Our adoption

This is a very difficult post to write, and one I almost don’t want to share but you’ve all been through this long road with us and it just doesn’t feel right not to share the conclusion. Please keep in mind this has been difficult, and not an easy subject. I know things can seem faceless on the Internet, but we are a real live family, travelling a rough road, and gentleness is needed.

We want to share that the adoption process has ended for our family, and our adoptive ‘son’ no longer lives with us. Since he is a ward of children’s services, we are not legally permitted to share much information about why. However, we would like you to understand as much as we can share.

Due to his past, there were issues that we had really hoped were environmental, something that would not be an issue once he was in a stable home with a loving family. However, a recent incident brought to light just how deep the issues actually are. Children’s services stepped in and immediately searched out the right place for him to receive the help he needs.

Thankfully he understood that he needs help, agreed to treatment and went willingly. We truly hope all he learned while being a part of our family will help him head down the right road to his future. Be praying for him, and also that he receives the support he needs. We know this is hard for not just us, but his biological family too. Be praying for them as well.

The fact that the outcome of this adoption can not be as we had all hoped does not change who we are as a family, and we hope no one makes assumptions due to the lack of information we can provide. We still believe strongly in adoption. We do not regret trying to give him a ‘real’ family, and having him be a very real part of our daily lives. We hope the memories made here will last him a lifetime. We have to come to grips with letting go and letting God. We thank you all for your prayers and support while we travelled this road, and, as we adjust to life as it now is.

Converting to cloth on a ‘fixed’ income.

HomesteadEmporium.com:

This is an older post, and the prices shared reflect that. However, it’s just as relevant today but the cost of pads are 1-3$ more per pad depending on the size etc..
A great help in choosing a small stash for those on a tight budget!

Originally posted on Homestead Emporium's Weblog:

I hear, & read, a lot of people say they would love to make the switch to cloth, but that it’s just so expensive. I’ve often seen this said in regards to our own brand of pads and the cost of H.E.R. Pads. So, I thought it’d be great to share my thoughts, personal opinion, and advice on how to make the switch to cloth, cost effectively, even when deciding to purchase a well known brand of cloth pads created with top end fabrics!

The switch to cloth pads really need not be expensive.

The biggest savings will come in the amount of pads you buy in total. Lots of people think they need dozens and dozens of pads when this is really not the true! If you are on a tight budget and you are willing to put up with a little extra work (washing the pads daily), you…

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The making of a product here at the Homestead Emporium

Originally posted on Homestead Emporium's Weblog:

(This is a repost of an older blog post from when we were still back in BC, we’ve since moved to the prairies but not much has changed except our work space is completely different, and Alesia no longer cuts for me, but still works behind the scenes putting up all our etsy listings. I now have another helper, Heather, who does all our hyenacart listings and Julia has begun helping me with cutting now that she’s just about 13 years of age. She’s been waiting a VERY LONG TIME (in her short 13 years!) to be a bigger part of the business! I swear this girl is going to take over Homestead Emporium one day, so watch out!)

I thought I’d share the making of a product, in photos and a few words, here on the blog.

Now that Alesia is back to working for me, things are moving…

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Practical tips for this years garden.

I asked on the facebook page, what others would like to see more of. Gardening was mentioned, so I thought I’d share things that I learn, as I go along.
I’m not totally new to gardening, but I do still feel pretty much like a beginner. There is SO much to be learned. Gardening itself is pretty basic, but to garden really well, it becomes more complex.

Over the years of our marriage, I’ve had several gardens, in several parts of Canada.
I had a decent sized garden in Ontario when our eldest two children, Alesia and Joshua, were just young and up to the time Elsa was a baby. At that time however, I had a neighbour who was a wonderfully patient friend, and a seasoned gardener. She practically held my hand, step by step, through the whole gardening process that very first time. I still remember how she laughed when I told her how many pickling cucumber plants I had planted. She said I’d have enough pickles for the entire neighbourhood!

Sure enough, I did have TONS of pickling cucumbers that first year. What a blessing it was, because then she taught me how to make all sorts of pickles! Those pickles moved all the way to British Columbia with us!

When we moved to BC, I was pregnant with twins and we moved a few times in a few years. Until we finally bought another home of our own, we went without a garden. Our new home was in a small oceanside city. We had a decent sized back yard, so we built a couple of raised garden beds. In this garden I was able to add seaweed, and it was fabulous! The garden was my smallest ever, but I was able to grow quite a bit of veggies for the amount of space I had. I also grew a lot of flowers in those few years. I would go to yard sales and buy other gardeners spare flower bulbs. This is also how I bought lots of starter pots and gardening tools.

Once we moved to our first small hobby farm, the five acre farm in Nanoose Bay, BC, I dreamed of having my very first large garden. However, it never came to be. We had a lot of deer and rabbits, and there was so much work to be done at that property, in the home and the cabin, that the funds were always tied up in reno’s and yard work. We put off building and fencing in a garden each year because of this. Once we began planning a move to buy a larger ‘farm’, we put the garden dream on hold indefinitely, until we would be moved into our ‘final’ home.

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Last spring, it finally happened. We bought this home and immediately started on a garden. A very large garden! We had to work fast as we moved here the last weekend of April. I purchased all my peppers and tomatoes as plants, rather than seeds, since we had a late start. We also planted 50 pounds of seed potatoes in 4 varieties. Lots of salad greens in seed and starter plants. All grew fairly well. We planted loads of carrot sees, but they did not growe well at all. I know now that we started them too late, when the earth was already too dry and hot. They had been the last seeds we planted, when they should have been among the first. Last year was rushed. This year, I’m aiming to do things in a much more methodical, relaxed, and NOT RUSHED way!

