Thursday, August 15, 2013

July

The beginning of the month is still hot and humid.  There's so much to do, but it's so hard to get motivated.  The Littles start going to the lakes with the men to cool off and swim in the afternoons.  They return with the cart loaded with firewood, weeds, and grass.  The fishing is horrible, but that's to be expected, given the heat.

I get up early every day to let the birds out and get the gardening done before it gets too hot.  The beats are looking good, we're starting to harvest peas and lettuce, and tiny peppers and tomatoes have started forming in the greenhouse.  The potato plants are a mess of bugs.  I pick them off every day and toss them to the birds.

Another banty returns with a clutch of chicks.  One is still missing.

The Bigs work on cleaning out the old chicken coop in the mornings, taking load after load of manure to the garden.  It always amazes me how we end up with so much manure out of one little building.  I spread the manure between my garden rows and pile it at the ends and side.  It'll make spreading easier in the fall.


We finish the fence down to the creek on our south side.  Our new neighbours get halfway to the creek on the north side before we go over to help.  We take them the chicks Husband offered for the fence work.  We talk and work together.  Arlene is waiting for berry season to start canning.  Her garden is doing well. 

The weather breaks and the rains come.  Day after day it rains and the temperature drops.  We start cooking inside again, to take the chill and the dampness out of the house.  It's sweater weather in the mornings now.

We finish the fence to the creek on the north side of Mom's property.  We start fencing the roadside.  We fence around Mom's yard and build gates for her back trails.  The tree tops and branches give us enough firewood to finish filling Mom's wood shed.

The blueberries ripen and we start picking every day.  More and more townsfolk travel through to go picking in the woods.  I put a sign out, eggs for trade.  A few people stop and ask about the eggs.  Two agree to pick a small basket of blueberries for a dozen eggs.  They come back at the end of the day.  One man has some tin at his place.  He'll trade it for eggs, chickens and a chicken pen. 

Husband and the Bigs spend three days carting logs to town, building a little chicken coop, fencing it in, and bringing home tin.  We give him four hens and two chicks, along with 3 dozen eggs.

The tin is nearly enough to finish Mom's roof.  We decide to take the rest of the siding off the trailer wall that is inside the add a room, and that's just enough to finish it.  That also exposes the insulation, which we pull out and put into the new outside wall.  It's enough to cover the west wall.  Two more to go.  Mom has a can of roofing tar, which we use sparingly to fill the old nail holes in the tin.  Leaks should not be a problem.

I get enough blueberries to make a batch of wine.  Blueberries were the reason I bought the wine making equipment.  They're coated with natural yeast, and very sweet, so I add nothing but water to the carboy and hope for the best.  I rack the dandelion and dandelion/rhubarb wines. 

Husband picks up the newly fashioned hay cutter and practices using it on the way home.  He's got a pretty good handle on it when he gets back.  It's too wet to cut for winter storage though.  The rain has helped the grass though, along with our continued rotating of the cows.  The pasture looks like it might last the rest of the summer now.

The boys and I finish the fencing down the road.  We build gates for all of the driveways.  So long as the critters don't try to cross the creek, they are completely fenced in.  The sides of the creek are very steep from winter run off, so I don't think it'll be too much of a problem.  We decide to test it with the horses, Mildred and the calves, leaving them loose overnight.  The next morning we have to walk to Brother's place to get the horses back.  They stayed within the fence, but now have too much freedom.

The rain finally settles down, and after two days of straight sun, Husband decides it's time to start cutting hay.  He starts with the north side, beside Arlene and Mel.  It's the largest clearing.  The boys and I follow along with the horse cart, raking the hay and tying it in bundles.  Most of it will be left to dry in the field, as it should, but since we expect this to be a long process, we get started right away.  Once the cart is full we take it up to the house.  We unload the bundles in the new chicken coop and open them back up.  I spread them on the floor in the pens to finish drying.

The boys go back for a second load and I go back to picking blueberries.  It takes nearly two weeks to get the clearings all cut, dried, bundled and brought back to the house.  We fill the manger in the old chicken coop- the milk room, and cover the floor with thick bedding.  We fill the old chicken coop from floor to ceiling for storage.  The hay loft above the barn is only half full when we finish.  There's not nearly enough for winter.

The elderberries ripen near the end of the month.  The Littles do an amazing job of picking them off the stems.  I start another batch of wine, elderberry with some blueberries thrown in for sweetness and yeast.

I can blueberries without sugar.  They'll probably be our sugar next winter- one of the few hints of sweetness in the long, cold, dark nights ahead.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

June

It's incredibly hot out.  And humid.  It's rarely humid in the north, but this year we're into our fourth week of heat and humidity.

The garden is spotty and disappointing.  Given the heat it should be growing like crazy.  The greenhouses are doing well, but outside is slow growing.  The weeds of course, are growing like crazy.  We pull them for the birds every day- a fresh layer of weeds to cover the floor of the turkey shack every night.

We continue foraging for weeds and fiddleheads.  It's too hot for puffballs now.  I start a batch of dandelion wine.  I skimp on the sugar, so it won't be very strong.  Rhubarb is up, although not much appreciated without flour and a ton of sugar.  The boys much on an occasional stick.  I start a batch of rhubarb and dandelion wine.  I make a small batch of dandelion syrop, blending it with the birch syrop for sugar.

We dig dandelion roots and dry them for coffee.  Husband appreciates them more now, much stronger than my other tea weeds alone.  He even digs some himself when he's out and about.  We try to dig for roots farther away from the house, keeping the dandelions in the yard for greens.

We're cooking outside on the fire pit now.  We don't have to cut the branches as small, and are able to use a lot of twigs as well.  Cooking doesn't entail much.  We planted the remaining potatoes, carrots and beets for seed.  Meals are just a jar of canned meat and whatever weeds we foraged that day, mostly dandelion, occasionally lambs quarters.  We're all in the habit now of munching as we go as well, eating dandelions as we pick, and chewing on grass and clover.

