Sunday, October 31, 2010

Firewood & Fall

We have been so lucky this year. It's still autumn. Not news to most of the world, but here in the north, it's a little odd to still see grass and warm sunny days.

We finished filling the basement. Quite impressed with myself and my boys.

6 Rows. It's never held six rows before.

So... now what? Should we refill the long rows along the side of our house? We still haven't built a proper wood shed. Should we build a little temporary A-frame wood shed? It would store another 3 or 4 cords.

Nope. #2 takes the bull by the horns. He's the one that helped Grandpa build the green house. He's going to build us a wood shed the same way. He is 13.

He did build it himself. Only needed help putting the beams across the top and sides. I am so impressed with that boy.
Putting on the roof.  Vapor barrier plastic.  Slippery.

The weather held. We kept cutting wood. And cutting. And cutting... Wow. Is winter coming? Usually it's a scramble to fill the basement. This year, we've got a wood shed. And it's nearly full!

And we've still got this mess to cut amd pile...

We're so far ahead of where we usually are, we even left a present for my brother.
A-frame wood shed in background, blue.

#2 and #1 also built this lean-to for their other grandpa.

We've been clearing old trails at my parents new place. We've got a trail cut from our place to theirs. We worked on their trail to the creek bridge. It's all downhill from where we left off, and I didn't feel safe continuing. As nice as the weather's been, it's probably still too cold to take the truck for a swim in the creek. And now we're working on another trail that goes back to a natural spring. The trails are pretty old, and haven't been cleaned up in about 15 years. It's pretty easy pickings for firewood. A lot of dead fall.

And since we're so far ahead, we started getting a head start on spring. I mixed up a bucket of seed- grass, clover, beans, broccoli, lettuce, romaine, pumpkins, gourds, melons, swiss chard. Maybe a few other things that I've forgotten.

I walked through the pasture, tossing them out in the front corner, in the cropped grass section. Then we ran a third strand of barbed wire around. When we put the two strands up in the spring we ran out of wire. The two strands kept the horses out, but the cows walked in between. It was on the plan for next summer, but as long as the weather co-operates, we might as well get ahead on a few extra chores.

Two more loads of firewood should finish off the wood shed for this year. If the weather still holds after that, we'll start stringing barbed wire along the property line.

The horses started wandering out of the back pastures when the frost killed the leaves and brush. Once they could see through the trees the figured they could go wherever they liked. They've been back in the pasture since then, eating bales of hay.
Rita and Sugar

So, here we are.  The last day of October.  No snow.  It has snowed.  Almost every day.  But it keeps melting.  The ground isn't frozen.  Still fall.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cap Gun Training

At Linda's request...

I mentioned that we had done cap gun training in this post.

Linda said
"Cap gun training? Hmmm...does that keep them from being frightened of any loud noise? Now that I think of it, it seems that any dog needs to be unafraid of a gunshot so it could be a protector. So, how is best to train a dog with a capgun? I think this calls for a whole post."

Yes, the idea is to keep them from being frightened of loud noises.  If you play with guns, and have a gun shy dog, it can cause a few problems.  Likewise, if you've ever had a dog afraid of a thunderstorm, or kids shrieking...  you get the idea.  Some gun shy dogs will hide in a corner.  Or hide behind their owners.  Some will howl.  And some will really freak out and rip your house apart.

Ebony is very gun shy.  Luckily, she is mostly of the hide in a corner variety, but occasionally will cause damage as well.  She is well aware of what makes the loud bang, and starts shaking and runs to hide as soon as she sees the man (or the woman) with the big noisy stick.  This makes her impossible to hunt with, as well as a bit of a pain in the ass at times.

So, new puppies mean cap gun training time.  I don't know if this can be done with older dogs or not.  I know with Ebony, once she figures out that we're training, she will run to hide when we fill her dish.  With puppies though, it's a pretty easy procedure.  Puppies are quite focussed on their food.  You set out a dish of food and let the puppy take a couple of good sized gulps, then fire a cap gun.  The first few times may startle the pup, but usually not enough to stop eating.  After a week or so the pup will accept that loud noise means food.  Food is good.  Therefore, loud noise is good.

After a couple of weeks we start to vary the routine.  Sometimes two shots close together.  Some times two or three shots a little further apart.  Sometimes no shot at all.  After a couple of months, I start feeding them outside, and firing larger guns.  First the .22, then the 308.  The 30-06 is last.  It's bang is loud enough to burst your ear drums if you're standing in the wrong spot.  With the bigger guns I use special treats, such as liver or kidney- things they wouldn't get in the house.  This helps prepare them for hunting, because they get the guts in the bush.

