Homestead Diary February 10 2022

Today I woke up to rain, of all things!
We’ve had such an odd winter! More snow this year than we’ve had since the year we moved onto the homestead in 2013, when the snow was so high in April that it almost came up to our thighs in places as we walked around our property for the first time!

We need the snow though. Last year was such a very dry year. The first drought we’ve experienced here on the homestead. It was very difficult to watch our land become so parched late last summer. All the snow we’ve received so far, and will likely receive even more in the next couple of months, will be very good for the land. Like a healing balm come spring when it all begins to melt.

We’ve also had times of bitter bitter cold this winter, which is normal of course here on the Canadian prairies. It has been as cold as -50C/-58F overnight! The very first time it was that cold, one of our new miniature horses caught a chill and just couldn’t warm up. The girls and I brought her into our large heated shop, rubbed her down good with towels, gave her some food and water, and sat with her while she warmed up again. It only took about 1.5 hours, and she was good to go! She basically hopped, skipped and jumped back over to her mini horse mates and has been good ever since!

It’s worrisome when one of the animals isn’t doing well. This is the ONLY thing I do not like about homesteading. As they say, when you have livestock, you have deadstock, but no one likes to think about that harsh reality of the homestead lifestyle. When in a dire situation with one of your animals, you do the very best you can to help them through it and then pray it works. Thankfully it worked wonderfully this time. She never caught a chill again!

The times that nothing helps and I’ve lost animals, especially baby animals like a lamb, or last spring when I lost twin lambs who were both stillborn, it’s in those moments that some times I truly feel like throwing in the towel. It can be heart wrenching. But you carry on, because the other animals still need you, and some how the pain fades over time and you find yourself enjoying it all once again.

By the time I went out to do chores after my morning coffee, the rain had stopped and it was pleasant weather for working. I take Ryker, our German Shepherd 1 year old pup, out for a walk and toss her some snow balls. She absolutely LOVES catching snow balls. She has since she was a tiny pup last winter when we first got her. Only problem is, she eats them, so she’s never learned that balls are to be brought back to us. lol So in warm months I have to have two balls on me when we play, I throw one, and she only brings it back if I have another to show her, and then throw. She drops the first ball, only to go get the second one. This snow ball thing has created a fetch issue that I just don’t know how to fix. Ha!

Once I’ve gotten Ryker some exercise and she’s good and tired out, I head to the mini horses, to let them out of their barn stall and into their paddock. They are always ready to go, Luna, the eldest mare, is the most impatient. As I walk through the barn to their back stall she’s always pawing at the floor right at the gate, waiting for what feels like an eternity to her. Their stall is at the very back of the barn, so as soon as she hears me open up the large front door, she starts. lol

Once I’ve scooted them all out of the barn and into their paddock, I say hello to the big horses and then it’s time to get water for everyone. In winter, (and part of fall and part of spring- basically about 6-8 months of the year lol) because a hose would freeze, we use 5 gallon buckets to carry water from the water hydrant over to the horse bucket. We have a great set up though, we built our fence so that the big water trough sits in a gap between both paddocks, with the five big horses on the one side of the fence and the three mini horses on the other side of the fence, so they all drink from one central location. That saves having to lug water to two separate troughs! It’s very handy!

Carrying 5 gallon buckets, two at a time, is an excellent work out each morning. When we first moved here it was hard for me to do, now, I can do it fairly easily.

Once I fill and lug 4-8 five gallon buckets full of water to the horses (it depends on how much everyone drank through the night) I feed the sheep their hay. We keep a round bale outside of their pen, and I fork the hay into their feeder by hand. The horses, on the other hand, are in two main paddocks, big horses in one, and mini’s in the other. Each paddock has a huge round bale of hay in it, so we don’t have to feed the horses by hand. Instead, about every 10 days my husband moves a round bale in with the tractor. Life before our tractor was a LOT more work. Before the tractor we had to use small square bales, and those had to be taken up to our barn loft one by one to be stored for the year, and then thrown down each time we needed them, which was many times a day! A tractor and round bales make our life MUCH easier!

Once the sheep have their hay, I give them some oats in their grain trough. They LOVE oat feeding time. Every morning when I head into the barn they baa at me (I often baa back at them…) until I finally give them their oats. There is no way you can forget to feed the sheep their oats, they won’t let you!

Then it’s time to bring them water, so I fill another bucket and take it to the sheep’s water bucket inside their barn stall. They have access to a huge stall inside our barn where I keep their water and where I feed them their grain, and then they can head outside to eat their hay. Having their hay outside keeps most of the mess outside. Previously when I fed them hay inside their barn stall, they would spread it all over and within no time they’d be standing on a thick deep bed of hay that they wasted! It was a royal pain in the butt to clean each time! At least outside, when they waste hay, it composts out there in the fresh air rather than becoming a foot deep block of hay and manure ‘concrete’ inside our barn!

Once the sheep are fed I fill up another bucket with chicken feed, and a bucket of water, feed the free range roosters (the bachelors) who live in the barn, along with Dougie the female goose, and her best friend Green Bean the male duck, then head on over to the duplex chicken coop. Time to feed all of the hens, their three roosters, and the two female ducks who live with them. Collected all the eggs, 8 of them this morning, all brown ones so far.

Head back to the barn, put everything away, say hello to Levi the barn dog who is also the very best barn dog in the world because he takes his job SO seriously, give him some belly rubs and it’s time to head back inside.

That’s pretty much my morning barn chores each day. While there is still two of our adult daughters living here on the homestead, chores are fairly easy and only take me about 45 minutes to an hour each morning. Once baby animals arrive, or if the girls are away, or when things come up (like a chilled horse) it takes longer of course, but that was a fairly typical morning.

And now it’s time to get ready for my day of business work. 🙂