Our Spring Craziness

Time flies when you’re having fun, and we’ve been having a ton of fun and some crazy, busy days around here this spring. We dove head first into my favorite part of spring…SPRING CLEANING. I’ve taken several garbage bags full of too small clothes from the kids out (I should probably feed these giants less or something), along with some decorations from the old house that just don’t work in my farmhouse decor. I have a bit of a decorating problem, (in that I love it and can’t stop thinking about decorating my house and I’m not even ashamed that it’s my hobby). So that means I have a ton of stuff I just don’t need anymore. This house is also only 1000 square feet, which is 1400 less square feet than our old one and something we’re all still adjusting to. I’ve come to love the simplicity of it, but it means I really need to consider what goes where (like furniture and pictures) and what to bring into the house. So whenever I see a beautiful antique sideboard for sale I just keep on scrolling by, and then die a little inside.

We’ve also been working hard on the outside of the house, which I will post pictures of once we’re all done. The covered deck is getting painted and new railings put on. The old red shed we named this place after got a fresh coat of red paint and cleaned up. It’s as adorable as ever. We also cleaned the inside and found some cool old receipts and other things from a former owner. The house on this property is fairly new, but that shed is super old and was moved here from somewhere else a long time ago. Time to paint some new initials under the ones already on the wall in there.

In the next few weeks we’ll be working more on the inside of the house, finally! A shiplap project I’ve been dying to try out in the kitchen and bathrooms will get started. We’re also going to replace some upper kitchen cabinets with homemade wooden shelves. We turned two bedrooms into one last year, and that one big bedroom is getting some brand new flooring, wallpaper and paint. I’m also going to hang a gallery wall in the hallway. Can’t wait!

Now big surprise, my kids are thrilled that the weather is nice and the garden is growing. They never, and I do mean NEVER want to come inside. They hate inside. They hate movies and TV, even Lego has barely been touched. I’m going to need sunscreen in bulk amounts and to hose them off every night before they get in bed. I didn’t know little feet could get so dirty. Here’s Cobie’s feelings on the subject of summer.

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So it’s time to buy a 100 pack of freezies, turn the sprinkler on for the kids and relax. After I spend hours a week pushing the lawnmower, pulling weeds and keeping animals alive of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Mich

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The Longest Winter

Happy spring everyone!! It has been one LONG winter. Tomorrow is May and we still have little bits of snow on the grass. So, let’s talk about farm things!

My first winter with chickens was a doozy. Ty ended up getting back surgery in early January, which means I had the worst 6 weeks of winter to take care of the chickens alone. In the fall he put together an awesome water bucket for them which helped a lot. It was a standard waterer wrapped in heat tape and plugged into an extension cord. It never froze in even the most frigid temperatures, and I only had to refill their water every 4-5 days. It worked great until the plug stopped working, and we could never fix it. So I ended up having to fill a heated pet bowl with water everyday for the last 2 months of winter. It worked fine until the crazy snowfall that came out of nowhere, 70 cm in a week. I couldn’t open the doors to the coop when I woke up one morning. So I shoveled, and shoveled, and shoveled. The snow was almost to my waist so it was nearly impossible to actually get a good scoop, and even when I did it felt like it was filling right in again. I eventually opened the door just enough to squeeeeeze into the coop. We’ll know to think of a better system next year now.

The best part about raising chickens through winter, the ladies laid eggs (almost) all year! They did slow down for a couple really cold, awful weeks, but for the most part I always had eggs.

The deep bedding method went very well for us. It got to be a couple feet of shavings deep, and we had to raise the nesting boxes and roost, but it stayed fairly clean and dry in there on the really cold days. The melt here is now pretty intense, as you can imagine, so it’s a bit of a mucky mess out there. Luckily the drainage on our property is really good, so I have some very happy free rangers now.

In other news, we have pigs!! Adorable little Berkshire/Tamworth crosses. Elvis our LGD thought they looked fun to play with and chased them a bit in their pen, so I’m working hard to get them to trust me. With the crazy amount of snow we haven’t been able to built a proper pen for them yet, but we did need to get them now. So for now they’re in the dog run, and sleeping in the dog house. We’ll build a movable pen for them so they can munch on things around the acreage and stay clean.

 

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I ate my lunch at the table with the sliding glass door open today and listened to everything going on around me. Chickens clucking down the driveway to visit my daughter, who is currently obsessed with making the grossest possible looking thing out of mud, and trying to feed it to me. Roosters crowing, and little grunting pigs. It’s only all we ever wanted, so life is good. Now I’m counting down the days until I can plant my garden!

Mich

Hello Winter!

