Making Hay, 2020 Edition!

Posted on Updated on

Every year, we attempt to make hay from our two small hay fields, and when I say small, I mean small. They are only about 1 acre each. Because the soil is so good, from many years of manure being spreaded and cows/horses/sheep living in those fields, the grass is amazingly dense and beautiful. Our goal each summer is to make as much hay as we can: cut this grass, let it dry in the sun, bale it with our small square baler and bring it indoors to store it.

Some years are more successful than others! Last summer was so rainy, it was difficult to get a forecast with had more than two days of sun in a row. It can’t be raining when we cut it, and we need about 5 days of hot, sunny weather for the hay to dry fully. We like to cut it in July so that it has time to regrow and then we can cut it again it August or September — two crops in one year! At one point last July the forecast looked pretty good, so I cut the main hay field, but then it rained so many times — you know how forecasts can be wrong?!? — and all the beautiful hay I had cut just moulded right there in the field. The grass kept growing all the while, so when I went to make a second cut in September, the icky, glommy stuff from the first cut was mixed in. When it was time to bale this hay, I thought it was dry enough — I estimated it was 90-95% dry — but it was not. We spread the bales out in the bale barn and breathed a sigh of relief — the haying was done for year. A day later or so, I was in the barn admiring it when I noticed in the evening sunlight that the bales seemed to be two colours. Some seemed brownish and some were grey-green. I realized in a flash — the brownish ones were moulding inside and they were not going to be good to feed. My heart fell when I realized that two-thirds of them were brownish. We ended up buying hay to get our alpacas through the winter.

This year, let me tell you how it is going so far! June was very rainy and although the grass was growing like dynamite, as every year, it was too wet to consider cutting. Last years’ rain had filled all the underground aquifers, dugouts and low spots and there was nowhere for more moisture to go. At the end of June, we had over 40 mm of rain in a few days! There were puddles forming in odd places on the yard and the creek which normally only flows in spring from snow melting starting running. It was epic. All the farmers around here were going to be in big trouble! July’s weather improved a little. There was less volume of rain but it was not really warm or sunny much. The usual thunderstorms would go by and dump showers on us and the land never really had a chance to dry up. My dad said that in all his 40 years of farming, he had never seen it that wet. There were puddles everywhere, and water standing in the grass of our yard. Finally, at the end of July, we had a forecast for some really hot weather. We were supposed to get over 25 C for about 4 days in a row (that’s hot for us), and a few days were going to get close to the 30 C. It was time to make hay!

This year, I had the idea to use an old swather* that was in the machine shed, so I asked Dad if it ran. He said it should; that old machinery was built to run and not give problems. He charged the battery and worked on it a bit and sure enough, he got it running. So, with the forecast looking so good, I decided to go out and cut the “high part” of the main hay field. There are some lower parts that had almost become a creek of their own this year so I decided to give them a little more time to dry out. After the 4 hot days, they might be worth cutting.

I had driven this swather back in when I was teenager. One time when I was probably 16 or so, I cut the hay and my dad followed behind with the round baler. I remember it being a challenging experience! I had a very hard time going straight and I was forever mowing the tops of molehills, then raising the cutting deck to avoid that, then lowering it again and puff — dirt! Molehill! Up down, left right, I remember Dad laughing at me a bit for how crooked the swaths were! The swather steers like those two-lever lawn mowers – by slowing down or stopping one wheel, the thing turns.

So, this year, it was time to do a bit better than that. After all, I have 7 hours of helicopter training in my log book, plus 30-ish years of life and driving experience. That’s got to make it easier!

When Dad started it the first time, he noticed the whole cutting mechanism trying to engage right away, which of course, puts a big load on the engine. So, he had to loosen some belts to overcome that, which he tightened back up again later. Well, now when the swather starts, it wants to start moving right away! Even with the clutch pushed in, it starts to roll… but it doesn’t engage both wheels. It only engages the left, so when I put in the clutch thinking it will slow down and stop, it doesn’t. It veers right. So, it starts a “ground loop” in the yard as soon as you press the start button. This is more than a little unsettling! This first time I started it I thought what the hell is this thing doing? It kind of seems possessed! On my way out to cut the field, I wanted to stop to lower the cutting deck and engage the cutting mechanisms, so of course I hit the clutch… and immediately hit some hay feeders that were parked nearby! I pulled hard on the levers and managed to back up and then I did a full right-turn ground loop. Damn. I gathered my bearings in that 360 degrees and just got the mowing blades engaged on the fly… which is not easy, because it is a very stiff lever to the left of the seat. The big “beater bars” that rotate way out in front still turned, so I was grateful that I hadn’t wrecked them when I hit the feeders. I decided to lower the cutting head right before I needed them.