The perennial bed comes to life, and I start cutting and drying chives, and some flowers and plants for medicine and tea.  I wonder if I can make tinctures with wine.  I make plantain/comfrey salves with tallow.  I plant calendula, bedstraw, bergamot, cicely and some other herbs.  I gather stinging nettle and make vegetable rennet.

We rotate the cows through the pasture every three days.  It's not enough to allow each section proper rest, but it helps.  The horses spend so little time in the pasture that we just leave them up at the barn.  They're usually in the side yard, or the garden yard, or at someone else's house.  They graze as they go.  The goats roam around loose, as always.  We never could keep them fenced in.  They never wander far though.

Sanya's horses were out behind the pasture one morning.  Brother and Sil chased them off.

We work on fencing the edge of our property, down the side of the logging trail to the creek.  Hopefully that will keep the horses out, and eventually we'll let the cows out to graze.  We cut thin poles and nail them to the trees, a crooked little fence.  We keep the tree tops and branches for firewood.  The Littles saw through the branches with the hand saw.  The basement fills slowly.

Brother and Sil take down their add a room tent and frame it in with logs.  They frame all the way around the trailer, putting the roof up over both.  They cut logs for the sides and chink it in with clay.  Poles for the roof are covered with the vinyl tent.  They soon have a solid little cabin with the drafts all sealed.  They build a bigger chicken coop beside the cabin, with a trap door/window between them.  They can heat the chicken coop with the woodstove next winter.

They fence in their growing yard and garden.  They need to protect their garden from their free ranging chickens, and the cows that will be grazing through soon.

Mom's roof leaked last winter, so we all work together to build her add a room and put a new roof on over the trailer.  She has enough lumber to frame in the walls, and press board to cover them.  The roof is covered with poles, then tin.  There's only enough tin to cover half of it.  We have to scrounge for more materials elsewhere.

We nearly fill Mom's woodshed with the tree tops and branches we cut for the roof.  We move the woodstove into the add a room.  We frame in the windows and build an archway in the trailer wall where the windows used to be.  It needs insulation and interior walls, but it'll give Mom more space and hopefully keep the roof dryer.

The first two banties to go broody both hatch their chicks, 18 little fluffballs between them.  We move them from the brooder boxes to the floor in one of the pens.  We pick weeds for them every day for two weeks, then let them out to free range.

Week after week, the other banties hatch their chicks, and we move them first to the floor, and then outside.  One of the missing hens from outside returns with a clutch of chicks as well.  Two are still missing.

Husband takes ten chicks to the farmer who gave us the calf.  He finds out the farmer couldn't drive his cows to Diego's.  They all scattered through the bush.  Most came home within a few days, but there are still a few loose.  He also caught a couple of horses that were roaming free.

We shoot a fox going after the chickens one afternoon.  I cut the meat into small pieces and put them into five gallon pails with holes in the bottom.  I hang the buckets from the fence surrounding the turkey pen.  The flies lay their eggs on the meat, then the maggots hatch and fall to the ground, providing the birds with a tasty treat.

Husband takes more parts off the tractor and delivers them to the fellow who builds cutters.  He stops and chats with the new neighbours on the way home.  Their names are Mel and Arlene, and the kids are Tommy and Ben.  They've built a small lean-to, set up a tent, put in a large garden, and have fenced off the area.  They've caught one of Sanya's horses that were in the garden before they fenced it.  They considered butchering it, but for now have it tied to a tree.  Husband offers them a dozen chicks if they'll continue working on the fenceline down that side of the property to the creek.

Lisa and Sally fence in their garden and a new chicken pen.  They dry and store weeds and grass for their chickens next winter.

Once all of the banties are out of the chicken coop, we clean it out and start drying and storing weeds and grass as well.  We clean out the hay lean to for grass storage.  We clean out the loft in the barn.

We accomplish much in the longer days, without screens and such to occupy our time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

May

Spring?  Most days are warmer now.  The deep snows are gone, with only a bit left in the shadows of the trees, along fence lines, and sides of buildings.  It's melting much quicker, turning the yard into a small lake. 

We frame in the water barrels in the pasture to keep the animals from dumping them.  They're against the chicken coop wall to collect rain water from the roof.  Emptying and cleaning will be more difficult, but dirty water is better than no water.  We fill the barrels daily with water from the puddles.  It'll save a bit of work later, when things start to dry up.

It's still too mucky and wet to use the horse cart on the trails.  The roads aren't much better.  We stay within walking distance of home.  We've adapted to walking though, and can cover a good deal of ground.

Construction begins on the greenhouses.  Then the handle snaps off the post hole digger.  Dad picks a thin birch tree and begins carving a new handle.

We tap the birch trees for sap.   We collect it every day.  We keep a pot on the wood stove boiling constantly.  It takes a lot of sap to make syrop.  I pressure can one jar at a time and store it in the cold room.

Grass starts to turn green.  I let the birds out to free range.  We start picking fresh 'greens'- weeds.

I plant my greenhouses with brassicas, carrots, beets, onions, radishes, swiss chard and lettuce.  It's still too early for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers to transplant.  I start more seedlings in the house.  Sil, Lisa, and Nira start working up their garden space.  They all move their chicken pens over, and start working the areas the chickens fertilized through the winter.  Mom and Dad dig up their garden and plant cabbage.

It snows on Mother's Day.  Thanks for the gift, Mother Nature.  I hope that's the last of it.

Days get warmer.   Grass gets greener.

May 15th.  Wildflowers start poking up.  Mom and Dad go flower picking.  Dad gets a pain in his belly.  He lays down.  He takes tylenol.  The pain gets worse.  There's nothing we can do for him, except to make him comfortable and hope it passes.  No doctors, no medicine.  Dad dies early the next morning.  He was 66.  We are lost without him.

Days pass.  We cry.  We dig a grave.  We cry.  We bury him.  We cry.  We wait to wake up from this horrible nightmare.  We cry.