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Those of you who are planning your first garden, here’s what I did the other day to save myself a lot of stress this year.

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Once my seed order arrived, I sat down and went through each one to find out which seeds would need to be started indoors, early, and how early. Which would need to be planted before last frost and which would need to be planted after the fear of last frost.

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I did not do this last year because… well, we were busy at the end of April, moving for the third time in one year since arriving on the prairies. Our garden still did ‘fine’ but we’re aiming for our garden to do GREAT!
*(I am SO grateful we moved in early enough to even HAVE a garden last year though, and we’ve been eating our potatoes, veggies, and even fruits and fruit juices all winter!)

Once I figured out which seeds would need to be started inside, early, and late, I grabbed my wall calendar and marked exact dates of when they need to be started.

For example, even though we do not start planting the more sensitive seeds until May long weekend in our area, the types of Peppers I bought actually need to be started indoors many weeks ahead, as early as this weekend even!

Next will be tomatoes and seed onion closer to April, and it just steam rolls from there right up until the May long weekend when we will plant all the rest. (With my NEW seeder!!)

Now I don’t have to feel stressed about it! I just glance at the calendar on the wall each week to see what’s coming up!

*What are some early season gardening tips you’ve learned over the years?
We’d love it if you’d share your experience with us!

My home isn’t perfectly spotless.

I read this article with interest, because I admit, our home is rarely ever that ‘perfectly spotless’ home.

My House Is Messy — and I Don’t Care


http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4853787

Sometimes I get frustrated, and I try to figure out WHY we can’t seem to have a home that looks as lovely as other people’s homes…

Then I look around at WHAT the mess is and it’s always due to projects and other worthwhile things.

Always.

Whether Elsa’s in the process of baking & decorating her cupcakes, Shaylah has her felting supplies out, Julia or I are cutting fabrics, or Alesia has her shoes in the way by the door between coming home from work and heading out to see her man.

My pretty antique tea cart holds my husbands paperwork and our bills.

The nice bookshelf near our dinning table is always stuffed to overflowing with our school books, writings, and art work.

My kitchen counter is cluttered with jars of apple cider vinegar in the making, iodine and other animal first aid supplies, and always.always.always dishes. LOTS of dishes because 8 people live here and we cook AND eat here 3 times every day.

We LIVE in our home, almost every hour of every day.

One day, it won’t be this way. There will no longer be the mess of meals made for eight. I get a small ‘taste’ of this already now that our eldest son works away from home 2 weeks at a time and our eldest daughter spends about every second weekend at her boyfriend’s family home.

These kids grow up fast. I’ve always had a deep understanding of that fact. Yet they still grow up even faster than I could have imagined.

Just the other day, I gave birth to twins. Those bitty babies are 14 now, and in grade 10! Just the other day we had five children 8 & under. The last 3 were born within 22 months.
Those five kids are 22, 20, 16, 14 & 14 now and we’ve added a an extra, a 15 year old into the mix, just for fun!

Just the other day I would take my five little children for walks to the library, holding my three little ones hands with my two hands. Always a hand short, but it never mattered. I have two hands, but 10 fingers. Often Shaylah & Julia would each hold tight to a finger on one hand, and Elsa would hold onto my other hand. All while Alesia and Joshua would walk alongside, or ride their bikes.

Just the other day, we taught those big kids to ride those bikes! Those two big kids are REALLY big kids now, and not really kids at all any more.

They will always be my ‘babies’.

So yes, there is mess.
Every.Day.

But I look at the mess, ponder it, and there’s none of the mess I could or would choose to loose.

One day the mess will be gone and I’ll miss it soon enough.

First year on the homestead, learning from our mistakes.

Once you own a homestead, it can become very tempting to try out every.single.thing. that sounds good! Why not right? If you’ve got the land, and the barn/space/outbuildings, and the desire to learn, the question always comes up, “Well, why not?”

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During these first 9 months as homesteaders we’ve learned that there are many good reasons NOT to try everything, and every opportunity, that presents itself! I thought I’d share a quick random run down of some of our lessons learned the hard way.

First… as much as I REALLY hate to admit that my husband may be right about this one…
1. Do not add anything you are not ready for.

Case in point, chickens. We’ve had chickens for years, before even moving across country. On our new homestead there was already a chicken coop, it even has a fenced in yard. However, the chicken coop was not truly winterized and hubby really wanted me to wait to get chickens. I had many good reasons not to wait though! Fresh eggs most importantly! Plus I have a hatred of throwing away scraps and get a big thrill from feeding them to the chickens.
So I read and read and read about winterizing chicken coops and SO MANY articles, blogs, and books said chickens do NOT need heat. SOooo we didn’t worry about adding heat. We always kept the coop as cozy as possible, with LOTS of straw and hay and decided on the deep litter method for the winter.

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Well, our chickens obviously do need some heat, and I should have listened to my hubby (still wanting to deny that one… we do enjoy our eggs and chickens).  When bitterly cold temperatures hit, it became too much for them and we lost our very favourite part banty rooster and our eldest rare coloured hen. Thankfully we only lost 2 birds, it could have been much worse. That day we immediately added two heat lamps to their coop (much to my dismay, because heat lamps do cause fires each year), made their coop much smaller inside to keep the heat central. Hubby was right, it would have been much more enjoyable to have done that extra work in the warm temps of summer rather than at temps below -40c!