I had memorized which way to mash down on the foot pedals to raise and lower the mowing deck. As a teenager, I could never remember and I was always lifting when I wanted to lower and vice verse. So, when the moment was right and I was entering the hay field, I pressed down on the pedal and lowered that deck. Dad had said that lower would cut better, so I dropped it a little more… and ground to a halt. Only I didn’t know why I wasn’t moving and so I sat there, baffled and trying to think my way out of the problem as to why the machine had stopped! I tried to back up and then in my desperation, I raised the deck a bit and started moving immediately! Whew. Silly me, I had been grinding my cutting teeth into the dirt. Dad said it had a stopper and would only lower so low, but… perhaps that wasn’t working quite right!

I managed to line the swather up and cut some hay. I had planned to go around the field clockwise, so that my turns would all be to the right, since that’s the side that it preferred to turn anyway. I did a round and then Darren noticed that it wasn’t cutting any more. He had been following me around and offering suggestions and observations and he made that universal hand signal for stop, so I did. I was figuring out that to stop and NOT ground-loop, I had to press the clutch and the brake, and pull on the levers a bit. Whew, standstill! He said it was not cutting and sure enough, when I looked back, you could just see my tire marks. Well, damn, what could be wrong now? And that’s when we noticed that the engine was steaming!

I was very reluctant to call it quits. I mean, if my cutting blades were still moving, why wasn’t it cutting? There was no explanation, but with the steam coming out, it was time to shut it down. I turned it off and we waited for it to cool down. The temperature gauge said HOT but I had never looked at it before, so I didn’t even know if it really worked. We gave it 10 minutes of cooling down — in the nearly-30-degree heat of noon on the prairies! I started it up, drove it without the mowing engaged back across the hay field to the yard.

We couldn’t let this hot weather go to waste. Today was the day to cut that hay! So, I went to work my day-job and Darren mowed it all with the ditch mower — a low deck mower that we pull behind our main tractor.

Fast forward 2 days of gorgeous, hot dry weather during which Darren cleaned the swather’s radiator and we topped it up with water and antifreeze. I walked out to the hay field to see how it was doing. The hay was tinder-dry! Of course, it was a little damp underneath but I thought that if we raked it and left it to dry in the amazing heat of the day, we could probably bale it that evening. The rake we have is a pull-behind contraption that picks up and flips the hay as you roll along. As long as you go fast enough, it works pretty good! I had never raked before; all my knowledge was from chatting with my dad or watching videos on the internet. One guy who had a rake that looked very similar to mine did a bang-up job of raking his thin-looking hay into swaths for baling. Mine looked much thicker, but it had to work.

It went okay! The rake sort of rolled/threw the hay to the left, making a swath that looked pretty good. I went around and around and piled all the randomly-cut hay the ditch-mower had cut into swaths we could bale. The wetter stuff was definitely on top now, and the hot sun should dry it out nicely. It was about 3 pm when I finished — and I bet it only took an hour — so baling time was set at 8 pm. That is a bit later than optimal, but you never get all your variables optimal when making hay, but you still have to try.

Last year, when we were finishing baling part of our second cut in late September, I think it was, the baler broke down. The PTO was spinning like mad from the tractor to the first part of the baler, but the pick-up was not turning. Nothing else on the baler was moving. So, we had to quit baling after only 8 bales, but with all that sweet hay in the field, we had to do something. We did not want it to go to waste! So, we got two pitchforks and hauled it to the hay barn in the back of the pickup truck, loose. We just kept piling it high, shoving it over and piling it some more. It was the best hay we had ever made… so far. The alpacas loved it. We just carried big armfuls for them and that hay got us through into January.

Back in May, my dad helped us get the parts we needed to fix the baler and then we installed them. We greased a few essential spots on the baler — there are probably 20 grease nipples on it, but many of them don’t need grease every year, since we aren’t making hundreds of bales. Still in the yard, Darren suggested I engage the PTO and see if the baler worked. It didn’t! The PTO was spinning but the new clutch plates we had installed were slipping. So, we got the wrenches we needed and tightened the 6 bolts some more. They slipped two more times in the field, when baling and I quickly stopped the PTO and we tightened the clutch plates some more until they stopped slipping. I think they were probably too clean when we installed them and they needed some hay dust between them to work properly! Luckily, that was the only trouble we had with the baler and it chugged along well… although I admit, I do baby it and make sure not to stuff the hay in there too fast.