I cry all the time.  I go to the garden to plant or pull weeds.  I cry.  I stack firewood in the basement.  I cry.  I go to bed.  I cry.  I try to keep it together around the boys, but when I'm alone, I cry.

I plant the rest of Mom's garden.  She doesn't care.  It was Dad's garden.

#2 finishes carving the birch pole and fixes the post hole digger.  The men finish the greenhouse frames and cover the roofs with plastic.  There's not much left of the roll, so everyone is on their own to cover the sides.  Brother and Sil cut poles to cover the bottom two feet, and fill the chinks with clay.  Lisa does the same, except she goes up the full north side.  Diego and Nira find some tin in one of the sheds at northern neighbour's house, and use it for walls all the way around.

We are out of hay.  The pasture is still short.  We reinforce the fences.  We add another fence line to keep the critters in one spot and let the grass grow on the other side.  We move the cows and horses over.  We add another fence line.  We keep adding fence until the pasture is divided into 12 sections.  We'll have to keep rotating the animals all summer.

Sanya lets her horses loose.  Her paddocks are too small to feed them.  We find them in our yard one morning.  We shoo them away.  Husband goes to talk to her.  She figures they can roam free for the summer, and eat what they like, and she'll worry about hay next winter.  Husband tells her they can't roam free on our land, and we will protect our property.

We build gates for the end of the trails.  They won't stop the horses from entering through the trees, but they will slow them down a bit, cutting off the easy access.

It finally gets warm enough to plant the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the greenhouse.  We plant more brassicas, beats and mangels in the garden.  The beans, corn and potatoes go in.  I decide not to plant melons, since spring was so late.  I plant a few pumpkins and squash, but save most of my seed for next year.  We fill the rest of the garden with wheat, barley and oats.  It's less than half the seed, but we'll see what grows best in our short season, and save the seed to plant a full crop next spring.

We move the birds to the turkey pen.  We let them out to free range for a couple of hours every day, then pen them back up.  Two of the banties go broody, so I take them back to the new chicken coop and put them in the brooder boxes.  I let them set their own eggs for a few days, then sneak in at night and steal all of the eggs from one hen and replace them with eggs from the larger birds.  I add the stolen eggs to the other hen's nest.  This will keep the timing together so they should all hatch at the same time.

As the other banties go broody I move them to the new coop, into the brooder boxes, until all six have a broody banty nesting.  The rest of the banties are on their own to raise what they like outside.  Three go missing, nesting I hope.  One continues to hang around the other birds.  I add the days eggs from the other birds to the banty's nest when I move her.  Banties are great, but there's more meat on the larger birds.

The trails dry up enough that the men can get back to the lake in the horse cart.  They go fishing in groups of two or three, forage for puffballs and fiddleheads, and cut more wood.  They travel down different trails each time, looking for more lakes, different trees, raspberry patches.  We draw a map on the wall and make note of everything they find.


Nelly calves, but the calf is still born.  Husband, #1 and Diego go looking for a replacement calf.  At one of the neighbour's they find a farmer whose cow had twins.  One is not doing so well, so he lets them take it in exchange for 10 chicks when they hatch.  He doesn't have enough pasture to keep all of his cows either, so Diego makes a deal to let some of them graze at northern neighbour's, and keep one for beef in the fall.  The farmer will try to walk them over. 

Sanya's horses are running up the fence line at our house when they return, irritating our horses.  Husband goes out to shoo them off, but Diego stops him.  If they're running free, they're free for the taking, right?  They manage to catch three of them and Diego walks them home.

Nelly is very disagreeable with the calf, kicking it every time it tries to nurse.  We end up bottle feeding it with Mildred's milk.  After several days the calf, Murphy, figures out that Mildred is more agreeable, and starts nursing off of her.  We let Nelly back in the pasture with the other cows.  I am amazed that Mildred is able to feed all three of them. We keep Mildred and the calves in the side yard.

Our milk supply drops again, but that's okay.  We milk just enough for tea, breakfast, and a bit of butter, and let the calves take the rest.  Since we can't store the butter long, I just take the cream off the milk after a couple of hours in the cold room, put it in a small container and shake it up.  It's more of a chunky cream as we use it than real butter.

Mom is upset that her grass is getting so long, which makes the bugs worse at her place.  We aren't about to go wasting gas (if the lawn mower even works) and 'hay', so we offer to bring Mildred and the calves over to eat it.  Then Mom gets upset about the poop on the lawn.  Then Mildred walks through the garden, and Mom gets real upset.  We dig out the old solar electric fence charger, and are surprised to find that it still sort of works.  It's not a very strong shock, but it seems to do the trick for Mildred, so we fence in her yard.

We take the horses back to the creek pasture to 'mow' the lawn around Lisa's place.  Brother and Sil's place gets mowed when we're there with the horses.


Everyone is busy, foraging all the time, drying weeds for winter, planting, digging, weeding.  Everyone comes to visit and borrows the wheel barrow, helping to clean out the barn as they take home manure for their gardens.

Husband takes apart some old bicycles, wheel barrows, and a wagon, and builds a water cart, a manure cart, a tool cart and a horse hitch.  The hitch can be moved from one 'implement' to the next without unhitching the horse.  It seats one.  He takes the side cutter off the old tractor and loads it on the horse cart, along with some bits of scrap metal, and takes it up the road to the fellow who builds cutters.  The sound of the generator is deafening after silence for so long.

The fellow who builds cutters will get started on ours in a couple of weeks.  He needs more parts and gives Husband a list.  He wants beef in the fall for trade.  I worry about how we're going to keep producing beef of our own if we keep trading off all of our calves.

Spring is short lived and soon it's hot and dry.  Summer seems to have arrived.  We haul water from the creek several times a day.  We do laundry at Lisa's, hanging it on the clothesline at home.

The townsfolk are moving out into the fields and bush, staking claim to land outside of town, digging gardens, setting up camps where they will spend the summer.  Three families choose our road for their base, one is actually on Mom's land on the far side of the ravine.  They're a young couple with two young children.  They seem harmless enough for now, and self sufficient, so we let them be.

