Thisclose to a breakthrough

I’ve had this whole “break-on-through” post that I’ve been planning. You see, all winter I’ve been working my way through our woodpile. It’s three rows wide, and I’ve been slowly using up the back two rows. (Matt, the official woodcutter in our relationship, would argue it’s not been slow enough).

Loading firewood into the washtub

Well, I was almost at the end. I had snapped some pictures showing how far I’d come, anticipating the day when I would break through.


Then I would take my final pictures and write a blog post where I talk about how happy I am that we have a fireplace, how nice it’s been to have fires all winter, how it’s almost the end of winter and how neat it is that this breakthrough moment coincides with almost the end of fire season, how we (Matt) will have to restock our firewood in anticipation of next winter.

I had it all worked out in my mind.

But then something happened. Cave in.

Collapsed woodpile

There will be no breakthrough.

There will be restacking, more burning (sorry, Matt). And instead you get this blog post, mourning what could have been, rather than triumphantly celebrating a milestone.

Okay, maybe milestone isn’t the best descriptor, but I’d worked it all out, people!

I blame the turkey.

Her footprints are all around that woodpile.

Turkey tracks around the woodpile

El Niño

Are you having a crazy winter where you are? We’ve been through El Niños before, but this year is something else.

Temperatures have mostly hovered right around zero or above. It took nearly half the winter before we had snow of any significance.

Sun rising over snow covered farm

But it only lasted a little while before the temperatures shot up again and everything melted. (Note how even the grass has maintained its green).

Farm after snowmelt

Every so often, temperatures drop back into the polar vortex territory that we experienced for the previous two winters. But then they invariably rise again.

Thermometer showing -20

The wildlife is not reacting well to the fluctuations.

We had an extra cat take refuge in the barn. And snakes are coming out of their dens only to freeze in the snow.

Dead snake in the snow

On behalf of the local wildlife, Ralph came out of the barn to investigate where winter went.

“No, I don’t believe I see any snow on this ground here.”

Ralph looking for snow

Not trusting his sister’s bad eye, Bax came to help her look.

“Nope, I do not see any snow either… And I think I’m sitting in mud.” (He was.)

Ralph and Baxter looking for snow

A month from today we will officially be into spring. Do you think we’re going to have a winter between now and then?

What’s winter been like where you are? Are you seeing any unusual wildlife behaviours? Anyone want to join Ralph’s and Baxter’s search party?

Odds and sods

Photo collage

Ahhh. A three-day weekend. What a nice treat in the middle of winter. Matt’s working on his goal of not leaving the property all weekend. And I’m taking it easy with a quick list of the odds and sods that have been happening recently.

  • I got to watch my 22-month old nephew “play soccer.” Lesson learned: there’s no way to get a clear picture of a toddler playing soccer.
  • Temperatures have been hovering around the -20ºC mark. And that’s just the temperature. The windchill makes it extra frigid.
  • I braved Ikea on Saturday. Thanks to the temperature, a lot of people opted to hibernate instead of shop, so it wasn’t the usual madhouse. I came out–in less than a hour!–with all of the hardware for the guest room curtains, two new pillows for our bed (finally upgraded to king size pillows to match the king size mattress), and my usual–a handful of picture frames.
  • Due to the temperature, Bax is having many quick outings rather than any long hikes. We’re supplementing with indoor fetch and tag. Our girl Ralph doesn’t seem to notice the cold. Matt picked burrs out of her tail, so we know she’s venturing outside the barn. A cat we’ve not seen before was hanging out in the barn a few mornings ago, so someone’s obviously feeling the cold.
  • The non-feline family members are focusing on indoor sports including painting a few items for the guest room, baking a fudgy cake for Valentine’s Day, napping fireside, watching some TV and movies (this one, this one and this one were interesting. I was really keen on this one, but I ended up falling asleep on the couch.)
  • My brother and I are sharing custody of my Dad’s router. After a bit of fiddling, I remembered how to use it and made some good progress on an art project for the basement. Adam, you can have the router back now.

And of course there’s been a bit of romance in there–Valentine’s Day! And some more family time yet to come–Family Day!

How was your weekend? What did you get up to?

On thin ice

I think this hole in the ice is a sign that someone had a bad day.

Breaking through the ice

But someone else didn’t take the warning.

“What do you mean the ice isn’t safe?”

Dog on thin ice

“My foot’s cold… and wet.”

At the edge of the pond

(And just in case you’re worried, the pond is pretty shallow here, so when Bax did actually break through, he was able to climb out without any trouble. Although he was a little miffed that the ground cracked and he ended up wet. I also had him on his long lead so he couldn’t wander too far.)