Our friend Mary helped by driving our pick up truck so that we could bring the bales in right away. It is optimal to leave them out in the field to sit/dry for a day or two, but there was 10 mm of rain in the forecast for overnight. Darn forecast. As I bale, Darren always checks the string tension on the bales and adjusts it. After several bales, he walked up to the baler and asked me to stop so he could talk to me (using hand signals, of course). He had bad news; the bales were VERY heavy. Like bricks. That is not a good sign. That means the hay was not fully dry and they will probably mold again.

What to do? I still had hay fever! If we didn’t bale it, it would get rained on and potentially ruined. If we did bale it, the bales would probably be no good. We decided to keep baling. Maybe they wouldn’t all be that heavy.

They were. They were awful. Mary and Darren spread them out in the hay barn and we all crashed for the night.

The next day, I talked to Dad and he reminded me of wrapping bales. It was something I was just learning about, and I heard that you can stop the mould process and the bales will be perfectly preserved as you baled them. If they are a little damp, they’ll be a little damp, but they won’t go bad. If they are too wet, you might end up with a soft, partially fermented hay product they call “baleage,” similar to silage, which is fed to cows but not alpacas. So, Darren bought a roll of plastic and we cooked up a plan — MacGyver would have been proud — to hold the heavy roll of plastic on a part of the canoe trailer and suspend a bale from the roof of the bale barn so we could wrap it. It did not go as smoothly as we thought it would, but in 20 minutes or so, we got one bale done. Of course, you an buy a fancy contraption to wrap bales, but this was just an experiment that we wanted to try. The very next bale we went to wrap was HOT. The bale was already going bad! And so was the next one, and then next one, and so on for nearly very bale. They were very hot and we needed to do something immediately, or they would all be ruined and we would have no good feed for winter.

We decided to open them, fluff them and get the hay to finish drying. We got right to it, and Mary helped too. Several bales were hot enough that they would have burned bare hands, but we were all wearing gloves. It was not a very good scene. We worked as quickly as we could in the evening heat — It was probably still around 20 C and with the steam coming off those bales, well over 25 degrees or more in the bale barn. We kept the hottest parts away from the walls of the barn as a precaution. It’s not unheard-of for hay barns to burn down when filled with wet bales that start heating up.

It’s similar to the process of composting, even though I’ve been saying they are moulding. For good compost, you need four things: some dry “brown” material, some moist “green” material, moisture and air. A bale that is only partially dry has all those things. So, you can cut out the air (by wrapping it) or get the wet parts dry, which is what we were doing. We had a few bales we just didn’t have room to spread out in the hay barn, so we spread them out in the main corral, where the alpacas keep the grass very short. We spread these bales nice and thin for the next warm days to dry out.

The forecast was still quite good — only 30% chances of rain in a couple of places in the long range forecast. Like I said, you can’t expect everything to be optimal for making hay, but that forecast looked pretty good. So I also wanted to cut the “higher part” of our new hay field. I had gone scouting for what areas were dry and mowed the outside round with the ditch mower. This would let the air circulate a bit better and then when I went out with the swather again, I could cut a partial width. Rather that using the whole 12-foot mowing deck, I could make slightly smaller swaths (closer together) that would hopefully dry better and not clog the baler.

This time I knew what I was dealing with. Start with the brake firmly pushed in and the levers pulled back a little to avoid the ground loop. If I needed to turn more than 90 degrees, I would go right. It was faster and smoother. I would go clockwise around the field so I could make most of my turns right. Going clockwise also meant, I would be overlapping on the left with the part already cut and the right side of the mowing deck would be doing all the work. I was only part way down the first line when Darren flagged me to stop. I hate stopping when I’m underway in general, but this beastie was so hard to stop! It took 2 legs and 2 arms to keep it still! It wanted to CUT! Anyways, I got it stopped, crookedly, and he told me it wasn’t mowing well again! This time I was much more careful setting the height on the deck, so I knew that should not be a factor. Darren suggested I turn around and try cutting with the left side of the swather doing all the work and the right overlapping with the part already cut.

It worked. I turned a 180 degree turn (to the right, of course) to reverse the direction I was going. The left side of the mowing deck worked so much better! I watched as it mowed down tall, thick areas without a glitch. This thing loved to cut! It worked so smoothly, I was almost mesmerized watching the grasses get cut and then fall and then move into the centre and go under the device I was riding. When it was cutting, it actually went remarkably straight and I could take a short break. At the ends of the rows, after a couple times back and forth, I decided I could try lifting the deck as I turned the corners and then lower it again. This is the proper way to swath a field, but I had been cheating a bit by leaving the deck down on the corners. Time to try doing it right! By watching the overlap side carefully, I would lower it to the point where it just shaved a little off the stubble from the last round, and that way I could keep it consistent.