News from the south isn't great.  It seems in some areas whoever has the biggest guns gets to be the boss.  It's sad really, in a time like this when we all need to work together for the future.  People are still leaving the cities, moving into the country, squatting on any open space.  Unlike here, where the trees and forage are plentiful, there the concrete is plentiful, and absolutely useless in these trying times.  People are being killed all the time, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  There is news that the working windmills in one area have been taken hostage by a group of thugs.  They figured they deserved the power for themselves.  No one knows what happened to the guy who was fixing them.


Monday, August 12, 2013

April

The rains come.  Snow melts.  Snow falls.  Rain.  Warm days.  Cold nights.  More rain.  More snow.  The roller coaster of spring has arrived in the north.

By mid April it's no longer safe to go ice fishing.  The men have little luck fishing from shore.  The sleigh bogs down as they travel through the bush.  The trails aren't clear enough to use the cart.  Everyone stays within walking distance of the house.

What little grass pokes through the snow is still dead and brown.  We manage to shoot an occasional bird, rabbit and fox.  They stave off starvation for the birds, just barely.  The birds are getting more milk than we are now, along with the kale that I planted midwinter in the sunroom.  I'm afraid I may have to start feeding them my seedlings soon.  They're almost ready to transplant now, with no where to transplant them to.

I busy myself in the greenhouses, working the soil, filling buckets with snow, patching the plastic.  It's still too cold overnight to plant inside, but towards the end of the month the weeds start growing, giving the chickens some fresh greens.

The men cut logs to build more greenhouses for each house.  The ground is still frozen, so no digging yet.  At least they'll be ready when they can dig.  Tree tops are brought up for firewood.  Our wood shed is full, so we begin refilling the basement.

 I can what meat is left in the entranceway freezer.  There are over 700 jars, enough for one meal a day for each house, until fall.  We decide not to butcher anything big until then.  With any luck Dorie and Nelly will calve soon, and we'll have meat for the future.  Mildred's calves are growing well, and Monsoon, the little bull, will probably be on the menu next winter.

The garage freezer is filled with pop bottles of water.  All the extra bottles have been filled and stored in the basement.  The carboys, canning jars, and 5 gallon pails in the cold room have all been filled with water.

There are only a few jars left of pickles and beats, and still a fair bit of jam.  Sometimes the boys take a jar and eat it straight.  What else can we do with it with no flour for bread or pancakes?

Dad and #2 carve a mold of a foot, and make new shoes for #2 from last year's cow hides.  They plan to carve more molds in everyone's sizes, but only #2 is without shoes for now.

We're down to the last four bales of hay.  We need grass soon.  The snow melts slowly.  We put up more fences in the clearings, more places to graze this summer.

We have visitors regularly now.  The townsfolk come out to see if the trails are cleared to the bush every 4 or 5 days.  They're looking for greens.  They cut pine branches for tea, but there's not much else to be found yet. 

A seed exchange is set for mid month.   We go with just a few assorted seed packets.  There are fewer people than last time.  We hear of many who didn't make it through the winter, or chose to head south.  Letters from the south tell of decimated populations, but an early spring, and growing season well under way.  Town governments have begun contacting one another, seeking answers to the questions that everyone is asking- when will the power be back on.  In some areas windmills have been fixed, and pockets of hydro do exist.

We're surprised to find some of the Mennonites there, and they have wheat, barley and oat seed with them to share.  Everyone gets enough seed to grow one acre.  I am thrilled at the prospect of bread in the fall.  They have a working mill, and will grind what wheat we grow, in trade for other goods in the fall. 

Everyone is hopeful for the future.  We've survived the winter.  In another month we should begin harvesting the first spring veggies, and fresh weeds and forage before that.  Hydro in the future.  Some hope for normal.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

March

The snow keeps coming.  This will not be an early spring. 

The men continue ice fishing, feeding us, the birds and the dogs.  They bring home logs which we pile outside of the wood shed, slowly getting them cut up by hand saw.  The wood shed is nearly full.

Mildred calved.  She has a lovely little heifer calf, Maureen.  We get busy milking right away.  So much milk, and such poor storage.  I make butter and cheese and yogourt.   It's a great addition to our diet.  The excess milk and whey goes to the dogs and birds. 

Coffee is gone now.  Husband has adapted to drinking homemade tea with me in the mornings.  It's mostly dandelion root, pine needles, mint, rosehips, and yarrow.  It's hot, and we drink it without sugar or honey now.  The milk makes it much more palatable. 

We emptied the freezer in the garage.  I canned the remaining meat for summer.  We started filling pop bottles with filtered melted snow and filling the freezer with them.  When we ran out of pop bottles we made a trip to the dump to scavenge for more.

The dump looked to have been well scavenged already, but we were able to dig out a couple of bags of pop bottles from the recycling bins.  We found a few boards and an old pair of boots that might fit #2.  They have a rip in the side, but I can patch them with a piece of leather.

We stop to visit one of the neighbours on the dump side of town.  He's had a few calves born already, but lost one cow during delivery.  The calf is only a few days old, and not doing well.  He hasn't been able to get one of the other cows to adopt it, and milking enough to feed it isn't going well either.  He agrees to let us take Monsoon home to try on Mildred.

Mildred takes the new calf just fine.  She seems quite content with two calves.  Our milk supply drops a little for a few days, but then seems to pick up again.  It's still more than we can use before it spoils, so no loss.

We get the extra pop bottles washed out and continue filling them with filtered water.  I know it won't be enough to last the summer, but it might make things a little easier when we have to haul water again in the spring.

I start seedlings.  Lots of seedlings.  The plant stands in the sunroom are full of tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, herbs, and perennials.  Mom, Sil, Nira, and Lisa all have their shelves in front of the windows filled with seedlings too.  We are all looking forward to spring.

