows I couldn't find, Liam had managed to round up the cows and lead them to the back gate.
Andrew came running up to us, "I was mooing my lungs out on that hill! It was my loud mooing sounds that made the cows come back!"
What relief!
Now for the pigs.
We jumped back into the vans and headed to the fields where I had last seen them.
With a scoop of food, Adam led the pigs through the back fields and along the rows of grapes while we used a stick or shovel or whatever happened to be long and sturdy and walked beside the pigs keeping them in line.
We walked through the back yard of my parents thinking that if the were home and saw this sight they would never stop laughing.
By this time I was toast, our neighbour and his friend had sweat chasing down their faces, but we were on our way home.
After the gate closed and we gave our sincere appreciation to our neighbour and his friend,
I headed back inside and fell flat onto the couch where I remained for the next two hours. Recovering.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

some mighty fine laying hens and about the birds

We had some glad shouts happening in the kitchen when there were two double yolkers in a row.
The glad shouts became more amplified with three double yolkers in a row.
And then...four double yolkers in a row! The hooting and hollering and mayhem could be heard down the road.

We started off with 65 laying hens early this spring. About half way through June I couldn't handle them escaping the field, wrecking my vegetable garden, turning up the mulch in the flower gardens, and the endless blobs of chicken poop everywhere. I sold half of them but we continue to have problems with chickens laying in the pig pen, goat house, pigs eating eggs in the field, and so we have a very low egg production rate but very healthy animals.

*About double yolkers
~Occurs when 2 egg  yolks are released into a hen's oviduct too close together and end up encased within the same shell.
~Its more common in the beginning of the eggs cycle (meaning younger chickens are more likely to produce the double yolkers).
~Roughly 1 in every thousand eggs is double yolked (but I think it must be more common than this statistic)

After last year's experience of birds flying out over my head, this year I filled the coop with heritage chickens.
We have breeding pairs of silkies, frizzles, and jungle fowl.
In the front of the coop we took out the window and made an outdoor aviary for small birds.
There's a small hole for the birds to fly through and they can get some warmth in the inside of the coop.
Budgies are able to live outdoors during the harshest of climates but for some reason I couldn't keep a budgie alive for more than a few days. The bright flashes of their colouring and their soothing tweets were a highlight but I needed to find another bird. Now we have zebra finches gracing the aviary and they seem to do be doing well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Life on the Farm - spring & summer 2016 - GOATS

We were thrilled to learn our goat Mabel was expecting, due near the beginning of April. We kept a careful eye on her once again as she nested in the warm comfort of the chicken coop, hoping that this time we would be able to witness the birth of a kid.
Unfortunately it was not to be. We missed the birth of a little buckling and doe by a few minutes. I heard a faint little "bleat" from the coop and went running. There stood a panting mama and two wee little things trying to get on to their feet.

We had two younger girls visiting us that day and they were totally thrilled watching this all take place. When their mom came to pick them up, they were adamant they couldn't go home. Their poor mom didn't know the goat was pregnant so she was trying to sort out what they were saying when they told her they wanted to wait until the placenta came out(!)
This picture won the photo contest and made it to the front page of the newspaper. Caleb was very proud of himself and shows all of our guests his claim to fame.

                                                     The Goat House
The boys' playhouse was in a dangerous state so we decided to take it down, fix it up, and make that into the goat house.

 The new goat-house- to -be was moved across the frozen field and set up near the other animal shelters.


During the spring, trim and paint were added along with a fence for the pen.
With ramps and stools to play on, this goat area has turned out to be fun. We love watching the goats run, leap, and jump.
We needed to get rid of the buckling (they can make their sisters pregnant at a very young age). The plan was to trade Mabel the mama goat, and the buckling for a friendly and calm goat that could walk around on a harness. When I showed the owner a picture of Mabel she totally refused to do the trade. She explained that she had already owned Mabel once upon a time and didn't ever want her back again. I knew exactly what she meant. Mabel is good looking but has a harsh character that shouts out unfriendliness. We ended up giving the buckling and some money for this new goat that we all love.

Caleb playing in the sandbox with two of his friends.