Making Hay, 2020 Edition!

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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. 🙂

Welcome Rupert!! Our New Cria

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We have a new cria!

Last July, Ziggy had a few minutes with Daisy and look who got born 11-and-a-half months later!! When the shearer was here, he noticed that Daisy was pregnant and expecting soon (there are ways to tell!) so I checked my little farm notebook and sure enough — Daisy was expecting ANY DAY!! Two days after shearing, little Rupert came into our world.

Although he is the 6th alpaca to be born on the farm, this is the first time we got to watch it happen! All the other times, we were not home when the little ones were born. This time, I was checking Daisy every hour and we got to see it ALL! IT WAS AMAZING!!

Rupert was trying to get up within a minute of being born, and he seemed very energetic! After many tries — his balance was so off and his legs were so wobbly! — he stood up! Within a short time, he found his mama’s milk — something we are always nervous about — and he nursed. He rested some too but seemed to be perfectly healthy and vibrant. My heart smiles!

We are so pleased with how he and Daisy are doing! She is a good mama and he seems to be thriving! You might want to follow me on Instagram at Teresas_alpaca_cam on Instagram where I try to post photos as often as I can! Of course, usually when the ‘pacas are being extra-cute, I don’t have my phone or camera with me! 😛

Alpaca Fleeces for Sale!

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I’ve been hoarding all my alpaca fleeces, but I’ve decided it’s time to sell some! This fibre is a spinner’s dream. It is great quality and I will skirt it for you (shake the dust out and pick out most second cuts and vegetable matter). They generally have 3” staple lengths or so (see photo with ruler).

If you are interested in buying some beautiful alpaca fibre from our fuzzy family, please send me an email! 🙂

The boys:

Boeing, our big white guy has excellent fibre (he won second in a contest) with lots of crimp. It’s a very dense fleece and pure white once cleaned, so you can dye it any colour! 🙂 He has a big fleece and a long staple length. Asking $25/pound.

One Boeing fleece, skirted, is a bag and a half! All other fleeces fill one bag!

Ziggy is a little guy but he also won second place in a fibre competition. His fibre is a beautiful cinnamon brown, excellent quality and spinning it might impart some of Ziggy’s zen attitude to you! Asking $20/pound (generally about 2 pounds per fleece).

Frankie is Ziggy’s boy (also cinnamon brown) and they are very hard to tell apart! Right now we only have 2 of his fleeces (because he only 2 yrs old)! His fleece is also excellent quality and nice and soft, and we’re willing to part with one. $20/pound.

Fozzie is our only black alpaca, but you’ll notice the tips of his fibre do bleach out a bit from the sun. His fibre is soft and crimpy. $20/pound.

Alex is Fozzie’s son and his fibre is really soft! It’s a touch lighter so I’m calling it brown/black and the tips really lighten in the sun. Asking $20/pound.

The girls:

Marley is a big girl — she’s like a linebacker! — and she grows a very nice cinnamon brown fleece too. Asking $20/pound.

Daisy is a lovely light fawn colour and she has grown some beautiful fleeces. I gave one to a friend and she spun it and weaved it into a gorgeous tapestry! It’s soft and has a good staple length, and it’s light enough, you could probably dye it other colours. $20/pound.

Miss Uki is Daisy’s mama and we have no idea how old she is! She was one of our original alpacas, so we have several of her light fawn fleeces! Sometimes, the staple length and quality suffers a little due to her being pregnant or nursing. She’s had 4 cria for us in 5 years (she’s a good mama)! $15/pound.

If you would like it cleaned, contact us to discuss a price. If you would like it carded, we could talk about a price for that, too! We also have quite a bit of second-grade fibre (mainly from their necks) that can be used for pillow stuffing (in batts), or needle felting. It is not really suitable for spinning. It certainly is not as soft or fine, and it has some guard hairs in it from the chest area (visible in Marley’s photo). Contact me to discuss getting some of this second-grade fibre.