We got a letter from my sister.  It took 6 weeks to get to us.  She's with her family in Saskatchewan.  Luckily it's a small town, so they're doing as well as most of the folks in town here.  No word from government, military, or any sort of officials.  No power.  Waiting for spring.  She has learned to grind her own wheat.  Everyone there is grinding wheat.  The town plans to get an old mill up and running in the spring.  Meat has been scarce, but they're getting by.  We all write letters back to her, and hope she gets them.

February

It takes several more days of butchering and delivering beef before we are done 'paying' for our hay.  It's all been carted back to our place though, so we should be set until spring.

Delivering beef to folks in the area turned out to be extremely rewarding.  We now know all of the neighbours, who has what types of supplies, and things they'd be willing to trade.  Everyone is looking forward to spring and gardening, and fresh veggies.  There's talk of another seed exchange for those who missed the first one.

We met people with all sorts of poultry.  I manage to make several trades, and have increased my flock to 30 chickens, 7 turkeys, and 10 ducks.  10 of the chickens are banties, so I have hope they'll hatch eggs for me in the spring.

We got lucky and met some people with a small dairy.  They've been trading and butchering their herd.  We arrange to trade them one of our beef cows for one of their jerseys.  Driving Mindy to their house takes four people and a full day.  She's not halter broke and doesn't like being cut out of the herd.  We manage to get her there by blocking the crossroads and walking behind her with a whip.  The trip home with Mildred goes much smoother.  She is halter broke, and walks behind the sleigh quite agreeably.

The new birds bring new concerns.  The coop is not big enough for all of them, and it's not safe to let the banties 'free range' to nest.  We decide to turn the add a room into a new chicken coop.  We have enough lumber left to frame it in, and we take wire off the hay lean-to to separate pens.

The men take turns going ice fishing and cutting firewood every other day.  They've made a trail back to one of the lakes in the bush where the fishing is better, bringing home at least three a day.  The fish are essential for chicken feed.  I boil all of the skins, bones and guts in the doggy stew pot, along with a potato, any table scraps, and a few leaves of assorted dried weeds.  The pot feeds the dogs, cat, and birds.

The wood shed is filling slowly.  The fishermen cut down a few trees each day with the axe, bringing them home in lengths in the sleigh.  We're trying to conserve fuel, so they're using hand saws to cut the wood into pieces.  They alternate cutting firewood for each of our 'houses', building everyone's wood supply.

We continue to eat simple stews, and soups, and are lucky to have eggs each day for breakfast.

I keep busy through the long, cold days, patching clothing, blankets, and sewing new underwear.  Sil has become proficient at knitting socks.  We are on the lookout for old wool sweaters when we got to town.  Lisa and Nira also sew and knit.  Sometimes we stay home alone to work, sometimes we gather at one another's houses.  Mom joins to visit, and knits a bit.  We keep busy, and wait for spring.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 114- Scary Travels

The Bigs have been out ice fishing every few days.  They managed to get a trail broke with the sleigh back to one of the lakes on crown land.  It's a little closer than the highway lakes, and surprisingly they've caught a few fish.  They set snares along the way and caught a couple of rabbits and a fox as well.  The fox went to the chickens, along with some pine branches. 

The fish bones and guts went into the doggy stew pot.  The rice is gone now.  The stew is mostly gravy- thickened with flour, with meat and veggies.  We're feeding them twice as much as we used to, but they're already losing weight.  I'm trying to keep them from getting hungry enough to harm the livestock.

Husband met up with one of our old hay farmers, Ray.  He had large round bales but no way to load or haul them.  Husband rigged up the stone boat to the back of the sleigh, and with the Bigs help they were able to push one of the bales onto the stone boat and haul it home.  They've been back a few times, only able to transport one bale at a time.  In trade the farmer has asked for help butchering and selling his cattle.  He had 300 head going in to winter, sold and ate about 50.  He wants to get all of his open cattle butchered and sold before spring.

We head over to his place with knives and sharpening stones early in the morning.  The Littles stay home.  Ray and his sons have divided the herd when we get there.  He has 40 head that he wants butchered.  The store in town is taking orders for beef for them.  Ten have been 'sold' so far- in exchange for labour in the spring.  After the first cow is shot, gutted and hung, #2 and I get to work butchering with Ray and his sons.  Husband and #1 continue shooting and gutting, with Ray's sons helping to get them hung up.  Ray has enough room in part of his barn to hang 20 head, so they keep working on that through the day.  The rest of us manage to get 5 cows butchered by late afternoon. 

Our sleigh is loaded with beef wrapped in feed bags.  They're not very sanitary, but they're plentiful.  He wants us to take the load south, stopping at the towns along the way to Southern City, trading for whatever we can.  He wants help to get his crops planted in the spring, and hay harvested mid summer most of all, but he'll take anything we can get.  He needs the herd thinned out before spring. 

The next day Husband and I head south with the meat.  Husband rigs the stone boat to the back of the sleigh, and takes lots of baler twine along to tie things on.  The highway is fairly well packed from other travellers, so the ride south is fairly smooth.

I take a notebook to write down the names and addresses of those who are willing to work, and draw maps to Ray's place.  All along the highway people come out of their homes to see what we've got.  Most don't have much left to trade with, but some seem eager to trade for labour.  One guy even offers to come and help butcher the next day.

Folks in Littletown are happy to trade, though most don't think they'll be able to travel that far to work in the spring.  We trade beef for pots and pans, blankets, clothing, tools, and tires.  The sleigh and stone boat are overloaded.

Few in Hutterite Village are interested in trading.  They have a plentiful supply of meat of their own. 

We get to Southern City and slowly drive the horses down the main street.  No one seems to be around.  We decide to try the side streets in the residential areas and see if anyone comes out.  The first street we turn onto has a small convenience store on the corner with a couple of people hanging around outside.  We stop and chat.  They tell us to go back to the mall and wait in the parking lot while they tell people why we're there.

It seems a little strange, sitting in this deserted little city waiting for people to arrive.  I have both hands wrapped around my gun.  Husband keeps telling me to relax, but I notice he's holding on to his too.  We wait for about twenty minutes, and then see some men come around the corner headed towards us.  There are eight of them, and they all have guns.  I think we're going to die. 