To be better prepared for next winter, this summer we are building a whole new chicken coop. This coop will be built to last a lifetime. We’ve been researching all the best coop ideas and making a list of what we’d like to add into ours. We plan to make it a double coop with one side for hens hatching eggs, and/or other breeds we might like to add. We also hope to create a washable floor with some sort of spray in liner or lino. We’re still researching what would be the best for our needs.

As a bonus, we want to incorporate new and old things from around the homestead, such as a huge old window we found in the quonset. I hate that our birds have no window to look out of this winter and that they live in a dark closed off coop right now. (We do have a light in their coop, but I really prefer natural light!) We will also be repurposing wood from the outbuildings on the property that are no longer used. This will save us funds, plus recycle. Double bonus! We’re also researching the best way to heat the coop, but most of all, we’ll insulate it well enough that only minimal heat will be needed. My absolute ideal would be to heat it some way using solar power… but so far all those who I’ve spoken to/emailed have said it most likely would not be cost efficient for the amount of solar panels we would need. If anyone heats their chicken coop in a energy & cost efficient way, that does not include a heat lamp or other dangerous source of heat, please do share!

2. Don’t expect to do too much, too fast.

This one was really difficult, because when we bought this homestead lots NEEDED to be done, and it was hard to decide what needed to be done first! So we made a list and proceeded to get the majority of it completed before snow fell.

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We wound up doing everything that needed to be done outside first. Of course it was impossible to get it ALL done, but we did a good bit!

We managed to get the garden tilled, planted, and posts up. We didn’t manage to finish putting the actual wire fencing on the posts but aside from a few potatoes lost to some critter, we didn’t experience any real loss in the garden and even our dogs learned to stay out of that big dirt square I tended to spend quite a bit of time in. They simply learned to sit and watch from the sidelines.

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We created a garden, filled it with seeds and harvested our bounty.

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In doing so, we filled the newly renovated cold cellar.
We also filled half the barn with sheep and pigs and raised the pigs to fill the freezer to go along with our bountiful harvest of fruits and veggies!

However, some things didn’t get done. We were able to build the back porch, but not finish it to the point of insulation. It has been a great wind break regardless though, and by next winter it will be insulated and have a door on it!

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On a homestead, the list of things to do really never ends. We were able to patch the barn roof, but it will need to be replaced within a few short years to really do the job right.
We were able to clear and clean out the barn, fill the loft with hay, but we never did finish putting in the stalls. Our horses have done fine in their new paddock and have been well sheltered regardless. We had to decide to either do the stalls half-a$$ed or wait to do them right, we decided to wait.

On the other hand, some things got done that we never even plan to do! Like a riding ring! We were pounding posts for horse fences and still had posts and daylight left over, so while we had the rented post pounder we decided to just go for it and put in a riding ring! It didn’t get finished, but the posts are all there! Come spring, we’ll put up the rails and our family will finally have a riding ring after having horses for 8 years!

There were so many other things we did in a short period of time after moving in that we really should never have expected to get EVERYTHING done. The biggest non-homestead adventure to take up our time was our adoption. The 10 week adoption training course, building another bedroom, and a trip out west to pick up our new son.

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My husband and I are contemplating whether we have a ‘thing’ for adding chaos to our lives. We’ve kind of promised ourselves to try and do less of that in 2014. If I had to ask which bit of ‘chaos’ to take out of our lives last year though, I’d be hard pressed to pick anything that wasn’t a great learning experience! Even through the adoption process and THREE moves in one year, there’s not a whole lot of bad I can say about any one of those moves now that we’re at this end of it all. And so we learn and carry on.

3. Stick to your original homestead plan! You probably created it for good reason!
Do not allow heartstrings to sway you into moving away from that plan
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One of the many bonuses of homesteading is baby animals. Who doesn’t LOVE a baby farm animal?! They are so cute, and the thought of bottle feeding a baby animal warms just about any person’s heart. However, the down side to breeding animals is that the babies can die. Also, the cost of having the proper supplies on hand for the baby animals can be high, and the profits (if that’s what you’re aiming for) can be very low. I don’t personally know of many homesteaders who can afford to loose money!

For these reasons, we have never really intended to breed our own animals. We’ve also been through this before, because of the two rescue horses that came to us pregnant (it wasn’t known that they were pregnant at the time) and after one very young mare had a premature stillborn, we realized this just wasn’t something we really wanted to do. Our plan has always been to raise our own animals, from the point of weaning to the point of their use. Whether it be pigs, chickens, or cows for the freezer, horses for riding, sheep for wool, or chickens and ducks for eggs. I do not, nor do my children, have the heart to raise pregnant animals, wait on pins and needles hoping for a good birth, and possibly watch babies suffer.

However, last spring the opportunity came along for the kids to raise sheep, meat sheep.
We don’t eat lamb, so we hmmmm… & hawwwwed… quite a bit about the decision. Our plan had always been to have two ewes (female sheep) from young to raise for wool. Wool sheep! Shaylah felts wool into many art projects, and it just made sense to have wool sheep. Shaylah always wanted a sheep! You can’t have just one though, it would be lonely, so the plan was always to have two. Two females so there’d be no concern about breeding.

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Shaylah fell in love with a male sheep at a friends farm, and he came along with two female sheep, so we said yes to raising sheep. We finally decided that it’d be a learning experience and perhaps Shaylah (and Julia, who decided she wanted one of the ewes) could even make a little money raising the lambs. As much as we have grown very fond of our three sheep Molly, Dolly, and Wally, after going through one lambing so far, loosing twins and only having one of the three babies from the first batch survive, we really wish we had stuck with our original plan.