Done and done – Fall to-do list final report

The date on the calendar says Dec. 21–also known as the first day of winter.

And the photo below says that Matt and I have crossed off the last item on my fall to-do list–replacing the filters in our water system.

Reverse osmosis system filters

Our first year at the farm, we had our water contractor do the annual service for us. We’ve since learned that this is a job we can easily tackle ourselves.

As we were changing the filters, we talked about adding a task to the get-it-done-before-winter to-do list: putting the snowblower on the tractor.

Temperatures are still super mild here, so we could avoid freezing our fingers as we connect the blower. But temperatures are still super mild. Will we even need the snowblower? (Ha-ha. I think that’s a bit optimistic for winter in southern Ontario).

Final determination? We’re going to risk it and stay blower-less for now.

Matt has plans to clear some of the deadfall in the back forest before the end of the year, so being able to put the trailer on the back of the tractor would be very helpful.

It may be winter, the fall to-do list may be done, but work at the farm continues.

How did you do getting ready for winter? Do you have a job that you learned isn’t as difficult as you thought at first? What’s still on your to-do list between now and the end of the year?

Getting my act together

A month ago, I said it was time to get my act together, and I posted my fall to-do list.

I’m most productive when I post regular updates to hold myself accountable, so today is about sharing where I’m at in getting ready for winter.

And I am pleased to report that I’m getting my act together.

The vegetable garden

  • Hang the gate
  • Edge the garden
  • Put in raised beds
  • Spread manure

Okay. Perhaps this isn’t the best way to start. Beyond the harvest and clearing out the dead plants, I haven’t spent much time in the garden. My plan is to make the garden my focus for November.

Harvest 2015

The bird feeder

  • Reattach feeder bracket – My cousin who made the birdfeeder post for us originally very kindly bolted the top bracket back into place.
  • Install a sleeve for the post – I put a section of pipe in the ground so that the post can just slide into place, no hammering required.

I restocked our seed supply last week, and we have a steady stream of blue jays, chickadees, juncos and a whole bunch of other birds I can’t identify visiting the feeder every day.

Chickadee in the birdfeeder


  • Tidy up the trees – Matt and his Dad went to town.
  • Put up another row of firewood – As Matt and his Dad cut, I split and stacked, and we are set.

More details about our latest lumberjacking episode will be coming in a future post, but for now gaze upon our woodpiles.

Firewood piles

Get Wiley ready for winter

  • Change the oil – My handy cousin (he of the birdfeeder) changed the oil for us.
  • Check the battery contacts – My handy cousin also made us a little sleeve to tighten up the battery clasp, and Wiley’s starting so smoothly now.
  • Remove the mower deck – Done. There will be no more grass cutting this year.

How to detach a Kioti SM2410 mower

The house

  • Take off the screens
  • Clean the heat pump filter — Done
  • Clean out the gutters — Matt’s done this twice in October, and he’ll probably have to do it at least once more.
  • Turn off the outdoor water
  • Annual service and filter replacement on indoor water system — A new to-do

The house is another area where we’ve not done a whole lot. What does that say about me that I’m putting less time into the roof over my head as opposed to the property around my house? Thankfully, Matt’s on it.

Matt cleaning the gutters

Anyways, three categories out of five are completely done. That’s pretty good. Now to keep the productivity coming before winter comes.

How are you doing on your pre-winter to-do list so far?

A bit of spring

Just a wee peek of spring today. My Mom bought me a beautiful bouquet of these tulips last year, and I’ve been saving the photos–apparently for a moment just like this.

Pink tulips

After about 40 straight days of sub-zero temperatures and the coldest February since 1875, we finally made it to March–the month of spring. Never mind that we had snow and freezing rain all day yesterday, and it still looks like winter outside. Today we’re supposed to hit -1ºC. That’s positively balmy!

Have there been any signs of spring where you live?


Like so many of you this winter, we’ve had a few incredibly cold days over the last little while. The nights have been even worse. Last Friday, shortly after the post about the birds that have been visiting our feeder was published, I saw a new bird for the first time–a little owl.

Unfortunately, the sighting was a sad one. The cold had been too much for this little guy. He was dead.


He was a beautiful, fascinating creature–his multi-toned feathers, his pointy ears, his curved beak. I wish I’d been able to see him alive. I’ve heard owls around the farm, but I’ve never seen one.


I was surprised how small he was. His feathers were so fluffy that they deceived me into thinking he was much bigger than I realized. However, under his feathers, he was truly a very little guy. No wonder the cold was too much for him.