The cap gun doesn't need to be anything fancy or special.  I buy mine in the kids section of the dollar store.  Actual feeding times are required though.  If you usually leave a dish of food down all day long, you won't be able to establish the hunger/reward/loud noise combination.

I also recommend that you take some kind of treats with you on the first few hunting trips.  Waldo was very frustrated with me and all the loud bangs the first few days of partridge season, when my gun wasn't sited properly and I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.  A few chunks of weiners calmed him down immensely.  He much prefers when I actually hit the partridge though.

Doe, A deer, A female Deer...

She came back!  This time she let me play with the zoom on my camera, so you can actually see her.  I know, she's still a blur, but it's the best my camera will do.  She's so pretty!

Hubby was with me this time, and he says, "man, she'd look good in the freezer."  I don't think so!  The bucks and the kids, I'm fine with.  But leave my doe alone.  And any other doe you see out there in the bush.  I'd love to see her again in the spring, with Bambi in tow.

Dorie's Home!

This is my girl, home in our pasture.  Dorie is a redish coloured meat cow, possibly some kind of Hereford/Limousin cross.  She was my birthday present two years ago.  I know, some people would not appreciate a meat cow as a present, but that's just the kind of girl I am.

We bought Dorie at auction, bred.  She was pretty shy, but had a taste for corn, so it wasn't too long before she would munch out of a bucket we held, and let us pet her.  She got fatter, from February, through spring.  We were very excited to see her calve.  Unfortunately, we don't have that kind of luck.  About a month before she was due, she got kicked by a nasty horse we had for a short time, and went into premature labour.  The calf was breached, and things weren't going well.  We had some help from a neighbour, and managed to get the calf out eventually, still born. 

We milked her.  Yup, no kidding.

The neighbours said don't do it.  She'll be too nasty & impatient.  The hay guy said don't do it.  She'll only give 1/2 a cup of milk a day.  It won't be worth your time.

We said phooey on them.  Where did the family milk cow come from any way?  In the pioneer days, folks didn't generally keep a bunch of different breeds.  They were lucky to have any multipurpose cow, and drink the milk, make cheese, and raise the calves for beef.  Dorie was the only cow we owned.  We milked her.

And for the record, she either took to milking like a pro, or beef calves drink a whole lot more than people realize.  Dorie gave us an easy 4L per day at her peak.  We drank lots of raw milk.  We made some paneer cheese, but didn't care for the texture.  We made butter, about a pound every 4 days.  We used the buttermilk in bread.  We made yogourt.  We drank a lot of milk...  For about three months.

Then Dorie got frisky.  Well, horny, to be blunt.  She broke out of the pasture three times, and walked about 5 miles, through the bush, to the hay guy's farm.  She made some friends there, but he didn't have a bull, so it didn't cure her condition.  He told us she was lonely, and we needed more cows.  Winter came, and she stayed put.  Until the first nice, sun shiny day of spring.

We still had about three feet of snow, but the tricky girl broke out, and followed the snowmobile trails back to the hay guy's farm.  We left her there for a couple of weeks.  We went back to the auction and bought Mindy and Maddy- two Hereford heifers, and Susie, another bred cow, a Charolais.  That kept her happy for a bit.

Until we lost Susie.  She died during delivery in the middle of the night.  Her first calf, Nelly, came out fine.  She had a second calf who was breached.  We lost them both.  Nelly is still doing great!

A few weeks after Nelly was born, Dorie decided she'd had enough of hanging out with these young 'uns.  Her escape was aided by #1, who forgot to chain a gate.  Nelly stayed put, but Mindy & Maddy decided to follow Dorie off on her adventure.  We chased them down, managed to get them halfway home twice, but they kept veering off into the bush.  Mindy got seperated.  We eventually caught up to Dorie and Maddy, and convinced them to walk into the neighbour's pasture.  Mindy remained missing for awhile.

The plan had been to send Dorie to the neighbour's to be bred anyway.  She just decided to head out that way on her own a little sooner than planned.  Mindy came home all on her own later that night.  Maddy spent the summer at the neighbour's with Dorie.