It’s been a busy month for us at the acreage. We got our first blast of cold weather, a little early and unexpected. Which means the chickens had a bit of an adjustment period. It hit about -25 one night, and while I was open eyed and worrying in bed, they were just fine. They had plenty to complain about in the morning, and I really heard about it, but they have now adjusted to the temperatures heater free. They slowed down a lot on laying, which was expected, but luckily I stocked up on eggs and have enough to get me through Christmas baking this year. I’m hoping to get some mirrors and swings out there to entertain them. They’ve stopped leaving their run to free range, so I’m sure some of the grumpiness comes from boredom. They’ve been going through food and water like crazy, which means more poop, which means more shavings. Their bedding is already at the bottom of their nesting boxes, so we’ll have to see how that goes once we’re in the new year.

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The girls and I took a little trip on our own. We flew down south to see family for a few days. The trip went so much better thanks to all the kind people on the planes and in the airports. I didn’t even bother bringing any electronics to distract them. They had books, snacks (keep the snacks healthy so things don’t get crazy, kind of like they did on our way home), and some colouring pages and crayons. We’ll definitely be doing that again.

Elvis the farm dog has settled nicely into his new “farm” jobs. All three dogs and two cats now end up sleeping in the living room in the evening. Elvis enjoys being outside more than anything, so we’re going to install the railing on our covered deck and let him spend all his time out there. We’re in dog heaven here at Red Shed Acres. Corbin is our first dog (he just turned 11) and he’s part Border Collie. We couldn’t have picked a better place for him to be. Even Nova, who is a purebred Pit Bull, cuddles with the cats at night and plays with the chickens. We’re installing a wood stove (which we shopped around bought used!) in our living room in about a week, so you know where pet mountain will be after that. Hubby bought some concrete looking porcelain tiles for the hearth, and we’re trying to decide on what will go behind the stove right now. I’ll update that for sure.

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As for winter so far here, I’m in love. I thought summer would be my favorite time here, then fall hit and I couldn’t stop taking pictures, now we’ve had the most beautiful winter so far and I’m obsessed. I often go out to the chickens in the morning and stay outside longer than necessary. Blue skies, sparkly snow and frosty trees. If it’s frosty in the morning and the sun comes out, sparkles fall off the trees for hours in the afternoon. I feel like I live in a snow globe. So obviously, after years of trying to find the right acreage, we couldn’t be happier to be here.

 

Next up: Us building the ice rink of our dreams in the “front” yard. I’m sure that will come with it’s fair share of struggles (which always turn into laughs around here).

How to Prepare for Your Child’s Surgery

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Having your little one go through surgery is no fun for any member of the family. When my youngest daughter was 2 (almost 3) she had to have open neck surgery and tonsil removal for a birth defect. We had known for quite some time she would need surgery at some point, but we found out 10 months before the surgery that it was happening for sure. I walked out of that first appointment with the surgeon determined to make it as easy on all of us as possible. Of course I googled, read, asked friends and family and overloaded myself with information. Her condition was so rare it was almost impossible to find anything specific to what she would experience. Luckily we had an amazing group of people at the Stollery Children’s Hospital who were there to answer any questions we had, and put our minds at ease. Preparing her for surgery was our job though, and while I know that every kid is different, this is what worked for us.

 

 

Read books to them. One of the first things I did was buy/borrow some children’s books that explain surgery in kid terms. I read the books to her older sister at the same time, so they could talk about it together. We read a few, but her favorites (and mine) were Franklin Goes to the Hospital and Little Critter: My Trip to the Hospital.

Be honest. This was the biggest one for us. Before her surgery she needed to get blood work done as well as a CT scan. I was honest about the reason we were going to the hospital every time. I told her it would hurt a bit when she had blood taken, but just for a second. I told her that her throat might hurt when she woke up after surgery, but it wouldn’t hurt forever. We showed her pictures of CT scan machines and explained exactly what would happen and what it would sound like. Talk it through, a lot. Answer every question they have honestly, and explain everything that’s happening. Explain that doctors and nurses are just awesome people who they can trust.

 

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Practice. Months before her surgery I bought her a toy doctor’s kit so we could practice a few things she would have to do. We practiced with a toy syringe before her blood work and we put the toy mask over her mouth and nose to show her what the surgeon would do in the operating room. Once we were in the operating room all the big machines and shiny things were much less scary. When they put the mask over her face she was more than ready, the only nervous one in that room was me!

Make them feel comfortable. Most hospitals will let your child bring something to cuddle before and after surgery, whether it’s their favorite blanket, lovey, stuffy (whatever you call it) bring it! I made a point of letting her help me pack a little bag, her favorite cuddly toy, her favorite blanket, slippers (a must have for the hospital floor) and cozy pajamas for before and after the hospital clothes. It helped her feel more comfortable in a new place.