Whew! I was in the swathing groove! Up, turn hard, line it up for the next swath, lower it quickly, double check that it was the right height, check my steering and then cruise to the end of the row. Helicopter flying had definitely helped prepare me for this! It was a bit like flying a circuit, now that I think of it. I glanced at my temperature gauge after a couple of rows — it read “cool.”

The hay-making status right now? Main hayfield, higher parts: cut, raked, baled, hauled in and unbaled. Fluffed three times so far. We stopped the chain reaction before anything caught on fire and the hay is drying nicely, if a bit messy. New hayfield: Higher part, which amounts to about half, cut and currently drying. A quick thunderstorm went by this morning, but I don’t think there was too much rain in it. The forecast is good now until Monday with 30% chance and then 60% chance of rain Monday night. Let’s hope those big swaths dry well by Monday! 🙂

*It’s an International Harvester 230, made in 1972 in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s actually a “windrower” but swather is the term I grew up with. 🙂

Forest Labyrinth

Posted on Updated on

I love labyrinths. Walking through a labyrinth is so meditative. So, I decided that I needed a labyrinth in the forest behind my house. It’s a large enough area, and the bush is not too dense. I now know why labyrinths are always made in open fields! It’s bleepin’ hard to make one in a forest! Here is a photo of my labyrinth so far:

Can’t you see it? Ya, I know, you can’t see the labyrinth for the trees! 😛 Here’s another photo, a MUCH better photo! 😛

Sorry I’m so cheeky! I should say right now, this blog post is not meant to be a tutorial or any sort of helpful instructions! 🙂 I have been out several times stomping in the snow — winter is slow to go this year — trying to make my curved paths between trees, around fallen trees and in the deep snow. It’s hard to really see where the middle of the area is. I can’t very easily see where my other paths are, and they all need to be made relative to each other. Let me explain.

I looked at several labyrinth designs and considering that I already have some curving paths, I settled on a round one. The photo at the beginning of this post is a replica of the Chartes cathedral labyrinth (at the Centre for Spiritual Living in Edmonton, Alberta). It has 11 circuits (count the rings from the outside to the inside).

I found a simplified one with only 5 circuits:

I knew even 5 circuits would be too many, so I went with 3. At first it was a sketch, but I did up a proper drawing for this blog post:

And, on my second or third time out, I took a GPS tracker out so I could see my awesome labyrinth! It’s amazing! My sketch is on the left and you can CLEARLY see how perfect my labyrinth is.
It looks like a squashed turtle! Subsequent GPS tracks did not come out better. If anything, they were worse. Apparently, GPS tracking is not very accurate in this part of the world. Or I walk too fast. Or there are too many tress. [shrugs]
It was clear that some legs of the path were not long enough, so I edited the labyrinth. This makes it interesting every time I go to walk it. I have to try remember what parts to use and what parts were the old route. Here’s another photo, this time of the outside track on the right:

That’s Sammy out with me! He loves to go exploring. Sometimes he climbs trees!

So, last time I went out, I flagged some trees to help even this crazy thing out. I marked the major turnarounds in orange tape and the mid-points of the labyrinth area, to the best of my estimation, with blue tape. I also decided to expand the area, so that it would go all the way to the neighbour’s fence, which is currently covered by a 5-foot-high snow drift! No kidding! It’s epic! As I was working in the SE quadrant, I realized that I had done it wrong! I had an extra turn! Did you notice that on the first drawing? So, here is the correct path:

Let me just say I am quite pleased with my work! In the end, no one will ever know if this thing is asymmetrical (which I suspect it always will be) because GPS tracking will be strictly prohibited while walking meditatively on the forest labyrinth. It’s kind of neat walking among the trees, where you can’t see the whole labyrinth at once. You don’t know the path is going to fold back on itself, until you get there.

Once the snow melts, I will put down wood chips to mark the path and try to keep the flagging tape or signs to a minimum. I plan to preserve every tree (although some smaller shrubs may get squashed). Wish me luck! This thing isn’t finished yet.

If you have an open area, I encourage you to look at labyrinths you can make with rope or stones to mark the path. But if you have a treed area, GOOD LUCK! 😀

Welcome Pigpen! Our New Cria

Posted on

Most baby alpacas, or cria as they are called, are born in summer, but last fall we went on a holiday and our farm-sitter accidentally left a gate unlatched one day, and so one of our female alpacas get pregnant. Eleven-and-a-half months later, we waited with great anticipation for this little guy to be born! 😀 Here he is, less than a half hour old!

He was born at 4 pm and temperature was zero degrees Celcius, with a slight breeze! What a time to be born! I had come home and saw Miss Uki acting a little strange and by the time I went to the house, had a quick bite to eat and got back out again, he was born!