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The cost to lamb, between supplies needed on hand, and supplies needed “just in case” (like colostrum, lamb milk replacement powder, etc. if things don’t go well (we live rurally, it’s always best to have things on hand then to risk NOT having it on hand and needing it at 4am on a Sunday!) we went WAY over budget. IF we were raising LOTS of lambs, this wouldn’t be so bad because the same costs for many lambs isn’t much different for the cost for one lamb! But we’re not raising many lambs and never intend to do so, meaning the cost has been quite high.

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On our facebook page someone mentioned not to give up! As much as I truly appreciate the support to stick with it, I don’t feel we’re giving up if we decide not to continue on with raising lambs. I feel we’re simply going back to our original plan. We have learned lots through this experience, so we don’t truly regret it. We will learn from it, and not make the same mistakes again. Plus, at this point we do fully intend to keep Millie, our one living lamb, as a pet. Shaylah will use her wool for her crafting projects, hopefully for many many years to come. If we find a new home for our current ewes and ram, we intend to find the perfect little friend to keep Millie company. Hopefully a true wool breed lamb for a finer wool, for Shaylah’s felting. We’ll be on the lookout for Millie’s new BFF this spring!

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The fourth large lesson we learned this year was about storing foods. It’s a lot of info, so I will create a whole other post about that one some time soon.

Just remember, if you are new to homesteading and feeling a little like a failure, it’s really not uncommon! I’ve been encouraged by other blogs of new homesteaders who have been open enough to share their successes and even failures. There’s SO much to learn in the first few years. We often learn best by making a few mistakes along the way. We’re not alone in that! We’re reminded of how many times so many famous men and women of the past failed before they ever truly made it! If we just keep on keeping on, soon we’ll be succeeding much more then we could ever fail!

In the meantime, there’s been lots of little (and some big) successes and lessons along the way!

How about you? How’s your homestead plans coming along? If you’re wanting to homestead but live in the city or in town, do you have plans to try a few smaller things like herb gardening etc.? Do you have plans to make a move to a homestead one day? Share your stories, we love to hear from you!

Planning for Spring – the garden

As a relatively new homesteader and gardener, I always LOVE to hear what others are planting in their gardens. With this in mind, I decided to share what I hope to plant in mine!

This year I ordered all of my seeds from Baker Creek Seeds:
wwww.rareseeds.com

I’ve heard many great things about their seeds and I’ll be honest and admit that it was their Whole Seed Catalog that truly won me over. Since I’m not real familiar with heirloom seeds, fruits and vegetables, I wanted to know as much as possible about each type I was buying. The Whole Seed Catalog gave me some confidence in my purchases. http://www.rareseeds.com/the-seed-catalog-of-the-year/

Gardening is a lot of work, and as much as I do LOVE to garden, the main goal is to feed our family of eight, plus grow as much as possible for our animals, so the end result needs to be an abundant harvest. As abundant as possible. I don’t expect miracles each year, but I do try to plan for the best outcome by learning as much as I can before I even plant that first seed.

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My garden, and the items I’ve chosen to plant in it, will not be the same as another’s garden. I believe a garden is as personal as a home. The basics may be similar, or even the same, but lots will be different. How we use our space will be different according to each person’s, and homestead needs, desires, etc.. 12246373743_e98b15b26d_b

I’ll attempt to add a few notes about each seed I purchased, and just in case you decide you’d like to try some of these seeds as well, I’ve included item numbers. I’m not afilliated with Baker Creek Seeds in any way, they have no idea I’m posting this (and I hope it’s ok, I’m sure it is…) I’m simply sharing because it’s info I would want shared with me.

Mary Washington Asparagus Item No: AS101
-while visiting a friend last spring, she showed me one of her many garden plots. The garden was still basically empty, since snow had just melted, yet she plucked a young tender asparagus shoot and ate it while we chatted. I had no idea asparagus could be grown in our climate, and that it would come back on it’s own each year! So this was the first item I added to my wish list when planting the garden for 2014!

Wonderberry Item No: GR105
-I love to grow fruit! Our new-to-us homestead property has a small orchard. We have many apple trees in 4 or 5 varieties, high bush cranberries, saskatoon berries, choke cherries, and even grapes! Here, on the praries! I decided I wanted to add at least one fruit each year to keep the orchard growing, and so that we could keep learning about more fruits. From what I read, the Wonderberry will be a good start.

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Minnesota Midget Melon Item No: AML140
Collective Farm Woman Melon Item No: OML110
Blacktail Mountain Watermelon Item No: WM129
-These three melons were decided upon because each one is said to do well in short growing seasons. We planted watermelon last year, and the plants started wonderfully but never got past a certain point, and were not able to produce fruit quick enough. At first I had decided not to bother trying with melons again, but the catalogue descriptions and the online reviews of these three won me over and convince me to give it another try. I really hope they produce! I would LOVE to have fresh picked melons this year!

Connecticut Field Pumpkin 1 oz Item No: SQ129C
New England Sugar Pie Pumpkin Item No: SQ131
-I picked these two pumpkins because I wanted one type for the kids, and one type for eating. Both are described as good for our climate and growing seasons. Our pumpkins grew very well last year so I have high hopes again this year. The only pumpkins that didn’t do well were the giants we planted. This year I decided they are not worth the amount of space and work required (they are VERY needy, if you really want a true giant) and we’ll stick with pumpkins for carving and eating.
I put pumpking in all my stews. I simply bake it halved, and cube it, and throw it in the freezer to be tossed into each stew & soup I make all year. Pumpkin is VERY good for you!