Please leave a comment or email me if you are interested in buying some Fozzie, Boeing, Ziggy, Frankie, Alex, Daisy, Uki or Marley!


Trying to Understand

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I am trying to understand what a person of colour in the US has to endure. I am trying to imagine their hardship and the discrimination they experience every day. I can’t imagine being singled out by police, harassed and arrested simply because I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time and I have the wrong colour skin.
Since university, I’ve been a minority because of my gender. I went into Physics and there were not very many women in my classes. But I never really felt like I was discriminated against. I had to work hard, for sure, and I was not at the top of my class, but that was my own doing. The material was hard and I had to really apply myself to it… and balance work, and a small degree of poverty. I ended up at a food bank a few times, but at least there was one I could go to. And since I had to work, it took time away from my studies but at least I had a job. I could never afford to live near the university — I always had to go for cheaper rental units farther away — and I couldn’t always afford a bus pass, so I walked a lot. But, despite my difficulties, I never felt like anyone was against me. When times got tough, I just dug in and kept at it. I come from hard, pioneer stock.
I wonder if my pioneering ancestors contribute to my success. Not literally, of course, but if I look into my heritage, I have farmers on my mom’s and dad’s sides. They worked hard and didn’t let small things like the depression, poverty or terrible weather that seemed to conspire against the farmers stop them. My grandmother had to leave “the old country” at the age of 18 and has talked of the oppression she experienced there. One of my great-grandmothers was forced to flee her country at one point and worked on the railroad and eventually walked back home. Can you imagine?
I can’t imagine having slavery as my heritage. I can’t imagine thinking of my grand- or great-grandparents and knowing they were kidnapped from their homeland, forced into boats to a new land where they became another person’s property. I was never anyone’s property, although my ex-husband probably thought of me that way. But my heritage allowed me to dodge his attempts to control and belittle me, and before too long I was able to leave and be free.
Isn’t that what everyone who is enslaved wants? To be free? But how can you be free of your heritage, your past? If you fight against it, you can never change it. All you can do is fight in the present, against those who seem stuck in the past, who seem intent on oppressing and owning others.
The ironic part of it all is what you fight grows. The only way to be free from something is to find a way beyond it. As long as it angers you, it still has its ugly claws dug in. As long as you hate, your own body chemistry is poisoned and you fight disease as well as discrimination. But how to stop fighting when it is the only thing you think will help?
Racism is ugly, and it has no place in this world. The best way beyond it is to give it no attention. If you think about it, the best way to respond to someone you don’t like is to not respond. The best thing to do to an ex-boy-or-girlfriend who won’t leave you alone is do nothing. Don’t engage. About two weeks into President Tr*#@p’s reign, I had to stop giving him my attention. His stance seemed pretty obvious so I made a conscious decision to stop giving any attention or energy to him. Why would I? He does not deserve it. I carefully choose what and who to give my energy to.
I give my energy to a vision of coloured people and minorities everywhere being celebrated as the wonderful, unique beings they are. I give my energy to noticing talent, skill, intelligence and beauty wherever I see it, and skin colour is the least of my consideration. I am doing my best not to judge others by how they appear, what they wear or what part of town they live in. I want to acknowledge that I have some degree of privilege and then watch for opportunities to help others, no matter their heritage. I make a new future from the ashes of a world that is burning up under the weight of its hatred, fear, and anger. There is so much love and light to be found, mixed in with darker sides, and that’s alright. The light always wins; that’s why the darkness tries so hard. It doesn’t want to accept the fact that it is doomed.
Every single one of us has a role to play on this beautiful world we call home, together. We all have an equal opportunity to make an impact on it. We may never even know the impact we make; it may seem small, or it may only impact one person, but one person encouraged or uplifted is enough. It is the first ripple in the pond. You know what? That analogy sucks. The pond is full of tidal waves and tsunamis. We can be the first huge wave that sloshes over the seawall to put out the fires that burn beyond.