He was all wet and started shivering, so I went to the house and got some clean cloths to dry him off. I put a facecloth on his back temporarily to keep him warm!

Even though he is our 5th cria, it’s the first time I’ve been there right after birth. His instinct to nurse was immediate. It’s amazing! He was making sucking faces and looking up. He was shivering so I helped him stand up. He started looking around for where he could get something to eat. They have the instinct to look for somewhere dark, and out in a sunny field, their momma’s underside is the only dark place. So he started looking there! I stood back and watched but he didn’t seem to be really finding her teats and latching on.

I decided I should try to help, but every time I got close, his momma would turn and face me and if I got too close, she’d spit at me! She’s so protective! The other two girls, Daisy and Marley, were coming in to check him out too, and Miss Uki spit on them too. They were interfering with the little guy’s ability to nurse, since Miss Uki kept moving & spitting!! So I tried to separate them out, but it’s pretty hard for one person to move two alpacas who have no desire to be separated from their friends!!

I decided that at least I could move the cria over to the barn to get out of the breeze. Of course, everyone followed! Isn’t he adorable?

I had done some research and prepared for this day by putting extra straw in the barn and making him a little coat. I found the rough shape of a pattern online and the measurements from a store that sells cria coats. I had some thick polyester fleece, some thin quilted fabric, and my mom gave me some fabric to use as the windproof, water-repellent outer layer. I put the coat on a small heater to warm it up. He perked up so much after we put it on him!

The first couple of hours are so critical for a new one to get a good drink from his momma. Her milk has essential nutrients and immune factors that the cria needs. Miss Uki is an ornery alpaca, and VERY protective, so every time I tried to point him in the right direction to get some milk, she would turn and face me and spit. I tried repeatedly but I realized I might not be helping! So, I had to let him find it on his own. I was pretty nervous since last year, our cria Frankie could not find his momma’s milk and we ended up bottle feeding him for 7 weeks! Yikes, that’s a lot of work! And he was not as vibrant as he would have been if he’d been nursing. So, this cria born in fall REALLY needed his momma’s milk for all the energy to stay warm and grow!

Luckily, as long as I stayed far enough away, Miss Uki stood still and eventually it looked like the little fella found the milk! His head was at a good angle… he seemed to be suckling… he was under there a long time… he is nursing! Yay!

That first night it went down to -12 C! I got up at 1 am to check on him, to make sure he wasn’t shivering or getting hypothermia. He was pretty warm, and since I disturbed the alpacas and Miss Uki stood up, the little guy went straight to her for a drink! Double yay!

On day two, he had lots of energy, and after a few days, he even started tasting grass!

We always wait a few days before we give a cria a name. He is pure white like his papa, Boeing, and on his second day in the world, he was already finding ways to get dirty, like his papa! So we named him Pigpen, after the character in the Charlie Brown cartoons who was always a mess!

Boeing was very interested in how his offspring was doing. I’ve never seen a papa as interested as this. He often stands by the gate or fence closest to wherever the girls are.

It’s been over a month, and now we have lots of snow. Pigpen outgrew his first coat so I made him another one! I used alpaca fibre I have on hand, sheared from his momma, to insulate the coat. 😊

I just can’t believe how hardy and amazing crias are. He is exploring the world, running around and tasting new things. The cold does not seem to bother him so far. On day 2, we gave him a pink neckwarmer to help prevent heat loss. He’s so spunky, still tries to get away when we have to adjust his coat. He leaped all over when we gave him the new coat yesterday! But he also still comes nose-to-nose with me every day, and gives me a sniff. We even have a game we play where he follows/chases me, then he runs away. Then I turn around and chase him, not that I could catch him!! Then I run away, as fast as my ankle will allow (I sprained it this summer). And so on for 4 or 5 times. It is, undoubtedly, the highlight of my day! 😄

Thanks for reading! I will be blogging more now that winter is here, and I’ll let you know how Pigpen does! 😀

Forest Safety After a Forest Fire

Posted on

I have been watching the forest fire situation closely, since the town of High Level (my former stomping grounds) was evacuated due to a huge fire blazing close by. The evacuation order was lifted and everyone returned to the town, but I still get twice-daily updates from the forest fire information officers working up there.

Today, they sent an interesting blurb I would like to share. This is copied straight from the email, and is very useful for anyone who wants to go hiking in the woods after a fire. If this sounds like you, keep reading:

Use Extreme Caution in Burnt Forested Areas: The picture below shows a section of the forest that has been burnt over. For anyone who enjoys walking through the forest, there are several dangers that are present in a burnt over area that you should be aware of including:

Ash Pits: In areas where there is a deep forest floor or around large trees with vast root systems, wildfires can burn deep into the ground. In some of these areas, the ash accumulates in the hole and leaves the appearance that the hole is level ground. This causes not only trip and fall hazards but also a potential burn hazard if the lower section of the pit still contains fire or embers and a passerby happens to step/fall into it.