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Broad Windsor Fava Bean Item No: FB101
-I gree Fava/Broad beans last year and they grew well, so I’m adding more this year. We like them boiled in a bit of salt water, then fried in a bit of bacon grease. Now that we have home grown bacon, it’s even better!
Royalty Purple Pod Bush Bean Item No: BN101
-I added purple beans simple because I’m a sucker for colour in my garden!
Cantare Beans Item No: BN153
Sugar Ann Snap Pea 1/2 LB Item No: SN107F
-Elsa LOVES sugar snap peas, we all like them, but she loves them. So I’m growing a 1/2 pound of seeds. We’ll see how they do. Last year we went away just as the peas were all coming on well, and came back to them being overgrown with weeds. Our harvest was only enough to eat a few at a time. Hoping for much more this year. I will stagger the plantings a little if there’s time.
Alaska Garden Pea Item No: GP101
-I’m actually hoping to dry some peas this year for soups. I’m hoping to use these peas for that purpose.
Little Marvel Garden Pea 1/2 LB Item No: GP102F
-These peas will be for freezing.

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Detroit Dark Red 1 oz Item No: BT110C
-another very healthy veggie! I’m planting these for freezing, pickling (my husband LOVES pickled beets) and this year I’m going to try my hand at dehydrating some beets for beet powder. I would like to use it for homemade lip balms/tints.
Golden Beet Item No: BT102
-planting these for the added colour & contrast, just because I can! I love an array of colours in our veggies and on our plates!

Boston Pickling Cucumber Item No: CU105
-self explanatory. These will become pickles!
Crystal Apple Cucumber Item No: CU149
-I’m planting these because I couldn’t resist! Cucumbers that look like apples? I love trying new things, and enticing the kids to try new things too.
Early Fortune Cucumber Item No: CU176
-these will be for salads and sandwiches

Purple Jalapeno Item No: HPP118
-I’ve realized that my favourite hot/spicey veggie/pepper flavour is jalapeno, so I’m limiting my peppers to three types, this being the only spicey one. My hope is to attempt my own jalapeno oil. Boston Pizza has amazing spicey chips we ALL love. They are made with jalapeno oil. I’m still researching ‘how’ to make it, but I figure growing the peppers would be the best place to start.
Emerald Giant Pepper Item No: PP109
Bullnose Pepper Item No: PP124
-both of these peppers will mainly be for eating and freezing for recipes such as my husband’s chilli, which he cooks at least once a month all winter in HUGE batches. Also great to freeze slices for homemade pizzas etc..

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Pearly Pink Tomato Item No: TK127
-simply adding to the list because of the colour!
Amish Paste Tomato Item No: TM126
-hoping to try my own tomato paste this year, plus I figured these may be a better tomato for tomato sauce. I love Roma’s for sauces, and these are a roma type.
Dad’s Sunset Tomato Item No: TO103
-again, adding for the color. I also think these will be great for sandwiches, burgers, etc..

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Little Finger Carrot Item No: CR103
-these will mostly be for pickling and freezing, as well as eating fresh.
Cosmic Purple Carrot Item No: CR112
-wanting some carrot colour! Added this third type just for fun.
Nantes Scarlet Carrot Item No: CR122
-Planting LOTS of these in hopes of storing some for the winter, not just for us, but for our livestock too.

Golden Bantam 12-Row Corn Item No: CN143
-I was a little hesitant to add this corn to my list. Last year we planted a variety we call Peaches and Cream, it’s light and dark kernals and a very sweet variety. They grew well, but the only place I could find the seeds was walmart… I will continue to look for a peaches and cream type this spring, but in the meantime I wanted a good heirloom corn seed in the garden. We have enough livestock (horses, pigs, chickens, sheep) that if the humans on the homestead don’t find this variety sweet enough, it won’t go to waste.

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Brunswick Onion Item No: ON120
-last year I was too late buying seed onions, so I figured I’d try my hand at buying some seeds to start myself. I’ll still be on the lookout locally for seed onions too. I really want to have enough onions to store in the cold cellar for the winter.

The next seeds are what I call my salad garden:
Russian Red or Ragged Jack Kale Item No: KA103
-kale is super healthy! I blanche and freeze and throw it into all soups and stews. Plus I will try to make kale chips again. I also dehydrate and keep in a jar to add into thinner soups.
Extra Dwarf Pak Choy Item No: OR130
-I saw these and though “why not??” We like fried rice and I think these will be great. I love that I can freeze it to add into fried rice all winter too. Might not be as good as fresh, but certainly a close second!
Merlo Nero Spinach Item No: SP105
Monstrueux De Viroflay Spinach Item No: SP104
-both spinaches will be eaten fresh as well as frozen. We also add frozen spinach to our fruit smoothies.
Flame Lettuce Item No: LT113
-I couldn’t resist this pretty lettuce. Salads need not be boring! Bring on the colour!
Crisp Mint Lettuce Item No: LT150
-a good lettuce for ceasar salads etc.
Rocky Top Lettuce Mix Item No: SB103
-another pretty lettuce