I wonder if my heritage was one of slavery, how would I feel about myself? Would I grow up feeling like a helpless victim? If I rehearsed that train of thought, I might start to feel like everyone is against me and I can’t do anything about it. That’s a very disempowering state to be in. The only time in my life I felt suicidal was after weeks of thinking like a victim, and feeling trapped. Thankfully, I did not act on those thoughts. So, although it feels stronger to fight and lash out, in some ways, what’s going on is suicidal on more of a social scale.
But maybe I’m on crack. Maybe I am way off the mark! Or maybe if a few billion people unfollowed the haters, the racists and the insane leaders, they would lose their influence over society. Would it be possible to go on without them? While we can’t work around the police, could we give them less attention? Go about our lives, doing our best to be whole and complete despite them? If you ever doubt the impact one person can have, think of that cop who decided to kneel on a man’s neck. He started a shitstorm. Let’s not be like him, not even in the tiniest way. Let’s be the opposite, in a proactive way, not an angry way. Let’s find ways to promote peace and understanding. Let’s find ways to bring others to life.

Forest Labyrinth

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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! 😀

Easy, Delicious Ice Cream Cake

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I am catching up on my blogging, and I wanted to share a recipe for Ice Cream Cake that is so easy, you won’t buy them from anywhere anymore! I actually made two – one that’s chocolatey and one with raspberries!

You will need:
– A springform pan like this one:
spring-form pan
– A cookie sheet or another pan that the springform pan can sit in.
– A freezer with enough room to hold the cake while it sets. You might want to go see if you have room and make a flat space big enough for the cookie sheet now! At the minimum, you have to freeze the springform pan, but it’s a bonus if you can fit the cookie sheet too. A large chest freezer is best.

Chocolate Supreme Ice Cream Cake



2 containers of ice cream, 1.5 quart (1.4 L) each (image at the bottom of this post)

Two-bite brownies, in a 800 gram tub (scroll down for image)

    • *Save 3 br
    ownies for the top*
    • 10 packag
    es of Kit Kat chocolate bars
    3 packages of Ferrero Rocher chocolates (a total of 9 balls), or whatever other chocolate you like
    1 roll of Rolos, or whatever chocolate you like
    A small amount of dark chocolate, such as 1 bar of dark chocolate or a square of dark baker’s chocolate
    Chocolate sundae sauce


1. Take the ice cream out of the freezer for about 20 minutes to let it soften a little. Meanwhile, make space in your freezer to put the cake when you are done.
2. Put the springform pan on the cookie sheet. Carefully open the Kit Kats and place them standing up inside the pan, facing out. They will be taller than the pan but don’t worry about that.
3. Cover the bottom of the pan with one layer of two-bite brownies. Put some in upside down to help them fit together snuggly. Cut some brownies into thirds or quarters to fit in between the gaps. Don’t fuss over it too much, though!
4. Scoop the chocolate ice cream in, filling the pan up about half way. Embed some rolos and Ferrero Roches inside the chocolate ice cream. Every now and then, drizzle some chocolate sauce too.
5. Keep filling the pan with chocolate ice cream, chocolates and sauce until you run out. Place 3 brownies on the top, centered (or whatever you fancy). Shave some dark chocolate on top and/or drizzle some more chocolate sauce!
6. Place in the freezer, nice and level, for at least 2 hours. You can definitely make this a day ahead and it will be fine. Take it out of the freezer for 10 min before serving, or it will be very hard to cut. Keep it on the cookie sheet or other serving tray because it will start to melt and make a mess! Don’t forget to take the outer ring of the springform pan off! It works well to cut pieces 3 Kit Kat bars wide, which will give you 13 servings.