Danger Trees: Trees, in some cases, can burn up through the centre leaving only a narrow section of the trunk actually holding the tree up. These trees then become a hazard as they are very prone to falling over either just over time or when pushed by the wind. Trees can also become unstable if the wildfire burns into the layers of the earth and consumes a tree’s roots, leaving the tree standing with very little support.

Photo source unknown.

Back from Baffin Island

Posted on Updated on

Hello everyone! I made it back from Baffin Island, safe and sound. Well, mostly sound. I might lose a toenail, but if that’s all, I’m not complaining!

It was a PHENOMENAL trip! The women on the trip were amazing, and we saw some incredible, remote scenery. The physical aspects were challenging but not impossible, and there were unexpected challenges along the way. I don’t want to give it all away, but I DO want to share some photos!

Iqaluit, Nunuvut

We flew from Ottawa to Iqaluit, the transportation hub for Nunuvut, but due to bad weather at our destination, we got stranded in Iqaluit! We thought we were going to have to camp in the airport — an acceptable solution since all the hotel rooms in town were booked, and we had all our camping gear — but then we got to stay in the army barracks that are there!

Iqaluit - military transport
The military came with a very cool track vehicle to get us (and some regular trucks).
Iqaluit - room in the PAB
My room in the PAB. Small, but perfect.

The military men were very helpful and hospitable. They often help stranded travelers. The next day, the weather improved, and we flew out with no problems.

We started in Qikiqtarjuak, NU

You can call it Qik, for short (pronounced “kick”).

Qik - First Air ATR43 acft
The aircraft that took us to Qik (it’s an ATR43). The front half is cargo and the back half is where the people go!

Qik - Walking on the bay
Walking on the frozen bay. You can see some of the houses and mountains that surround the community.
Qik across the bay
Looking at Qik across the bay from the hotel. The whole community is less than 600 people.
Qik - Tulugak Inn
The Tulugak Inn, of the “Inns North” chain. Qikiqtarjuak used to be called Broughton Island.
Qik - Looking out the window
Looking out the window of the hotel
Qik - Komatiks
Packing the qamutiiks (“comb-a-ticks”) for the ride to the trailhead. Snowmobiles are off to the right of the photo.

We rode the Qamutiks pulled by skidoos, to the trail head. It was the bumpiest ride of my life!

That’s all for now! More photos to come!

If you haven’t yet, you can still sponsor me!
Click here! Thank you!

On my Way to Baffin Island

Posted on Updated on

Sorry I haven’t blogged lately. I have been so busy getting ready for my trip to Baffin Island! I am in Ottawa now, with a little spare time, and tomorrow we leave for Nunuvut.

I am so excited to be going to this part of Canada! It’s remote, beautiful, rugged and — did I already say “remote?” There is something in my blood that makes me want to travel to the ends of the Earth, to see things few have seen, and experience things few ever will.

And that’s what I’m doing now! I am taking all kinds of personal risks to have a really unique Canadian experience. A few people have called me brave — usually after finding out I’ll be sleeping in -20 to -30 C, or that there will be polar bears. I don’t see myself as brave. I just keep my eyes open for opportunities and then take them when they come along. I just do what’s in front of me to do. And I guess I’ve been lucky to have some interesting things come along in front of me!

I don’t mean to sound passive, or downplay what I’m doing. But I’m no hero, either! I am nervous about some parts of it! I know I may be uncomfortable for days on end. I am doing it anyways.

I bought Brene Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness” and I’m going to start reading it tonight! It should be the perfect book for the trek I’m about to do!

Wish me luck, everyone! HUGE BIG thank you’s to everyone who has sponsored me for this fundraiser! You rock, really. And if you haven’t sponsored me yet, go do it now!! Here’s the link! Love you guys!

Trying out my super-warm sleeping bag
Good down to -32 C… tested at +20 C!! 😛

CBC Radio Interview

I got interviewed by Mark Connolly a couple days ago! Go check it out!

Good News! I Don’t Think I’ll Freeze on Baffin Island

Posted on Updated on

My day job involves a lot of weather information, and today, I was teaching my trainees about weather models. Environment Canada has a page with several on them, and we use them to give pilots weather info beyond 24 hours. Like any forecast, there’s no guarantee, but we can be fairly accurate as long as we stay within 48 hours.
I don’t know how they do it, but Environment Canada also creates some rather long-term forecasts. I stumbled on this one, below, and it made my heart sing!