They walk up calmly, maybe a little too friendly.  The 'sheriff' introduces himself.  They're all very chatty, and all eye balling the sleigh.  We tell them Ray's plan, to trade the meat now for labour later.  They keep smiling and nodding.  They tell us to pull the sleigh up beside the doors to the former grocery store.  Husband moves the sleigh slowly, and I can see on his face he's debating whether to make a run for it.  I whisper, "We'll get shot."  He pulls the sleigh up to the doors.

The men start unloading the beef.  Husband asks what they're going to trade for it.  The sheriff says, "I'm sure we can work something out".  He invites us in to the store once the meat is unloaded.  I decide to stay out with the sleigh.  I sit there waiting nervously for over half an hour, until finally, Husband comes out with the other men.  They have three sacks of potatoes and I can tell they come from the potato man.  Some of them are carrying garbage bags, one has a basket of turnips.  They help load the sleigh and stone boat and tie everything down.  Husband says, "Ok, we'll see you next time then," and jumps back on the sleigh. 

The sheriff hollers, "Hold on a minute".  I still think these strange men are going to kill us.  He walks over to us with some papers in his hand.  "A couple of letters headed north".  We smile and thank him and head out of town.

I ask Husband what went on inside.  He explains that the old grocery store is still being used as a grocery store, but the sheriff and his men are in charge.  They'll sell or trade off the beef with the townsfolk rather than us trading with any individuals.  They did agree to make a list of people who would be willing to come and work for Ray for next time we come down.  They've got a make shift jail cell with three prisoners inside too.  He doesn't think they'd take 'no deal' for an answer if we didn't like their trade items.  Husband says next time I have to stay home.  He'll bring Brother or Diego with him instead.

We go to the store in the Hutterite Village, where people seem nice, normal, and civilized.  Husband mentions what happened in Southern City, and the workers smile.  "Best to stay away from them English".

I trade some of the goods we've collected for a couple of jars of honey.  We head back home.

The boys bring the potatoes and honey in the house.  We'll take them to Ray's tomorrow after another day of butchering.  We eat our stew for supper and spend the evening sharpening knives.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 100- Ice Fishing and News

The weather has warmed considerably.  Nights are still cold, in the -30°C range, but the days are barely hitting -10°C now.  Of course that shift in temperature brings fresh snow, and freezing rain. 

Niece1 and Niece2 took the Littles, the kids and Sally back to 'school' when the weather broke, while Husband, Brother, Dad, Diego and the Bigs went ice fishing.  It didn't go well. 

The snow is too deep to make it back to the good lakes, so a lot of people are out on the lakes by the highway.  They were lucky enough to find several previously drilled holes to fish in, that only needed the fresh ice cut, but the lakes are really being over fished right now.  Dad managed to catch one small pike, Diego got a larger one, but the others have no luck.

Chatting with others in the area they learn that there is mail in town!  There's no organized 'postal service', but people have started taking pen to paper, passing letters on to whomever happens to be going the right direction.  A few people in town have heard from relatives from the south, and one got a letter from Manitoba.    The news in general is that there is no government, no corporations, no military coming to the rescue.  There are self appointed local sheriffs in some towns, and maybe even a mayor, but mostly just people trying to get by. 

Home alone for the day, I walk to Sil's for a visit.  She's been busy knitting and making rugs through the cold spell.  She's nearly out of material for rugs and completely out of yarn.  She has their floor completely covered, with more rugs of various sizes covering furniture and walls.  She may be able to trade some of them at the store.  Their food stores are running low, since it's been too cold to hunt.  I tell her I'll send over some beef when the men return.  We decide to walk to Mom's together.

We take the back trail and stop in at the cabin by the creek to see Lisa.  She's happy for the company.  She's been keeping busy whittling and has started to develop some skill.  She's made a few wooden spoons and is working on a ladle.  She and Sally have dug out a root cellar under her bed, giving them more room for storage and more clay to fill the chinks.  Today she's busy cutting firewood to replenish her pile. 

We find Mom outside in her garden shed.  She doesn't usually start her own seeds in pots, but has started getting things organized for this year.  Dad plans to put a small woodstove in the greenhouse and start tomatoes and cucumbers from seed.  I tell her I've finished sorting and organizing my seeds, and have tomatoes and peppers started already.  She gets out her seed stash and starts sorting while we're there. 

Mom and Dad's garden has always been pretty simple- tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, onions, turnip and lettuce.  They grew potatoes last year, and hopes they left enough in the ground to bring up another crop this year.  They want to try a few cabbages and some carrots this year, but otherwise don't plan to try much new.  I'm sure I have enough seed for that.

Walking home I stop and stare at the back field.  I want a new greenhouse put up in the spring, to keep the squash and pumpkins separated.  In truth, it probably isn't far enough apart for proper seed saving, but for now it's the best that I can do.  We'll need to fence off the clearing too, to keep as much of the wildlife out as possible.

When the others return and share the news, I send Brother and Sally home with a couple of roasts and some stew meat.  Hearing that mail is moving gives me a bit of a thrill.  This one small service could be the beginning of a return to civilization. 

The Littles had a good day at the community center.  They played outside most of the day.  It seems all of the children had too much pent up energy from being cooped up the past week or so to sit still and do any work.  I laugh as they tell me all of their stories.  It's nice to see them getting along for a change.

After another meal of stew- the pot is never ending, always on the woodstove now- we all head off to bed and read.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 99- In The Cities

When the power went out people went crazy.  So many people, so unprepared, so close together.  People went to work for the first few days, but found little they could do.  The retailers lasted a bit longer, almost a week, until desperate people with no access to money started pillaging for whatever food and supplies they could get their hands on.  It wasn't safe to go to work.  It wasn't their problem anyway.  Let the store owners deal with the pillagers.