Vanilla Raspberry Chocolate Ice Cream Cake



    2 containers of vanilla ice cream, 1.5 quart (1.4 L) each
    800 gram tub of two-bite brownies
    10 packages of Kit Kat chocolate bars (In the photo, I ran out of Kit Kats but had another type of similar chocolate bars)
    3/4 cup raspberry jam
    A small amount of dark chocolate, such as 1 bar of dark chocolate or a square of dark baker’s chocolate
    2 cups frozen raspberries (save 1/2 cup for the top)


Follow steps 1- 3 above.
4. Add scoops of vanilla ice cream and random raspberries until the pan is halfway full. Smooth out the ice cream.
5. Spread the raspberry jam in a layer on the ice cream. Fill the rest of the pan with scoops of ice cream and randomly added raspberries until you run out of ice cream. Smooth the top. Place your last raspberries on top and then shave some dark chocolate on it as well!
6. Place in the freezer, nice and level, for at least 2 hours. You can definitely make this a day ahead and it will be fine. Take it out of the freezer for 10 min before serving, or it will be very hard to cut. Keep it on the cookie sheet or other serving tray because it will start to melt and make a mess! Don’t forget to take the outer ring of the springform pan off before cutting it! It works well to cut pieces 3 Kit Kat bars wide, which will give you 13 servings.

I have to be honest with you — I am going off of memory here! You should probably buy double the ice cream, just in case. 🙂
Enjoy, everyone! You can see how easy this is and you can customize it however you like! 😀

Pumpkin Pie Ginger Cookies

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I had a can of pureed pumpkin in my cupboard that I have been meaning to make into something. The other day, I made these Breakfast Cookies (delicious!) but I only had enough rolled oats to make a half batch. I had still had over half a can of pumpkin left, so I decided to make some more cookies. I could not find a recipe that was quite what I wanted, so I INVENTED ONE! You know how risky this is!?!?

They turned out pretty good, so I am sharing the recipe here! I had started with this recipe, but it really doesn’t resemble it much anymore!

Pumpkin Pie Ginger cookies


These are just like pumpkin pie filling, but you can eat it with your fingers…
#vegan #glutenfree #dairyfree #onebowl #delicious

1/2 cup coconut oil (instead of butter)
2/3 cup organic sugar
Roughly 1/2 of a 14oz/398mL can of pureed pumpkin (not pie filling, just pureed pumpkin) Honestly, I did not measure. Go with what your gut says! 🙂
1 chia egg replacement (1 tbsp chia seeds in 3 tbsp water, and let sit for 10+ min)
1/4 cup diced candied ginger (the kind that is chewy and coated in sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt (fine-grained)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut a piece of parchment paper and place on a baking stone or cookie sheet.

Cream the coconut oil and sugar together with a spoon. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well. This could take over a minute. Add all dry ingredients to the bowl and mix very well (another minute).

Shape into cookies however you like. It is fun to make falafel using 2 table spoons/soup spoons!

Place onto parchment on the baking stone and bake for 15-20 min. Cookies will be very soft, but you will see some cracks and slight browning to let you know they are done. Take out of oven and carefully transfer the whole parchment paper (with cookies along for the ride) to a cutting board or the counter. To bake additional batches, place a new piece of parchment paper on the stone/cookie sheet.
Let cookies cool a bit before trying one! They are delicious! They will firm up a little when fully cool. They are like pumpkin pie without any crust!

Makes approx 26 cookies.

Variations to try: real egg or another egg alternative, other flours instead of almond, butter instead of coconut oil, add a little Allspice… If you make a variation, let me know how it turns out! 🙂

#recipe #pumpkinpie #cookies

A Little Encouragement for Canadians re: COVID19

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Hello everyone!
I just wanted to share this graph I made, using the daily reports on the Alberta Government website. These numbers are real.
Graphing the growth of confirmed cases of COVID in Alberta

You will see the blue line is confirmed cases. The orange line is new cases that day. The dots are the exponential growth of COVID when that number doubles every 2 days (which I read about here) We probably would have seen numbers like that if we had not done the social distancing we are doing.

