Walk-in cooler

I’ve been away from blogging for some time.  I would have posted sooner but I’ve been trying to decide what to blog about to come back.  I know you all must have been wondering what’s going on?  In two words: A lot!  It makes sense for me to start where I left off.

In the spring, since I last blogged,  hubby and I worked on building a walk-in cooler so we can butcher and hang any time of year.  We butchered the steer we’ve been raising for 2 years and hung it in the cooler.

But the project wasn’t without problems.  The room itself is awesome!  It’s well insulated, and well designed.  The air conditioner we purchased to cool the room was insufficient, it needs to be larger.  Until we remedy the air conditioner, we will use the room at the times of year when cooling is natural.  Such as the fall or early spring when temperatures are cold but not freezing.

After a week of hanging, the beef needed to be cut up and frozen or fear losing it.  Live and learn, huh?  We cut it up into large portions and froze it.  We still need to cut roasts, steaks, ground some etc.  We were able to cut 4 roasts as we went and we’ve really enjoyed them!

Grass-fed beef roast + slow cooked = delicious!!!  Oh my!  I look forward to the rest!

Ducks and duck eggs.

Pretty blue and white rouen duck eggs.

I have chickens that lay eggs. We’ve been eating and selling our eggs for many years now. But let me tell you about another egg that is overlooked, and underrated. The duck egg. Yes, you can eat duck eggs (I often get asked that) and they are not just for baking, though they do well in baked goods because they retain moisture better than chicken eggs. They are delicious and nutritious on their own. They have the same nutritional value as chicken eggs but because they are larger, they have more of the good things. Duck eggs are high in vitamin B12, and vitamin A, an excellent source of protein, riboflavin, iron and phosphorus, they provide us with thiamine, niacin, folate, zinc and calcium.

Scrambled duck eggs for breakfast

The flavour is richer and creamer than a chicken egg. Though you may not notice this, depending on how you cook them. To me they are richer tasting when scrambled as opposed to being cooked sunny side up. The yolks are larger and the shells thicker. Sometimes I have a problem with my chickens eating their eggs, but as far as I’m aware, I have not lost a single duck egg to them eating it because the shells are far too hard for them to crack.

I was on the fence a long time about raising ducks. Honestly I couldn’t see the purpose. I didn’t think they would offer anything I couldn’t get from a chicken. But when I finally went ahead and got some, I can say I’m glad I did because I really appreciate and value their presence on the farm. I have Rouen ducks which are considered a dual-purpose breed (egg and meat). They look similar to mallards and the males are non-aggressive. The Rouens don’t require water for mating (some breeds do) so if you have just a small pond or pool like we do, it is sufficient for them. As meat or as eggs, they provide interesting variety at the table. In the farm yard, they are a source of entertainment. If you’ve ever seen a duck in water, you know what I mean. I house them with my chickens and they do not require anything special apart from a nesting box on the floor, as they don’t roost and can’t jump up to the chickens’ nesting boxes.

If you are also on the fence about getting ducks, you have to make your decision based on what is right for your family and your farm. They have been a wonderful addition to ours!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop hosted by GNOWFGLINS, Culinary Bliss and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

And Fight Back Friday at Foodrenegade.


Spring has sprung! It’s arrived several weeks early. I’ve been hearing that it’s unusually warm in most areas. Has it been that way where you are? The Canadian geese are back! I haven’t seen a robin yet.

My apologies for not posting in a long time but there really hasn’t been much going on, nothing worth blogging about. I feel this is barely worth blogging about. Walking around the farm this morning, I’m seeing all the things that are going to need doing, now that it’s not hidden under the snow. Still lots of water laying around. I’m happy to put my snow boots away and pull out my duckies (I need new ones).

I let the chickens and ducks outside for the first time since last fall. I would have done it sooner but I couldn’t get the door open. I thought it was frozen. When I finally took the time to look closer, turns out hubby screwed it shut from the outside. Ha! The chickens and ducks are laying nicely. I may put some eggs in the incubator a little later on.

The work can wait. For now I will enjoy the warm sun.

Moving the manure pile.

What does it mean when I’m sharing an activity such as the moving of the manure pile? No need to contemplate, I’ll tell you. It means winter is too long!!! exclamation point, exclamation point…

But no fear, for March is here! It may get worse before it gets better (as March is known to do) but hoping it doesn’t. “Hope” the trait of every farmer. Fact is, we’re on the home stretch! Spring is just around the corner. (I need to remind myself.)

The manure pile was spreading. Spr-ead-ing. There’s only so much snow you can push a wheelbarrow through. Then the pile itself becomes a snow trap. You can tell how far the manure pile was reaching by the first picture. It’s near the front tire of the tractor. We don’t have a tractor with a bucket, so we called our neighbour and hired him to do the work for us.