Prepare yourself. Kids know when we’re nervous or stressed out, so make this time as easy on yourself too. Bring books, slippers, your own blanket, charge your phone, get a coffee, try to relax. Whatever will help you get through that day. I walked around the hospital with my husband and our other daughter, explored as much as we could, ate food, read my e-reader, ordered a chai tea latte and made myself as comfortable as possible.

Prepare your other kids too. This doesn’t apply to everyone of course, but I have another daughter who was 4 at the time and spent the entire day of surgery at the hospital with us. Making sure she was also comfortable, and well informed was so important. She was worried about her sister, so we made sure to explain how she’ll look and act when she comes out of surgery. It can be alarming to them to see their sibling not acting like themselves, it’s important they know it’s normal and temporary.

It’s always important to listen to the surgeon about aftercare, take it easy and continue to explain what’s going on. We spent a night at the hospital and left the next afternoon. She was in pain, so I kept up with her medications and snuggled lots. We watched movies in bed, ate a lot of apple sauce, drank a lot of water and tried to keep her as calm as possible (for a two year old). She recovered from her surgery faster than expected and was back to her normal self soon after. It’s been just over a year and she barely remembers it now, and any memory she’s ever brought up was a positive one. Every kid is different, and some won’t respond as well to some of these things. Do what works for you and your family. One thing I’ve taken from the whole experience is that kids are SO much stronger than we think they are.

‘Tis the Season of Decluttering

Fall is a busy time for our family. Both girls have birthdays only two weeks apart from each other, and this year it’s back to school in a new place and the first year of riding the bus. On top of that, I start to get the itch to clear the house out and do a major clean. We live in a small home with no room to store things. Which goes nicely with my hatred of clutter and saving things just in case you need them one day. *shudder*

I find that writing things down helps me a lot. I like to see what I need to do so I can cross it off physically and mentally once the task is completed. I made a starter list which I put below. Some of these are obvious, some are pretty specific (my husband seems to collect bottles of sauces and never use them). I usually start by having a few separate boxes so it’s easy to organize things and send them to the correct place. Dump, donate, store. The point of course is to store as little as possible. Crossing a big line through these becomes more satisfying as you progress.

 

declutterOf course there are things that do deserve to be kept around. At the beginning of every year I buy the kids a scrapbook container. Once the big one gets home from school, or the little one wants to replace the artwork on the fridge, it’s super easy to just put their masterpieces into the container and put it back in the closet. It stops a stack of schoolwork from getting wet on the counter, or ripped up by the puppy. The containers also stack really nicely in the closet without taking up too much room. I do the same thing for batteries, cords we actually use and a few other unavoidable things that need to be stored.

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Now that we live in such a small home it’s become more important than ever to keep on top of this stuff. Before, during and after the move I’ve relied heavily on Facebook bidding sites to get rid of stuff that’s worth something. It’s easy enough to take a picture of something, put it on the site, and watch the bids come in. Since I’ve been doing some redecorating I also make a point to get rid of something I won’t use if I bring something new into the house. I’ve also picked up this nice habit of searching for used things first whenever I need something.

Once all the stuff is out the door, donated, in the dump, sold, my mind breaths a sigh of relief. The house is easier to keep clean, which in turn means I don’t have piles of laundry to get through all the time, I don’t have too many dishes to do, and I can organize a meal plan, which usually means a nicer looking grocery bill. Until hubby walks down the hot sauce aisle again of course.

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And yes, the puppy really does rip homework, newsletters and artwork to little shreds. Then he looks at me like this and all is forgiven.

Five Minutes

I love the change of seasons, but this one is my favorite. I live in a funny place for autumn where it can still be 23 degrees during the day, but below zero overnight. That just means that I can’t get enough of my morning five minutes of peace and quiet.

My mornings are full of chores. With so many animals and people to keep alive I have about a million things to do at once, and many mouths waiting to be fed. If I manage to get up early enough though, even Elvis the farm dog stays asleep on my bedroom floor.

I walk out to the kitchen, hit the heat button on the water cooler and get a tea bag ready in a giant mug. While I’m waiting for that I slip on my cozy sweater and boots. The sun is still shining brightly at this time of year, showing off the sparkly little bits of frost on the leaves. It’s the first thing I see as I step outside, tea in hand.

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The smell and feel of the crisp air is so refreshing and clean. There’s not a sound in the world for a few moments, until I start walking on the grass and hear the crunching leaves under my feet. If I stand still for a minute I can barely hear the sound of leaves falling off trees around me and hitting the ground.