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The next seeds are all flowers.
I’m not actually sure how many of these we will be able to plant this year. Although we have a very large yard, there really are no flower beds and.. even if there were with 6 dogs and animals including sheep and horses which we allow to ‘free range’, flower beds are probably not something we will have in our future. They simply are not practical, even though I LOVE flower beds and have had a few gorgeous beds in the past in other yards.
However, my husband plans to build a fairly large deck this year so we’re planning to incorporate some flower pots/planters into our deck rails so that Julia and I can plant some pretty flowers. If the deck, and planters are able to be completed this year, all the seeds will be planted. If not, I will plant a few of each in my antique buckets and tubs this year, and save the rest for next year.
I should note, some of the marigolds will be planted in the garden to keep some animals and pests away. The 3 sunflower varieties will be grown at one end of the garden, in hopes of a sunflower wall on the treeless/road side of our garden plot. This was the plan last year as well, but I only grew one size, the giants, and although they looked pretty, near the end of the season they were looking too gangly and tall. I thought adding three differing sizes of large sunflower plants could look much prettier. I’m especially excited about having a variety of colours and types of sunflowers!

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Chinese Lantern Gigantea Item No: GR1255
Brocade Mix Marigold Item No: FL471
Button Box Zinnia Item No: FL837
Moss Rose Double Flowered Mix Portulaca Item No: FL918
Petite Mix Marigold Item No: FL474
Evening Sun – Sunflower Item No: FL733
Red Sun Sunflower Item No: FL912
Titan Sunflower Item No: FL749
Teddy Bear – Sunflower Item No: FL724C
Fairyland Dwarf Mix – Candytuft Item No: FL002
Baby Doll – Dianthus Item No: FL320

I also plan to plant LOTS of potatoes once again, 50 pounds, hopefully using my own potatoes from last year as my seed.

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So there you have it, my entire seed order this year!

I’m hoping to produce more this year. Last year we did pretty much everything by hand from seeding to weeding. This year I have a tiller which I purchased at a farm auction, and… for my birthday I asked for this:

It’s on it’s way now and should be here in time for my birthday! I’m so excited! This year we should have nice neat rows with good spacing. Plus, my seeds should be planted with much more precision. Last year the kids and I did 95% of the planting, and it’s very difficult to make sure kids (and even myself!) plant at the exact right depth for the smaller seeds. ;)

I’m really looking forward to planting with my new seeder!

How about you? What are you planning to grow this year? What are your must-haves?
What are you planning on trying for the first time this year? What worked best last year? I’d love to hear about your gardening experiences as well! If you’ve blogged about them, share your link in the comments!

How we make raw dog and cat food.

One of our most requested ‘recipes’ on facebook is the recipe for our raw dog and cat food!
Hard to believe isn’t it?

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Making raw pet food doesn’t need to be difficult or fancy. It can be quite simple!
If you’re just beginning to make raw pet food, you can start out with the basics, one step at a time. Here’s how we progressed over the years and how we make our raw pet food now.

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Our goal is to feed our pets the very best we can, but as a family with 6 kids, it needs to be for the least cost too. To achieve this for 6 dogs and 11 cats we needed to get creative.

When we first began feeding raw almost 14 years ago, we had one cat and one puppy. Two years later we added a second dog. During that time we simply purchased meat during sales. Ground chicken, turkey, ground beef, ground pork, anything that was on sale or on clearance because it was close to date or on date. We’d buy in bulk when possible, and freeze until it was time to make more pet food. My preference was ground meats so that I didn’t have to cut it all up and try to put it through my food processor. That machine saw a LOT of wear and tear in those years! I just received my second ever food processor at Christmas and will finally put my first one into retirement.

Now that we’re feeding 17 animals though, it’s just too costly to be buying meats from the grocery store. For a while we were buying pre-made raw pet food, Mountain Dog Food. Once we moved to the prairies we were unable to find meat at a low price in the stores. Buying it already pre-made through a raw food seller was the cheapest way to go, but it was costing us about 250.00-350.00 per month for just the 6 dogs, and 2 cats. Once we knew we would be adding lots of barn cats, we needed to think this through. If you’re not interested in making your own food though, or can not buy meat cheap, look into pre-made! It’s the next best thing and you’d be surprised by how many companies actually make raw food now.

Once I realized we needed a new tactic for finding meats, I had the idea to advertise looking for old freezer foods locally. I simply posted on our local ‘garage sale’ facebook page. I let people know I was looking for freezer burnt meats, fruits and veggies, especially wild game for pet food. If anyone had some, to please contact me and we’d happily pick it up and put it to good use rather then the old meats being thrown into the garbage! No one wants to throw away food, and this appeals to many people. It’s a wonderful form of recycling so don’t be shy about asking!

Since we live in a small town, word has gotten around and now we never run out of meats. There are LOTS of people who hunt around here and if they still have wild game in the freezer from last year, they give it to us to make room for their new game!

It’s been asked, how do I know if these meats are ok for our pets. I personally feel the better question would be, how does one know pre-made pet foods are ok for our pets? We have no way of knowing what is being thrown into kibble and processed pet foods. The regulations are so loose on pet foods. When I make my own pet foods, I SEE and handle every piece of meat I feed our cats and dogs. If something looks or smells ‘off’, I discard it but to be honest, I’ve never had to discard anything, or not use it in the pet food.

Except once…
I opened a pretty white paper wrapped package and upon opening it I gasped and jumped.
Inside was the most colorful, complete, beautiful BIRD. I have no idea what kind it was, and it caught me off guard completely! I expected to open a package of raw meat, and here’s this complete bird ‘looking’ at me in this pretty white paper. I fed that one to the wild animals at the property line. lol I really don’t throw away anything. Ha!