My apologies on the quality.  It was dusk when the pictures were taken. Days are still short and you do things when you can.

Thanks, neighbour! It’s so much appreciated!

In case you’re wondering why he didn’t use the snowblower on the back of his tractor, it’s because there is too much frozen manure.  Snowblowers are only good for blowing snow and nothing else. Anything hard or frozen breaks it.

A small (small!) part of me wants some fresh snow so we can toboggan down the manure pile. It’s huge! We don’t have any hills around here on the prairie, only manmade ones.

Snow, snowy snow

I didn’t think saying it once was enough. 🙂 We’ve been very fortunate this year with the amount of snow we’ve gotten, or lack of.  Yesterday, in fact went up to a pleasantly melting +7C (45F)!  It started snowing last evening and we woke up to quite the blanket.  School was cancelled in our area and my guys couldn’t get to work.  It’s been accumulating all day.  So it’s been a rather quiet, snowy day by the woodstove.  I’ve got homemade buns cooling and a pot of hot chili on the stove.  Time to do the milking, then supper around the table, and a relaxing evening.  Here’s a few pictures from today:

Stuck in a winter rut


Winters are very monotonous. Always have been here on the Canadian prairies where winters are long. Well, here I am again… stuck in a rut. I’m not looking for drama, not even adventure, just something… different. Really, I’m not asking for much. One day is looking a lot like the next. Oh, sure, sometimes the weather changes. That’s a topic for discussion! But it’s short lived (and not very interesting).

Every morning I rise to do the animal chores. Shovel the same manure, feed the same animals. Pour the same milk and clean the same jars. I really am thankful for my life, I wouldn’t change it for anything. But repetitive days can wear on a person until you are ready to do something outrageous! Oh, I’m not quite there yet. Sorry to disappoint you. (Unless staying up late to blog counts?) I’d like to take care of this feeling before I do something silly.

I’m really looking forward to spring, as I do every year. And, undoubtedly it will come, some time in April, hopefully. In the meantime, I need to find something different!!!

Do you ever get stuck in a rut?


That sums up the bone-chilling temperatures we’re having right now.  If you’ve never experienced this kind of cold, let’s see if I can give you an idea.

-26 F at twilight this morning

Normally when you think of cold, you think of snow.  When it’s this cold, it doesn’t snow.  The consolation is the sun shines and it shines brightly!  Sometimes we see sundogs.

Behind a closed window blind.

I bundle up in my parka, toque, and ski mitts to go out and do the animal chores.  The wind bites at my face like hundreds of tiny needles.  Exposed skin can freeze in a matter of minutes.  Beneath my feet the snow has changed from the low sound of crunch to a high pitched squeak with every step.

As my mechanic hubby says, “This is when things break”.  Cars don’t go without the block heater being plugged in for several hours.  So when the power went out last night, we were all up, stoking the wood stove and starting the cars.  To get to work this morning, the engine needs to be kept warm but without electricity to power the block heater, starting the engine is the only way to do that.  It will start as long as it’s done soon after the power goes out and before the block heater has a chance to cool down too much.  Thankfully the power was out for only 1 hour and 40 min.

Frosted steer! Is that frozen drool?

The waterlines in the barn froze while the power was out.  There really wasn’t much we could have done about that.  The animals were all fine, though.  I spent 45 min. this morning with a hairdryer defrosting the waterlines, and hauling water to Happy.  A milk cow drinks a lot of water.  She needs a lot of water.

The temperatures are expected to stay this low for a couple more days.  We usually manage okay when it comes for a day or two but when it continues for more than that, it really starts to take it’s toll on the farm.

Those warm summer days in the garden seem so far away right now… (yes, we get those too)

Have you felt this kind of cold?
How cold does it get where you are?

Happy New Year!

I can understand why so many people make resolutions for the new year. It feels like a fresh start, what better time is there to make changes? I’ve been thinking, pondering, ruminating about the year ahead and what changes I’d like to make, goals I’d like to set.

Looking back on 2011, I’d like to share the top 4 posts from here at the homestead.

1. Homemade bag balm
2. Cheese in a homemade cheese press
3. What I do with “all that milk”
4. I don’t like digging carrots

There’s some reading for you if you haven’t already.
Some of the exciting (to me) highlights from 2011:

~Getting Happy (lol), our milk cow! Here she’s making her youtube debut. Makes me wish I was a cow.
~Learning to make cheese. Since getting Happy, this was really something I wanted to accomplish.
~Being on Sylvia’s radio show. I was so nervous, I was way outside my comfort zone doing that, but it turned out well and was a lot of fun! Sylvia has just as sweet a spirit as she sounds.
~Making many wonderful friends on the internet! I know that sounds sappy but it’s so true! I especially want to thank you for reading and commenting. It means so much to me.

Here’s looking forward to a great year ahead with new things and new experiences!
May God bless you and your family.