A Snowy Week and Gardens?

What a week it has been here on the farm! 

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We had been enjoying rather mild temperatures for the Peace River Region last week.  But this week, along with a temperature drop the snow started to fall again.  It has been snowing off and on since last weekend.  We have had about one foot of fresh snow and it is still snowing.  This is on top of the two feet we already had.  I told Larry at the beginning of winter that I was hoping for a winter with lots of snow like I remember in British Columbia growing up.  We have lived in the Grande Prairie, AB area for thirty-three years and have only seen one winter with snow like we had in the mountains.  That winter the official snowfall was seven feet.  Well, I think that my wish is coming to pass, kind of. 

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This is much to Larry's dismay.  You see, he is the one who has to start the tractor every other day to keep us plowed out.  First, he plows and piles the snow around the house and barnyard, then he heads down the county road a half mile to clear the bale storage yard.  If he didn't do the bale yard him and Logan would have a hard time backing the team into the bale stack to get at the bales they need to feed the animals.  When he is all done there he heads back towards the main yard making another detour to our son, Jeremy's acreage across the road to plow that driveway out so he can get in and out with his car to feed his horses on his way to and from work.  On Tuesday afternoon he actually plowed the county road just about to the highway.  You see we are only one of two houses on a dead end road.  We have the only school aged children on this road, but we have only ever homeschooled so the school bus doesn’t need to use this road.  You see, in our area as I am sure in most areas the county snow plows do all the school bus routes first.  Therefore, we are always a long way down the priority list for plowing.  Fortunately Larry doesn't have to drive everyday to work.  He is a farrier so he sets his own schedule.  He can usually wait for a nicer day if it is storming.  Logan is the only other driver that has to get out, but it is usually only two days a week and he has four wheel drive.  So far we haven't had so much snow that we couldn't get out with the four wheel drive trucks.

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The animals are not too affected by the snow.  Larry and Logan usually spread out enough bales for a week of feeding.  The only problem is when the snow starts to cover the hay the grass-fed cows, sheep and goats have to work a little harder to find it.  The snow is usually fluffy so the cows can push it around with their noses while the sheep and goats use their front feet to move it away.  The pastured pigs have a big round bale that they burrow into.  The laying hens are cozily tucked into their deep bedded winter house.  With the plowing done around the yard it makes it easier to get to the animals that are around the barn yard.  The only animals that are close to the yard for winter are the pigs, the milk cows and the chickens, ducks and geese.  All the cows, sheep, goats and horses are fed on the fields away from the yard.  So on our way to milk in the early mornings we make our rounds in order to feed everyone that is close.  The older pigs get their grain chop as a supplement to their hay, the young feeder pigs get treated to a pail of cultured skimmed milk and any extra eggs that we may have.  The laying hens and ducks get their scrambled eggs and cultured skimmed milk along with laying ration and kelp every morning.  The majority of the eggs have been laid by 6:30 am so I gather them (Lisa gathers the rest in the afternoon).  Then we head over to the main barn to milk the cows before heading in for breakfast.  After breakfast everyone disperses to their daily duties.

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I don't know about you, but the seed catalogs seemed to come extra early this year.  Our first one arrived in the mail a week before Christmas.  To me that time of year doesn't feel right to be looking through seed catalogs.  So I tucked them into the bookshelf until this week.   I sorted through the garden seeds that were left over from last year before checking out the new catalogs.  Much to my delight there was just about enough seed for this year without having to purchase more.  Just a few things need purchasing.  I still haven't pulled those catalogs out because I have my favorite places to order seeds from and usually just use their online catalogs. 

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We will be planting lots of potatoes this year.  We usually save extra potatoes for planting, but something went wrong last year so we have to order new seed.  Thankfully there is an organic farm in Alberta that we can get seed potatoes that are suited for our climate. 

We also purchase onion sets.  I have not tried to grow the amount we need of these from seed yet.  I have planted a few seed onions, but find that they do not get very big because of our short growing season.  Last year I started a perennial onion from seed that did very well.  It will be interesting to see how they survive the winter. We use a lot of onions in a year so end up planting about twenty-five pounds of sets a year. 

We start most of our longer season plants in March and early April.  Things like tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, fennel, etc.  We have tried to do cucumbers, but they do just as well direct seeding them.

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We raise a lot of garlic.  We were actually able to double our planting last fall from our homegrown bulbs.  We will be starting a bunch of garlic from seed (saved from the mature scapes) this year.  We have never done this before, but are hoping we will be able to increase our planting areas substantially by doing this.  From what I have read if you plant the seeds you should be able to harvest what are called "rounds" that can then be planted in the fall for harvesting the following year.  Have any of you done this before?  I would love to hear about it if you have.  Please let me know in the comments what you have done.  

While going through the seed storage boxes I found a sunflower head that we saved for its seed.  It is a variety that has reddish brown petals and is about four inches across.  It is about three and a half years old so I have set up a germination test on it.  It will be kind of neat if the seed is still good as this was from a planting that we did for our oldest daughter's wedding flowers. 

We haven't planted a lot of flowers over the years, but have started too lately.  I always found it was a lot of extra work just keeping up with the vegetable gardens.  As we make progress with the "Back to Eden" method of gardening and applying permaculture design principles the work load is diminishing greatly so we now have time to add more beauty to the functionality of the garden. 

We are also contemplating adding a large planting of Saskatoon (serviceberry) bushes to our ever increasing orchard as well this year.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit.  I hope you are enjoying your weather wherever you are.  It is beautiful to look out our window and see the deep fluffy snow.  We are still under a heavy snowfall warning that is supposed to end tomorrow.  Everyone here is looking forward to seeing the sun again soon.