Now I know to watch for those pretty white paper packages. I actually receive a few every so often and it’s become a treat for our barn cats to receive a whole bird. I’m no longer scared to open them, and maybe one day I’ll actually find out what these pretty birds are that people hunt and freeze, whole!

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The only cost to us for these meats is picking it up, and keeping it in freezers. In our shop we have 3 freezers full of discarded meats JUST for the pets. We currently have goose, duck, buffalo, deer, moose, wild boar, lots of wild game sausage, beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Our pets are SPOILED!

About every 7-10 days we pull out one large tub full of meats. I like to mix a variety into every batch we make including organ meats. Once it’s defrosted enough to cut, we slice it up and put it through our meat grinder. This big grinder is new to us. For a long time we had to cut up our meats and then we upgraded to the meat grinder attachment for my kitchenaid mixer when I received a sears gift card. That actually worked quite well but was a little slow once we were feeding so many. If you’re just feeding 1-6 pets though, I’d say it should be enough for you.

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We grind up ALL the slices of meat. It is a messy job! I was tempted to edit the photos to remove the bloody cutting board etc. but then thought better of it. It’s messy. There’s no way around it. If you’re squeamish about raw meats (you won’t be for long ha ha) then you can use tongs (I do) to handle the meat or even kitchen gloves. My husband just uses his hands. (He was never scared of diaper duty either… lol)

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When my old food processor became too tired, and cracked, I began to use my blender for this next step.
I take a mix of fruits and veggies and put them through the blender (now I do this with my new food processor). I add in garlic and whole eggs, including the shells (we have chickens, so I usually give the dogs the cracked eggs etc..)
Often I’ll add in some flax oil, or cod liver oil, or anything else I feel is healthy for them. If I have old coconut oil, I’ll add that in.

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We have found that icecream buckets work the very best for us. They are plentiful, free, easy, and we go through one a day for our 17 meat eating pets! My goal is usually to make 7-10 buckets each time. Now that we have the big grinder though, my new goal will be to aim for 14 buckets at a time so that we only have to make it once every 2 weeks instead of weekly.

If I only had a couple of pets to feed, I’d use yogurt containers. Then you could take one out every day or so. :)

20140107-095334.jpg(Ground meats awaiting the rest of the meats to be ground and added.)

You’ll also notice that I make the same food for the dogs and the cats. The ‘rule’ of thumb for a raw diet is 60% protein & 40% other for dogs, and then 80% protein and 20% other for cats. However, because most of our cats are barn cats, we expect that once they are no longer kittens they will find mice to eat. For now, they are also supplemented with kibble (just so they always have food on hand, since they are still growing) and we give them any and all fish, ducks, etc. that we receive with the freezer meats. The extra whole meats they receive up their % of protein intake. I also like that they are receiving the extra vitamins etc. from the fish. They will often receive an extra meal of salmon, trout, duck, a whole bird, scallops, and even crab and lobster some times!

One last addition I put into each bucket of raw food before we mix it all up, is DE, or also known as, food grade diatomaceous earth. This keeps our pets worm free, flea free, and disease free. We do not vaccinate our animals (or ourselves for the most part) except for those vaccines (rabies) that are a must in whatever area we live in.

We also feed our dogs (and some times the cats) lots of bones. LOTS and LOTS of bones. Every kind too. This week they’ve been chewing away on a deer carcass a friend gave to use, and some pork hocks.

What types of dogs are we feeding?
We have Teagan (shown in the photo with the kitten) who is a 2.5 pound long coat chihuahua (3 years old), Jasper is a 12 pound papillon (5 years old), Bentley is a 26 pound Corgi/Chihuahua cross (almost 2 years old), two 40 pound Shelties, Shiloh (almost 14 years old) and Levi (almost 12 years old), and last but certainly not least, our German Shepherd Scout who is just over 70 pounds and also almost 2 years old.

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Our cats range in age from Patches (Alesia’s cat) who is over 15 years old (we’ve had her since before her birth, as we also had her mother!) and who has moved from Ontario, to BC, and now to Saskatchewan! Then Cleo is Julia’s flame point siamese who is 2 years old. Bibble is Shaylah’s cat and he’s almost a year old and kind of the ‘boss’ of the barn cats. The rest all range in ages from almost a year to about 6 months old. They are all kittens, and barn cats in training. For now we keep all the kittens up in our barn loft with a heater and they are permitted to come down into the barn as each one feels ready to make that move. It’s a bit of a scary life though for barn cats here in the rural country. They are needed to keep the mouse population down (we’ve had them in the barn, the shop, AND even in the ceiling of our home this winter!) but unfortunately with coyotes, foxes, and lots of other wildlife around, I do prefer them all to grow up a little ‘scared’ of the great big outdoors. So far it’s worked well with the ones old enough, and brave enough, to leave the loft. They are brave enough to come about when we are working, but when we are inside, they tend to stay inside the loft as well. We had one adult cat given to us who was ‘too’ brave and sadly she disappeared. I know this is a part of farm life, but if we can raise them (train them) to want to stay CLOSE to the barn at all times, I’m certainly going to try my best to do so.

I figure once spring comes and things warm up, most of them will be ready to start exploring. By then they should be so accustomed to being in the loft for morning and night raw food feeding time that they’ll want to stay close to home. That’s my hope!