We finally brought Dorie home last week.  She's not as friendly as she used to be, but I'm sure it won't be too long before she decides she likes us again.  I am so happy to have her home!  The pasture just wasn't the same without her!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


We have been a four dog family for many years. Last summer was very hard on us when Marvin was hit by the school bus and passed away. Within weeks, we took Maggie into the woods with us while we were getting firewood, and she ran off. She wasn't a fan of chainsaws, and I don't know whether it was the noise, or if she smelled something worth chasing, but she was gone. We never found her. Within a month, we lost two of our beloved pets.

They were more than pets and companions though. They were our security team- letting us know when something was amiss around the farm. Toe warmers at night. Guardians in the woods. Trail breakers in the snow. Things were just not right around here with one chained outside dog- Cindy will chase cars all the way home unless we keep her tied up. She's only allowed off chain on leash or in the house. And Ebony- our 6 year old lab- is a bit past her prime in running with my herd of kids. She's also terribly gun shy, which makes her unfit for many of our routine activities.

So the search for a new pup began last fall. It was a long search. In part, because I prefer a free mutt over an expensive pure bred. In part, because I prefer some lab in those mutts. In part, because I prefer females.

All winter long I searched for a puppy. I considered a couple of giveaway older dogs. But it seems in our area, there are fewer accidental breeders than there are folks willing to give them a new home. Every ad I answered had no females left. By spring I was willing to take either male or female. I get a bit nervous of bears in the spring. Finally, we found Waldo.

Waldo is a lab with a touch of husky. A couple of months later, we found Wonder. She's a lab/bouvier cross, with a bit of pit.

Waldo on his back, Wonder standing
They are a great addition to our family.  Both full of energy, great for the kids.  We've done cap gun training with them at feeding time, neither one is gun shy.  They both eagerly hunt mice, moles, voles, and any other little tresspassers on our land.  They stay close in the woods, but let us know when something's there.  They bark at strangers.  Waldo started hunting with me this fall.
Ebony sitting, Wonder beside
Everything was going great.  Except, Waldo is scrawny.  He's tall & lean.  Long bodied.  He eats a ton.  He's still growing.  And he's scrawny.  I thought it might be a good idea to keep him intact until he developed some muscle mass.  He reached 6 months, and I knew better.  I knew he needed to be fixed.  But I thought I could outsmart mother nature by keeping him chained up while Ebony & Cindy were in heat. 
Cindy with her puppies

Ebony's puppies
Some days I marvel at my own stupidity.

Thankfully we live in an area where there are fewer accidental breeders than there are folks willing to give them a new home.

Looks guilty, doesn't he?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up: Letting horses roam

The pasture grass is all but gone.  With the cooler temps it's  growing very slowly now.  Our winter hay, round bales, haven't arrived yet, and the last time I set up the electric fence the horses broke through it & wandered off on their own.  They stayed on our property out back, just not where we put them. 

We had a trail to cut into the bush from our property to the neighbour's place.  The neighbour's have sold their place to my parents, and we all wanted easy access for snowmobiling this winter.  We cut the trail in through the oats field- the clearing where I've been planning to someday grow my own oats.  I figured as long as we were working right there, we might as well bring Blondie & Rita with us to munch.  Blondie & Rita are our two oldest & calmest mares, and I often leave them loose on the lawn to munch when we're done working with them.  They never go anywhere.  Tori was with them at the gate, so she got to come too.  We took them back to the oats field and strung a rope across the opening.  The area isn't fenced yet, but it's surrounded by trees, so I figured that they'd probably stay put with just the opening blocked off.  I was right.

The second day working on the fence, we added Sugar to our loose herd.  The first three led her down to the oats field, and she was happy to see all the long grass.  We finished cutting the trail through, and left them back there on their own.

Tuesday, day three, Blondie, Rita & Tori were standing by the gate, waiting to be let out.  Sugar was standing back a bit, but keeping an eye on them to see if I was going to let them out.  I sent #2 out to hang a rope across the trail by the ravine, and across our new trail behind the oats field.  That actually gives them access to three clearings- the area that I usually fence off with electric fenceline, the oats field, and the clearing at the back along the creek.  I let the three of them loose, and waited for Sugar to trot over.  I could see Bella out in centre of the pasture.  She looked up as if to say 'Hey, What about me?' and started galloping towards me.  Okay, Bella, you can go too, but you better behave!  She slowed down at the gate, trotted through & I closed it behind her.  When she turned the corner of the fence she was galloping again to catch up with the rest of the girls.

She did behave, too.  They stayed in the oats field all day, happy to have the long grass to munch on.  She was even agreeable to hugs when I went to check on them.  Often when they're out in the pasture they'll turn & walk away as we get close to them, saying 'I don't want to work today'.