Crime was at an all time high.  Looters were out on the streets, breaking into buildings, taking the big ticket items- the big tvs, stereos, computers.  They expected to be sitting pretty once the power came back on.  The days passed, as gangs and looters ran into each other and fought in the streets, as they stabbed, shot and bludgeoned one another to death.  Riots broke out across the cities.  Desperate people, with nothing to eat, worried about friends and family, got caught in the crossfire.

People were afraid to leave their homes.  They barricaded the doors, covered the windows, hiding in the dark, waiting for rescue. 

Police tried to maintain order.  So much crime.  So many deaths.  Bodies littering the streets.  They're human too.  People were out of control.  The world was out of control.  Each day fewer and fewer officers showed up to work.  They too were hungry.  They too were worried about their families.  They knew it wasn't safe to leave their families at home alone.  And for what?  To do body counts?  There was no controlling the raging mobs.  There were no jails to put them in- the guards were gone, no food to feed them, no electricity to power the security.  Their only recourse was to shoot to kill.

The doctors and nurses went to work.  They tried to care for their patients.  Back up generators ran out of fuel.  Equipment failed.  People died.  More and more sick, injured, hungry and desperate people came in.  The medicines ran out.  The bodies piled up.  The hospitals became centres for disease out breaks and crime.  They were human too.  There was nothing they could do.  One by one, they stopped going to work and chose to stay with their families.

Government and city officials became targets for crime.  People were convinced that they must have food and supplies in their big fancy houses.  People were angry that nothing was being done about the power outage, the crime, the services.  Of course some public officials managed to flee, but many were murdered.

Weeks passed.  Desperate, hungry people couldn't hide any more.  They ventured out of their hiding places looking for food.  Looking for some sense of safety, some sense or order.  Many were killed.  Many got sick from the disease infested streets.  Bodies lay rotting in the streets.

Some made it out of the cities, to friends and family in smaller towns.  Some stayed.  Some took disease with them and sentenced those who had given them refuge to die as well.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day 95- Planning Ahead

It's even colder now.  I mean, seriously, you have to be careful just breathing outside!  The air is so cold it feels like it freezes your lungs.  We can't step outside for even a minute without our faces covered.  It hurts so bad.  I don't know how the animals are handling it.  They all seem to be fine though.  The dogs still enjoy romping in the snow in the afternoons too.  People are wimps.

We haven't been out much.  No visiting.  I hope everyone else is doing ok.  If not, they'll have to come here, cause we aren't going there!

On a positive note, the fishing should be good if we get a rise in temp.  The lakes should be well frozen over.  The Bigs are rather excited to get out ice fishing, and have spent the last few days finding and packing supplies.  Normally they would go to a friend's ice hut, but that's too far to walk now, and no telling if there are even any huts out on the lake.  They packed a small tent that they hope will work as a bit of a wind break.  I think if it's windy the tent will just blow away.  They've got blow up cushions for seats, blankets, and candles, along with all of the fishing gear.  The hard part will be breaking through the ice.  We're going to try one of the lakes along the highway, where hopefully others will have been out cutting holes already, rather than the small lakes behind us which are likely to be solid.  But not until it gets a little warmer...

In the meantime, I've been taking advantage of the extra labour in the house.  We've sorted through everyone's closet and removed worn out, damaged, and no longer fitting clothes.  Anything that didn't get hand me downed has been added to my material stash.  I'm slowly getting old blankets recovered, ready for a few more years use.  Buttons and zippers are carefully removed and stored.  Seams from old jeans are cut and saved for garden ties.  Nothing can be wasted now.

The Bigs did a cobweb sweep of the basement.  It was starting to feel so creepy, with the dim light from the candles and the cobwebs seemingly everywhere.  I hate spiders.

We sorted and tidied the cold room.  It's a little emptier than I had thought, but we're still doing ok.  We'll make it through winter anyway.  The last pumpkin was starting to turn, so it's on cooking now. 

We're on our last bag of rice.  That's going to change things drastically.  Rice is one of the key ingredients for doggy stew, as well as our current chicken feed.  We haven't been eating as much of it this winter, but even with cutting back and extra meat for the dogs- this is it.  I don't know what we're going to feed them without it either.  I don't have much oatmeal or flour.  They might have to go on a mostly meat diet.  We might have to think about reducing the number of dogs too. 

Rice is irreplaceable.  I can't grow it in the garden.  There is wild rice along some of the lakes, but not nearly enough to harvest and store for next winter.  I only have a bit of wheat seed, not enough for a crop, just enough to grow for more seed.  Peas are the only thing I can think of that will grow in sufficient quantity and provide that same filling consistency.  I wonder what the dogs will think of that.  Pea soup.

We're down to our last two bales of hay.  Husband is hoping for a break in the weather- then he'll try taking the sleigh down the back roads and hopefully find someone to trade with.  We're hoping we don't have to go to the Hutterite village.  That would be a long cold ride.  We'll need at least another 15 bales to make it through the winter.  Then we'll need to do some serious fencing in the spring.  I've been trying to get more fences up for years now, but it never seems to happen.  This year we'll have to make it a priority.

There are so many things to make priorities this year;  fences, gardens, foraging, fishing, firewood, hay.  At least everyone will be home to help.  There will be many long days of hard work ahead.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day 90- Garden Thoughts

Three months without power and it's crazy ass cold outside!  I think our day time highs are in the -25°C range, and the nights are in the -40's.

Husband never 'got around' to building a windmill, not that it would help much now anyway, since there's almost no wind- just cold, cold, cold!  He did add 15 batteries to the battery bank, taken from cars off the roadside.  He's also installed a series of car radiators around the kitchen, livingroom and our bedroom.  He wrapped the woodstove with copper pipe, then connected waterhose to run between the radiators.  It helps a lot.

He found another mini solar panel in an abandoned car, and hooked it up to the battery bank.  We're still only using the batteries to run the furnace fan for short spurts, but every little bit helps.  We sealed off the upstairs- the boys are camped out semi-permanently in the livingroom.  Husband collected a few alternators, pulleys, and gears, so if he ever gets motivated to try the car alternator windmill he should have what he needs to build it.