Temperature probability Feb-April

It’s not the best news for Western Canada — looks like it’s going to be cooler than normal — but check out Baffin Island! Right where I’m going, it’s going to be WARMER than normal! There is an 80-90% chance! Normal temperatures for this part of Baffin Island range from -5 C to -25 C.

In case you’re not clear on where I am going snowshoeing, I’ve made a map:
Baffin Island

See how there is a red patch right on that part of Baffin Island?! Yay! I’m super excited to be going anyway, and now I know it’s not likely to be TOO cold, so that makes it even better. I bought a sleeping bag rated to -32 C on the weekend, along with an expedition parka that is incredibly warm! Things are coming together! 😀

Raising Funds

Posted on Updated on

Hi everyone! Sometimes when I tell people about my snowshoeing expedition — read all about it here — they are really shocked to find out I am raising $50,000 for the charity, True Patriot Love.
It’s a big amount, isn’t it? Most people who raise money for charities or medical causes (cancer research, etc) have much more modest goals. But these groups have LARGE numbers of people fundraising, so each individual doesn’t have to raise that much.
There are only 20 (or so) of us coming on the snowshoeing trip to Baffin Island. More people isn’t practical, really. We have to ride snowmobiles to get to the trailhead. You just can’t move 100 people that way , particularly not in the far north where communities are smaller and resources are more limited. Yet, True Patriot Love funds MANY programs across Canada throughout a year. So, our goal is $600,000 dollars, but it is only spread out across 12 people. Of the total of 20 of us, a few are guides and the rest are military and they are not expected or required to fundraise very much. This trip is meant to be more of an treat, and to show our appreciation to them, and to start mentoring each other.
So, if you do the math — I’ll do it for ya! 🙂 — each of us needs to raise $50,000 ($50,000 x 12 = $600,000). So THAT is why I have such a big goal! True Patriot Love supplies funding for so many programs across Canada, they need the money and there aren’t many of us going on the trip. They do have other fundraising activities throughout the year, which adds to their annual budget, but they don’t exactly do 20 of these expeditions a year! They are few, and I feel very lucky and special to be able to join in on this one.

In other news… I passed my medical this week, so it just got a lot more real! Apparently, I’m healthy! I mean, I have aches and pains occasionally, like anyone, but I’m healthy enough to go on this trip. They were checking some interesting things like “Mean Corpuscular Volume.” I have no idea what that is, but wikipedia says it is the average size of a red blood cell. Good to know! Apparently, mine are normal! 🙂

That’s all for now! I’ll include my fundraising link again! If your budget will allow, please be generous! Here’s a little more math: if all my donations are $20, I will need 2500 donors! That’s not realistic. If my friends gave $100, I would still need 500 friends. So, give as much as you can and enter the ranks of the elite givers! 😀 You guys rock! I have a few other fundraising ideas up my sleeve, which I’ll announce soon.

Take care, everyone! And happy #BellLetsTalk day!

My Next BIG Adventure

Posted on Updated on

There’s a reason this blog is entitled Adventures With Teresa! As most if you know, every now and then, I seem to find myself having some seriously unique adventures! This time, it’s really big!

It all started when I got a subscription to Explore magazine. Reading about other people’s adventures is so much fun, and it makes me want to go on my own! img_0335Over Christmas, I was catching up on past issues of Explore, and I read a really great article about a man and his Husky dog who walked the Akshayuk Pass, on Baffin Island. They went 200 km! The dog had his own little sled to pull — it was very cute and the dog looked like he was having the time of his life! Then, in the next Explore mag, I saw an article about a canoe trip involving military soldiers, veterans and regular people. It sounded like they had an amazing trip. With all my canoe experience, I could imagine them bonding around the campfire.
The canoe trip was organized by an organization called True Patriot Love. I had never heard of them, so I went to their website. They fundraise to support military and veterans services. I clicked on the “Get Involved” tab, abd then I saw “Expeditions.” So of course I had to click on that! The very first thing I saw was an all-women Snowshoeing expedition on Baffin Island, traversing the Akshayuk Pass — the one I just read about!! Oh man. I LOVE snowshoeing, and as I kept reading about it, I become hooked! This would be sooo fun!
I told Darren about it. He said, “so, um, if it’s all women, you don’t need me to come, right?” He is the love of my life and we are two peas in a pod, but he just doesn’t quite share my (ridiculous? Crazy?) love for big adventures!!
baffin island and tent
So, long story short: I contacted True Patriot Love. They still had room and were happy to have me join. Last weekend, I flew to southern Ontario to meet a bunch of the ladies and the main guide. I had a great time, so I am IN! Woo hoo! It’s not all fun and games, ur, snowshoeing, however! I am FUNDRAISING to support True Patriot Love. Each civilian going has been asked to raise $50,000! If you would like to help support our soldiers and veterans — and their families — in their physical and mental health, please go to my fundraising page! I am paying all my own expenses for this trip, so all the money you donate is tax refundable and goes straight to the cause. 😀

Stay tuned for more posts! I am already training for the trip, which for now is essentially going snowshoeing several times a week. I will keep you updated as things unfold. I have lots of gear to buy (like a sleeping bag rated to -40C! Gasp!) and many, many adventures to come!

