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.