The fourth day I let Goliath out with the girls, and just managed to cut Thunder off before he got loose.  He cried and carried on all day long.  Finally he got to go on the fifth day.  By then the pattern was pretty well established amongst the girls, so even though he likes to think he's the boss, they all stayed put.  That worked well for a few days, until the little trouble maker decided to start exploring.  Being smaller than the rest of the crew, he's a bit harder to contain without proper fencing.  He got out on the other side of the ravine, but thankfully the rest of the herd stayed put, so he didn't wander off too far.

It's been a couple of weeks now, and they are exploring further than the oats field now, but still staying in the section.  There's still lots of long grass back there for them, probably enough to last until snow.  If we had started feeding round bales in September when the grass was short, it would have cost us about $800 already.  The savings are huge, with very little work involved!  I still plan to fence the area off properly, but it's nice to know it's not an emergency.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Enjoying the Sunshine

We have been having some amazing weather this week!  High teens, low twenties, lots of sunshine!  It feels like spring!  The nights, of course are cool, dropping below freezing now.

Perfect weather for firewood.  The cool nights serve as a reminder to get it done, NOW, before we freeze our asses off.  The warm days make us want to spend time outdoors, soaking up all that sunny D!

So, it's been a good week so far.  Three gorgeous days, three loads of wood (and 1 partridge!).  Hauled up, cut up, even piled in the basement.  I think we have more wood stored there this year than last.  Hubby & the boys built a slide for the wood to drop closer to the front end of the wood pile, instead of in the middle of the room, where the window is.  This allows me to pile wood the opposite direction than we used to, filling from the edge of the slide to the wall.  Before, once we filled three rows, dropping more wood in would knock a fourth row over, or the piler in the head.  Ouch.  I think the most we ever fit in before was 12 face cords.  This year, we're already at about 13 face cords, with room for another row and a half- about 6 more face cords.  If we have a mild winter again, that might be all we need!!  We'll still keep cutting as long as the winter holds- ideally we want a two year supply so it can dry and season properly- but it's very exciting to think that we may not need to open up the basement in the middle of winter, freeze out the house, and spend a day refilling the firewood!

Four more gorgeous days in the forecast, and then some rain. 

My peppers have aphids- in the house.  Weird.  I don't remember ever getting them outside.  Going to sprinkle with diatomaceous earth today.  The smallest pumpkin is now fully orange.  Two larger pumpkins are turning nicely.  The biggest one is still very green.  I hope it turns soon, before it really gets cold and I have to bring them in.

My first greenhouse is under construction!
My Dad did an amazing log cabin type of construction on it.  I wish I could have seen it in my head when he was planning it.  Up til this point I was really wondering how it was going to turn out.  Need to have more faith!
Starting to come together!  It'll be ready for plastic in the spring!

If you can strain your eyes a bit, that little dot way out there, just in front of the treeline- is a white tail deer!  Take a minute, right now, to figure out how the zoom on your camera works.  Trying to figure it out before the wild life runs away is a bad plan.  Honestly though, it is a deer!

Deer are kind of new to our area.  It's a side effect of global warming, the deer moving farther north.  There aren't too many of them yet, and a harsh winter could still wipe them out, but I'm hoping they make it. 

Speaking of global warming- what's with the news?  The new governor general starts off his career with a new action plan & report on global warming & it's effects on Canada.
Not too much in the news story there, but when I watched the news report on tv, and later a little blurb from George Stromboulopolus, I'm being made to feel global warming/climate change is a good thing for Canada.  Ok, I won't argue, in some ways it really is.  Increased tourism in the arctic, due to water travel/melted ice, longer, warmer growing seasons, all that land up north freed up for development...  There are many possible side effects that could be great for our northern climate.  But that doesn't make climate change a good thing.  First off, if our weather becomes so welcoming, and south of us becomes unbearable, do we really think those people south of us are going to roll over and play dead?  Come on people...  We will be invaded.  Oh, and with all that new coastline up north, won't that be easy, for foreigners to get in...  Hmmm...  Not pretty.  Our military is not nearly capable of defending us if the shit hits the fan.

So, back to the point...  Why is the media trying to tell us that we should embrace global warming?  Bad for the world is definitely bad for us, even if I could grow peppers right outside in the sun...  Crazy.  They're supposedly sending out education packets to schools, targeting teens as the new wave of environmental reformers, so it should be interesting to get #1's take on it all.

Nelly!  She was much more cooperative in letting me figure out how the zoom works.  Isn't she getting fat?  Love her!