Yes, it’s not lost on me that it’s no longer summer anymore. But apparently you can’t expect me to post to the blog during the summer, or more than twice a year. This past summer has been so crazy that blogging has never really made it to the top of the priority list. But lately things have been feeling just slightly more under control, so… here we go!
I remember late last winter thinking, Hmm… two houses and a winterized cabin going up in one summer… sounds a little bit crazy, but I’m sure us homesteaders can handle it! Well, handle it we kinda have. Maybe with a little less speed than we’d hoped. For one, there’s a heck of a lot of steps involved in building a house, and it’s never quite as straightforward as you think. The other factor is money, which, if you don’t have it, you end up having to spend half the time earning it so that you can pay for materials and labour. On top of this, building a house on the side of a mountain – consisting of load after load of concrete, giant stones, and timbers that take six people to carry – requires reserves of strength, clever engineering, and oftentimes your neighbour’s tractor (and your neighbour to drive it!).
An’s house site, if you recall, is on the lower side of the lane as you enter the property. It started out as a giant pit that was dug last spring. Following a similar construction style as the rest of the houses on the farm – slip-form masonry and timber-frame construction – An and Jeremy have been learning a ton as they face the monumental task of building their first house from scratch. Over the course of the summer they’ve done an impressive amount with the resources available to them.
Fast-forward to today! Now the foundation is done, which incorporates a large cistern for their water supply as well as a root cellar. They’ve already finished one course of slip-forms for their berm and buttress walls, and are rocking the next level. With their site having such a steep grade, they have had to engineer chutes and bridges and whatever else to make the best use of gravity, as they figure out what works best for getting the concrete and stonework in place.
Their aim is to have the concrete work finished and the timber frame in place and wrapped before winter. We’re rootin’ for ya!
Just across the lane from An’s site and up quite a steep slope is Rodney’s house site. Employing Deryk’s construction expertise, Wayne’s indispensable tractor driving and heavy lifting, as well as Laurence’s trusty carpentry skills, the four of them have been a powerhouse of construction since the spring. I think last time I blogged, the building site had only just been cleared. Well, there’s plenty more to see now, and Rodney has been great at keeping on top of photographing the process:
Inside, most of the insulation is complete and some of the windows are in. Rodney, Deryk, and Laurence are putting in as many hours as they can to get this house sealed up before winter so that Rodney doesn’t have to spend another winter in his tiny little hut. Thankfully, fall weather has been quite forgiving lately, and we’re hoping it’ll last!
As mentioned in my previous post, Laire and I took on the task of building Laire his own A-frame cabin in the woods behind our house, which we dubbed Triangulaire. And as hoped, our lovely Adam did indeed arrive at the farm in May, and generously took on the role of lead carpenter for this project all summer long. Using his snazzy design and technology skills he whipped up 3D plans for the structure, which helped us calculate our framing materials with precision. We had Wayne mill us all the 2×4s and 2×6s we needed.
Although we were somehow thinking we would be able to finish this cabin by early summer (ambitious much?), we haven’t had near the amount of time to dedicate to the project as hoped. Laire and I, and Adam as well, were all involved in various other jobs over the summer, and sometimes had commitments that took us away from the farm for weeks. Then while here, taking care of the gardens, making cheese regularly, doing the farmer’s market (before we agreed to drop it) – and indeed, working regular jobs – all took away from building Triangulaire. Nevertheless, progress has continued slowly and steadily, and it’s now getting quite close to being done!
While all this construction was going on, everything else that goes on at the farm, of course, kept buzzing along as usual. And just to keep us extra busy and entertained, we’ve had many guests and volunteers come to the farm over the summer, and that’s been quite wonderful. Unfortunately, we don’t have photos of all of our visitors, but you guys know who you are! I know you’re reading this.
Goats and cheese
This year, we have four milking does, with whose milk I’ve kept quite busy making cheese. When I didn’t have time or was away from the farm, Rodney was able to pick up the slack by making butter or feta. Most of our visitors have tried their hand at milking, and one time we even had a couple here who both grew up with goats. I didn’t have to show Bronwen and Carl anything, really, which was pretty neat.
With all this milk, I’ve finally been able to collect enough fresh milk to make hard cheese regularly. So far I’ve tried making four different aged hard cheeses: a parmesan-like one, an alpine style, gouda, and lately, cheddar. Unfortunately, it’s a little early to be tasting them yet (they need a minimum of six months to a year), so I can’t tell you yet if I was successful. They’re mostly all waxed, and hanging out in the barn root cellar, the most consistently cool spot on the property. Fingers crossed!
You might be wondering what’s going on with those cute kid goats from the spring. In the interest of sparing you some emotional turmoil, let’s just say they’re all alive and well and hanging out in their separate pasture, getting nice and fat in preparation for their arctic vacation.
The zoo expands
Among the new arrivals on the farm this year is a very cute canine named Lafayette. Laurence got her earlier in the summer, and she’s a very friendly, if sometimes a little mischievous, puppy, who I probably shouldn’t be calling a puppy anymore.
We also have a new clutch of ducklings, which is great, because last year the hens must have been distracted and forgot to have kids.
And of course, the farm cats, Boodle and Meowkel, are alive and well, and as annoyingly affectionate as ever. (Okay, I’ll admit it, I love the rascals.)
The gardens produce
Once again we’ve had a pretty great growing season here. A little wetter than usual, sparing us the task of ever having to water the outside gardens (just the greenhouses). One of the great improvements to the farm this year was gravity-feed irrigation from Snow Lake! Adam played a big role in getting that set up. There were a couple hurdles, including meddling by beavers, but we got past them and managed to get decent pressure all the way to the greenhouses at the highest elevation.
We did manage to find time to do several weeks of the summer market, but halfway through the season, we found that it was just too overwhelming with everything else that was going on here. We ended up with a ton more summer squash than we needed, but whatever we couldn’t feed to the goats or our friends, we made some preserves with. As usual, the work of preserving the harvest has taken up a good chunk of late summer and fall.
Now, what’s summer without a little fun?
While we’ve been working pretty hard this past season, and indeed still are, there was still time for some of us to take some extra time to leave the farm and enjoy what this beautiful province has to offer. So here’s a very small, heavily biased sample of some of the adventures we got up to this summer. And breakfast time.
And of course, nothing like a good ol’ frame-raising, this time at our neighbours’ place, Sally & Howard.
See you again in… six months or so!