The Journey: Starting Our Family Farm

Peace Country here we come!

Three days after our wedding we packed up all my worldly belongs and moved to Bear Canyon, Alberta.  Here Larry finished off the season at the community pasture where he was working for the summer.  

We then packed up everything again and moved into a basement suite in Fairview, Alberta.  Larry spent the winter attending Fairview College in order to obtain his Farrier Science certificate.

Then we packed up once again and moved everything to a little rental farm at Crooked Creek, Alberta.  So began the adventure of adding to our previous collection of horses and dogs.  It was here that we would welcome an assortment of animals and our first born boy into our life.  

The house on our little rental farm

The house on our little rental farm

That first year found us taking charge of a yearling heifer, and five old (and I mean old) sheep.  Having our own farm now meant that I could have my forever dreamed about milk cow.  So after asking around the neighbourhood we were able to find Shorty the  shorthorn cow who was milking at the time and two heifer calves, Jessie and Missy.  

Not long after adding the cattle and sheet Larry was shoeing a horse for a neighbor.  Old Murray told Larry that he thought that any good farm wife should have chickens.  Now you have to realize that when we started adding animals to our farm Larry was very adamant about have NO chickens.  Absolutely none.  Well, he came home and told me about the conversation that had transpired.  Guess what!  Shortly thereafter we headed over to the neighbour's to picked up a few motely hens.  I was hooked for life.  Larry still wasn't convinced though, but he tolerated my homestead desires.

These meager beginnings were leading us toward the fulfillment of our farming dreams.  The milk cow would go on to give birth to many calves that would eventually end up in our herd.  Likewise the two heifer calves would grow up and have calves of their own.  Within four short years our cattle herd had expanded quite nicely.

Our grown herd of cattle

Our grown herd of cattle

The little group of motley hens would lead to increasing the laying hen flock.  Then the inevitable happened!  The hens grew old and quit laying eggs.  From the teaching I had from my grandparents I knew that it was now time to turn those hens into another food that would sustain us.  One difficulty arose though.  It wasn't the idea of turning those hens into food.  That didn't bother us.  It is a natural part of stewarding animals.  It was that neither of us knew how to butcher a chicken.  So, in steps an older farm women from our church to teach us this much needed skill.  With that skill now firmly under our belt we were ready to add meat chickens to our repertoire of homegrown food.

Then a kind neighbor gave us some mature ducks.  These were supposed to raise babies that would grow up to be butchered and put in the freezer.  Unfortunately, we knew nothing about ducks.  We let them free-range.  They did lay eggs and hatch out ducklings, but they didn't do this in a safe place.  They would leave the barnyard and go the edge of the forest to build their nests.  This practice left them totally susceptible to predators.  A few of the mothers were able to hatch out a clutch of ducklings, but the predators, whether they were coyotes, foxes, ravens or cats we don't know, took them all.  A valuable lesson was learned on our part.

Happy ewes with their lambs

Happy ewes with their lambs

These same people who supplied us with ducks also figured we needed some sheep to add to our growing collection of animals.  We purchased five "ancient" ewes for virtually nothing.  Well, that is all they were really worth anyway.  I am sure that some of them were so old that they hardly had any teeth.  Another neighbor had a granary with some old barley left in it that we could have if we cleaned it out which we promptly did.  That barley was fed to those old ewes.  Low and behold came lambing season and they all had twins and triplets.  Being so old though most of them didn't have enough milk for the multiple lambs.  We were to become their adopted mothers.  With the extra milk from our milk cow we were able to bottle feed those babies.

The next three years seemed to fly by.  More animals were added as finances allowed.  Then our own babies started to arrive.  Shortly after our son's birth we were able to put a down payment on 160 acres of our very own.  So with dreams soaring we moved into a mobile home on the farm and started to develop our very own farm.

As the emerging pattern started to surface we were to make a major move again. This time around Larry was offered a year round job managing a community pasture about an hours drive from our farm.  It was a sad day for us when we were told that we would not able to take our livestock with us.  So instead of selling what we had worked so hard to acquire we were able to find a farmer who would take them until we could take them back.

Well, as life would have it we stayed at this job for seven years.  Our own family grew to three children in this time.  We were also able to bring our livestock back.  Whenever time would allow we would work on our little farm.  Then the government, who was our employer at the time, decided that our job would shifted to the private sector.  We put a bid in to continue managing the community pasture, but unfortunately or fortunately for us it was not accepted.  Time would tell if this was a good thing or not.