Shearing Day!

Posted on

Shearing day is always an exciting day on the farm! It only comes once a year, and by the time it comes, the alpacas are super-fluffy and I feel like they are looking forward to it!

Daisy and Marley the morning of shearing.

In the photo above, Daisy and Marley are definitely wondering what’s up, since we never close them in the barn using that half-door.

The shearers are a 2-person man-woman team that we’ve used for a couple of years. They called while we were having breakfast to ask if they could come earlier — in half an hour instead of at 11:00 am! Ack! So we were a little rushed getting ready for them to arrive, but it actually went really smoothly. I had bought more harnesses so that we had one for everyone, and that helped too.

Most of the alpacas walked really well on their harnesses/leashes, which is amazing considering we really don’t practice with them. Alex was born last year, so it was his first time on a harness, being led and being sheared. He did the usual bucking around, but he walked okay. He did NOT like getting sheared — he cried the whole time. Poor little guy! He did seem pretty happy afterwards, however!

That’s Alex in the foreground and Ziggy behind.

It was really nice to be able to see Alex’s eyes! He’s been so fuzzy, we haven’t been able to see them! The sun must seem really bright to them after having such long bangs.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta scratch!

I was worried that Alex was a bit small for a yearling, but the shearer said that he looks normal, or even a little big, to her! So that’s good.  (Remember when he was born? What a cutie!) It could just be because he and Boeing are friends, and Boe is a big fella.

Boeing is our gentle giant, the white fella. He and Alex are clearly buddies.

After shearing was done, everyone was tired and hungry (and happy… trust me, I can tell).

Marley having a nap in the sun


Fozzie in the foreground, and although he is laying down, he’s also eating.

Don’t you just love how the shearers leave little legwarmers? It helps protect their legs from mosquito bites, and keeps them warm in winter.

Check out those legwarmers!


Ziggy, just chillin’

They have to be sheared in summer so they have enough time to grow a coat before winter. Mid-June is a bit late, actually, but I’m sure these guys will be okay. They produce a LOT of fibre!

For months, I’ve been saying, “look how fluffy you are! You’re getting so BIG!” and now I am saying “look how skinny you are!”

After shearing is the only time I can see their bodies, and know if they are underweight, overweight, or just right. They all look good, except maybe Miss Uki (she looks a little skinny).

MIss Uki after shearing

Daisy got to wear her harness a little longer than everyone else. When she was done, we just unclipped the leash and she ran away! So we had to catch her a while later and take the harness off. Luckily, alpacas can still eat and drink while wearing one. You an see her in the distance behind Fozzie below:

Fozzie with the girls (Daisy on the left) behind him.

The reason the shearers came early was because at their first stop, the sheep were all wet! So, to give them a chance to dry, they came and did our alpacas first. Apparently, shearing wet sheep is akin to hell bent over! The boys were a little damp, so I spread the fibre out in the sun to dry. Doesn’t it look glorious? Boeing’s fleece is white, Ziggy cinnamon brown, Fozzie brown/black,and Alex dark brown with sun-bleached tips. 🙂

Alex’s fleece had a lot of straw in it, so I spent a while picking it out. It is SOOOO soft. Best time ever!

And hey, a good friend of mine featured Daisy’s first cut fleece in a video! You can watch it here:

I’ve actually been working on processing the fibre lately! There are 3 steps before I can start knitting it: de-dusting it, carding, then spinning. I could also wash it, but it isn’t absolutely necessary as long as I get the dust out. I have a mesh table that I fluff it on. My grandma gave me her drum carder and spinning wheel and I spent a day carding the fibre at home and then another day with her while she taught me how to spin. I was SO terrible at it, but apparently, that’s normal for beginners. There is no such thing as beginner’s luck in spinning! She kept teasing me, saying I was making a rope! It was way too thick. But I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

That’s all for now, everyone! Take care!

Here are a couple more “before” pictures to enjoy!

Alex before shearing
Boeing… after a dirt bath! No longer a white alpaca!