I’m quickly pulled out of my little heaven when I hear the sliding glass door open, and a little voice asking me for breakfast. Around the same time the rooster starts up, Cheese the rooster has great timing.

I turn around and head inside, joining back into the life I love every moment of. The chaos of spilled milk and cheerios, barking dogs, yelling kids and never ending laundry awaits.

Until tomorrow, five minutes.

The Coop

Not long after moving to the acreage we acquired some chicks. Which is great, except we had nowhere to keep them. They spent a few weeks in a Rubbermaid container and a small run my husband threw together in a night of work.

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All before we built…the chicken mansion.

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We spent a couple hours every night after hubby got off work building this piece of chicken paradise. It’s built on the back of the red shed this little farm is named after, which also means it’s far enough away that Cheese the rooster can crow all morning and not wake a single human. Which is good, because he’s definitely started at 5:30am before.

There were no plans, we just started one day, and it came together perfectly. Luckily we’ve always made a really good team (the girls too!) and it went smoothly. I only hit my fingers with a hammer about 50 times putting the roof on myself.

The roof is tin, along with the bottom sides. We have quite a few foxes around here, so a predator proof coop was important. The chicken wire sides help the ladies and gents get some sun during the day. The solar lights above the door have become really handy when we go out a bit later to shut their coop for the night.

The coop itself is huge. We have an LED light rope on a timer, along with several nesting boxes, and a few roosts. It’s already gotten a bit cold here at night, so after a good clean out we’ve started the deep bedding method. Which is perfect for us. All winter we’ll put more shavings in and keep turning it. Once spring hits we’ll clean it out and put it in the compost pile.

The ladies are still happy, and we’re getting more eggs than ever from them now.

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In fact the coop is so large, and so nice…we now have over 30 chickens. Which is a perfectly reasonable number of chickens if you ask me.

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Sincerely,

Crazy Chicken Lady

 

The Weekend of the Disappearing Chicken

Since moving in here our weekends have become busier than ever. We’ve also never had so much fun working around the house. Saturday was a pretty typical day. We went into town, did some running around.

My husband got his pumpkin spice latte (last one of the year, he means it this time).

I got started on my coffee bar. Found the cutest wood and metal coffee sign at Homesense. I’ll post all about that once it’s complete.

When we got home we let the chickens out for a few hours to do some free ranging. Raked the leaves into a giant pile and let the kids and dog go wild.

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Oh and a day later, there’s no sign there was any raking done at all. At least twice as many leaves have fallen. I do love the trees, I do, I really do….most of the time I do.

So anyway, the sun started going down and we headed out to let the chickens back in and do a head count. Which is the most impossible and frustrating thing in the world by the way. I did a quick count.

28…hope not.

33, counting one too many is better than being 4 short right?

31.

31 again (call hubby).

Nope, we’re short one chicken.

So we looked around, shook some trees, made some weird chicken noises (no way this chicken is buying it). Even Elvis the farm dog was having no luck chasing the last one home that night. We hoped she was safe in a tree and called it a night.

Sunday morning. It was chilly and crispy, and the perfect temperature to grab my tea, a sweater and look for a chicken. Still nothing though, and I was starting to lose hope.

Until about 6pm that is, when we pull into the driveway and hubby sees her. THE CHICKEN!!! She was way out on the other side of the property, about to duck back into the bush when we spotted her. Things got a little crazy when everyone hopped out of the truck and ran across the yard. Now imagine a grown man and his two little daughters running up and down the property line trying to catch a chicken that DOES NOT want to be caught. The kids are yelling, the chicken is running and clucking with anger. She managed to escape them again, and silently hide in a bush. Suddenly there’s a scuffle, and my oldest daughter emerges from the trees, one angry chicken in her arms.

I have so many questions. Where were you chicken? What did you see in 24 free hours? Where did you sleep? Did you lay an egg under the neighbors deck? How did you not get eaten by a hungry fox? So many things I’ll never know.

Back in the coop tonight, the chickens are all huddled around the escapee, hearing about her wild night out on the town. “Life on the outside is amazing you guys.”

 

Red Shed Acres – The Beginning

One thing is clear if you know me, I love to document our life. Every little bit of it. I love watching sunsets and sunrises, I love taking pictures of my kids as they go through every step of life. I love sharing photos of the new animals I manage to keep bringing to this little farm. I love the change of seasons, taking a million pictures of the trees on my property, playing in the snow and taking pictures of my kids with hot chocolate mustaches after. Writing it all down felt like a natural step. So here’s a peek into our life on the farm we searched for so long to find.