The Bigs wander around daily with the calking gun, filling in drafts we never knew we had before.  The Littles have been doing chores- it's the only time they go outside lately- and if they don't go outside I might have to kill them.  We're all cranky from being cooped up, but the little two fight and argue all day long.  Board and card games have lost a lot of their appeal, with everyone trying to find a little spot to get away from each other.  On a positive note- everyone is reading these days!

I sorted through my seed stash and started tomatoes and peppers.  It's a little earlier than I normally start them, though only a week for the tomatoes.  I had a good supply of store bought pasta sauces, tomato juice, and tomato soup going in to this winter.  Next winter we might still be on our own, so that's a whole lot of gardening and canning we've never depended on before. 

We're eating out of the freezers almost exclusively now- no sense opening jars when anything that's left in the next few months will have to be canned.  Beans, beans, the musical fruit, lol.  There's not much variety for veggies in the freezers. 

I've started canning some meat as well- ground beef and stewing meat, just a canner load per week.  I wasn't going to, as we could probably use it all up before spring, but then what?  I'm not sure I'm ready to become a vegetarian or rely on what we can hunt or catch through the summer.  It's easier to do the canning now, while the fire's heating the house and the snow is providing the water, than to try butchering in the spring and having to can it all.  Looks like Mindy will be safe 'til next fall.  At any rate- I've got about thirty meals worth of meat canned now. 

Which brings up another worry.  Canning jars.  I've gotten a few extras from the flea market, maybe an extra case or two.  I wasn't counting them, because I always bought extra jars whenever I found them.  This is different though.  I won't be able to freeze summer greens or beans with no power.  Everything will have to be canned.  All of those tomato products I normally buy come in their own cans.  This year they'll be taking up jar space.  Jars that I don't have.  Jars that I probably won't be able to get.

Which really makes me rethink the garden and the menu.  We need to grow more of everything, but we really need to grow more of what will store without processing.  More cabbage- which can stay in the garden until after it freezes.  More squash and pumpkins, that keep well.  More root veggies.  Do dry beans count as a veggie?  My beloved green beans, which I'm so tired of right now, will be few and far between next winter.  And of course, those veggies aren't the easy seed savers either, which will make the following winter even more scarce.

All in all, we're doing ok.  I just hope we get hydro back soon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day 73- Christmas and New Year's

The last few, short, dark days before Christmas were spent making presents for everyone.  We spent Christmas day together, exchanging gifts, eating and drinking.  Everyone imbibed a bit, and all were merry. 

The Littles, Sally and the kids played with all of their new homemade toys, and several commented on how busy Santa must have been in his workshop this year.

The adults all seemed pleased with their new rocket stove outhouse heaters and 2013 calendars.  Sil knitted new scarves for everyone.  Nira sewed everyone new longjohns.  Diego made a bow for each of the men, and the boys got the bows that we had traded them.  Mom knitted dishclothes and Dad made knives.  It was truly a wonderful Christmas, with more gifts than I had imagined possible.  We played cards late into the night.

Boxing Day we went for a sleigh ride, stopping to check on Sanya and Roam, and meeting the neighbours around the other bend in the road for the first time- the ones who remain in their homes.  We took along a few jars of pickles and some of the bear to trade.  Most of the people that way have a bit of livestock- chickens, goats, cows and horses.  I'd like to find someone close by that might have some piglets for to barter in the spring.

The rest of the week was spent doing the normal daily chores, fires and water and cooking.  We got another foot of fresh snow before the temperatures took a nose dive, holding pretty steady at -30°C now.  We reminisced about that first winter, when it was -45°C for three weeks in a row, warming up just enough to snow, then plummeting again. 

It's too cold to do much of anything outside, quick trips to the barn, then back in the house to thaw out.  I've been stitching up coats and clothes, repairing rips and tears.  I even figured out how to sew a button hole with the treadle machine, replacing broken zippers with buttons.


#2 got bored and cleaned the basement, without anyone telling him to.  It was a nice surprise. 

New year's Eve was another night of everyone gathered together to eat, drink and be merry.

Husband finally sat down to read over my notes on how to build a windmill with a car alternator.  He's concerned that the wind won't blow fast enough to make it worthwhile.  I miss the internet.  It would be nice to be able to google other designs and ideas. 

For the time being though, he and the Bigs brought in all of the car and truck batteries and wired them together in the basement.  It's only an 8 battery bank, but it's more than we had before.  They're going to check abandoned cars for batteries now too.  He wired a cord to the generator, so it can be charged a bit when the generator's running, but that's only on rare occasions.  They fastened the two little 'battery charger' solar panels onto the old internet satellite dish, and ran the wires down to the basement to the battery bank.  On sunny days it gives us just enough power to run the furnace fan for about half an hour in the morning and again in the afternoon.  It really helps to take the chill off.

Brother and Sil have a heat powered woodstove fan, and Husband and Dad have been making plans to copy it.  It would be an enormous help in circulating the air in both our houses, not to mention a great trade item.

Otherwise, things have been fairly dull.  Laundry in the bathtub, after using the water for baths.  Pancakes for breakfast.  Stew for lunch.  Usually beef for supper, although we did have turkey for Christmas.  Lots of pumpkin treats this week- I baked a pumpkin just before Christmas- pies, cookies, breads. 

I went through a bit more than a bag of flour this month.  I'll have to watch it more closely.  One of the neighbours said the feed mill should be able to mill wheat and other grains still, if they can find a power source.  He used to work there, and although a lot of renovations have been done through the years, a lot of the older equipment is still set up and functional.  Not that I have enough wheat seed to grow a real crop next summer anyway, but maybe someone will grow enough to sell or barter.

The days are getting longer again, thank goodness.  We went through a lot of candles the past few weeks.  It's hard to conserve when we were barely getting nine hours of daylight.

It's a brand new year now, who knows what the future will hold.  Maybe we'll get hydro back at some point.  Maybe we'll stop missing it.  It's hard to say.