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So there you have it! How, and why, we feed our pets raw. Our passion for raw food is reconfirmed over and over. In all the years we’ve been feeding raw we’ve only had two bouts with real sickness and both times we were able to pull the dogs through. I’m convinced both times were parvo.
We’ve had one bout of feline sickness (which showed up shortly after a stray adult cat started hanging out in our barn loft with the kittens), but with the kittens good diet, the addition of colloidal silver where and when needed, we pulled them through as well without much more then sniffles and messy eyes.

The only thing we couldn’t pull a cat through was when Elsa’s cat licked up a bit of antifreeze last winter that had spilled in our shop and she had gotten in. There was nothing that could be done that time. It was very sad for all of us, especially Elsa.

Our eldest dog (14 year old sheltie) has had some sort of very large growth on his chest for quite a few years now, (it was aspirated, but there was no conclusion as to what it is and it’s shown up around muscles so it can’t be cut out). It seemed to get larger and then in recent months it’s begun to shrink up. He’s old, and looks the part of Old Farm Dog, but he continues to follow all of us around whenever we go for walks or work outside. He’s the slowest of the pack, but still happy and playful!

My hope and prayer is that each of our pets will be able to live a long healthy life and die peacefully in their sleep!

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Does what we eat matter most?

I was reading a blog post this morning.

God cares a lot more what’s in your heart than what’s in your fridge.

When our eldest children, now 20 & 22, were babes it seemed the main concern of ‘social’ groups/mom groups was that our kids looked good and behaved. Today it seems that how we feed our family, and if we do or do not agree with vaccines, is forefront. What’s forefront often changes, yet while it’s ‘popular’ it can make and break friendships between mothers.
No matter what is forefront, most often it’s just a distraction from what we should really be focusing on.

Ourselves. Our behaviours. How we treat one another. Being good role models for our children.

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The truth is, who we are, who we are raising our children to be, and showing Christ’s love through it all (as Christians) should be foremost.
And what another does, how they eat, how they raise their children etc. should not be the most important thing. We don’t need to agree with each other 100% to be a support to one another.

For our family, we eat the way we do because of a simple scripture that has been a favourite of ours for over 16 years. It’s taken just that long to finally live it out too!

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
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I’m not concerned so much about winning respect, but I desire to see ‘good fruit’ as proof of our lifestyle being right for us. Our children are our fruit. Part of our goal of a country lifestyle has always been to benefit our children, and aid us in raising them to be aware of the world around them. Nature, animals, people. Loving and caring for them all while seeking God’s will for their lives.

We raise as much of our own food as possible because it is an important part of leading our quiet life and working with our hands. (I emphasize ‘our’ because I feel ‘our’ way need not be everyone’s way!) Growing/raising our own food has simply evolved through our desire to live the lifestyle we have chosen. It’s not just about eating better and being healthier. What good are those things if we do not live ‘right’? If our attitudes stink or we get ourselves so busy making healthy food that we ignore our children?

Eating healthy homegrown foods is simply a side benefit. A wonderful side benefit, as we raise these six children of ours. Our heart, our attitude, our behaviour, and how we love one another while living this lifestyle is what determines how our children will thrive as good persons.

Not the food we eat.

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DIY Vanilla Extract & Vanilla Cane Sugar

Can you guess what I’m making today?

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Homemade vanilla extract!
I’ve been wanting to make it for quite some time, years actually, and today is finally the day!
I’m hoping some of my beans are not too old. It took us forever to finally get to a liquor store and buy some booze. lol It’s quite ironic actually. In our first years of marriage we probably spent as much funds at the liquor store each week as we did at the grocery store!

But that was a life time ago…

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We contemplated whether I should use vodka, or rum, for the vanilla extract. Hubby figured rum would be a better flavour in the long run, and I tended to agree, so we went with that. It was pretty much the same price as the vodka and for whatever reason, vodka didn’t seem appealing to either of us.

Making homemade vanilla is really quite easy. I simply googled and found LOTS of recipes which all said basically the same thing.

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Take some vanilla beans, aproximately 3-4 beans per cup of alchohol.

Slice them down the middle, leaving about the top inch of bean intact.

Place the beans in a container.
I was planning on just putting them straight into the rum bottle but was a little short on the beans for so much rum. Instead, I used these starbucks iced coffee bottles. I personally don’t like starbucks, but my eldest, Alesia, loves these coffees and when she treats herself to a coffee, she brings me the bottles. They are my go to bottle for my DIY Elderberry Syrup too!

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Once the beans are in the bottle, simply add the alcohol of your choice.
I’ve read that vodka, rum, and even bourbon are good. One site said you can actually use any alcohol. Most sites said 80 proof was best to ensure that your vanilla wouldn’t go bad. So we used 80 proof.

Now all I have to do is leave the vanilla extract for a month or two, shaking it about once a week, until I deem it ready! Not sure how long that will take exactly, as this is my first time. I’ll share a photo and info as I go through the process.

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With the two vanilla beans I had left, I chopped them up really fine to make myself some vanilla sugar!

I used my favourite cane sugar (favourite because of taste, and cost, I buy it at well.ca when it comes on sale for 25% off).

I put the sugar and the two chopped up beans into a glass jar and I’ll leave them in the cupboard along with the vanilla extract for the next month or so, until I feel it’s ready.

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If I find the vanilla isn’t really infusing the sugar, I may consider throwing the jar of sugar and vanilla bean into my food processor to turn it into a ‘powder’ to see if that will help infuse it better.

For now, I’m just playing around with what I’ve got, and having fun in my kitchen!

How about you? Have you made vanilla extract or vanilla sugar?
If not, are you planning to?

Let me know if you’d like me to share more blog posts like this one. I love to hear from you!