Highly populated places have a hard time containing this virus, but it can be done. I am so proud of how Albertans have responded and just wanted to encourage you to KEEP IT UP! It is NOT time to relax the social isolating or physical distancing you’ve been doing. It is WORKING! KEEP IT UP!

The graph for the US (source), as of today is not looking so good:
graph of growth of COVID in the US
There are many, many reasons for this, I am sure. One friend pointed out that perhaps we have more unreported cases, or unconfirmed cases, since people are being told to stay home. It’s hard to say. But if you are on the fence about this, just isolate.

May you live in interesting times. – Chinese curse

These are interesting times alright. But they do not have to be a curse. Keep in mind the hardest thing you will ever try to do is make someone do something they don’t want to do. We can’t make people isolate. We can’t make people pay attention, or think they are indestructible, or think ANYTHING else. All we can do is choose our own actions, which includes how we think about what’s going on. So, please, don’t worry, but don’t be foolish.

The graph for Canada (source) looks more like exponential growth.
grwoth of COVID19 in Canada
This makes me wonder why we haven’t been able to “flatten the curve” as a nation. I guess that’s something we need to work on.

Take care, everyone! Keep taking care of each other as I know you have been. I’ll blog about that soon!

If anyone has a graph for the other provinces, I would love to share those here too. Thx 😀

DIY Reusable Humidifier Filter

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Hi everyone! I know I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’ve so been busy! I wanted to share a simple practical thing that I made.
We always run our humidifier in winter to make the air more tolerable. The replacement filters used to work great, but we’ve noticed the last few we bought are really poor quality. We used to be able to rinse and reuse them easily, but now they disintegrate. It’s like they used to be made with plastic and now they use cardboard, which degrades when wet. So, with my knitting prowess :), I decided to knit a reusable cotton filter!
This is our humidfier. It’s a Honeywell (model HCM-6013IC), and we have no complaints about it except the filters. But if you have a different model, I bet you can adapt my filter to work with yours!

First, I decided to make a wooden frame for the filter to hang on.

The filter is round, so I cut two half circles and joined them, then added posts to stand on. If I did it again, I would be a little more careful about how I joined the two half-circles. I did not drill large enough pilot holes, so when I put the second screw in, the wood cracked. 😦 Next, I knitted the filter! Here I am trying out the filter (knitting needles still attached).

A little detail for the knitters out there: I used ordinary worsted-weight cotton,the exact same yarn you would make washcloths out of. I used 8 mm needles for knitting in the round, which makes a very holey fabric. Whatever you use needs to wick water well (say that three times fast!) and have lots of holes for air to move through. I think I cast on about 95 stitches, but since everyone’s gauge is different, you ought to knit a swatch, measure your filter/humdifier and cast-on accordingly. 🙂 Message me if you need help with this step — I’d be happy to help!

The filter works great! We soaked it thoroughly and hung it over the frame with the ends dangling in the water tray. It works great and should be almost infinitely reusable! This is the filter about two months later. Still going strong, and I’m so glad we don’t have to buy those disposable ones anymore!


If you have a similar humidifier, you have GOT to make something similar and leave a comment when you do!

New Growth

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I am sucker for plants for sale at hardware stores. Sometimes, I want to take them home and nurse them back to health. Other times, they are well-cared-for and they look so lush and vibrant, I can’t resist buying them. Such was the case with a beautiful, blooming African Violet.
I put it in a spot in the living room where it lived for a long time. I transplanted it once and it grew more, although it did not bloom that much. I didn’t mind; it was still lovely to me. Then one day, I noticed that it wasn’t doing so well.
I thought that perhaps I should move it to a new spot. Maybe it needed more light than it was getting. I put in in our porch with a south-facing window, but kept it out of direct light. It should have been happier there.
It continued to go downhill. I’ll admit, in its new spot, I may have forgotten to water it occasionally! One day I noticed how rough it looked and decided to do something about it.
Sitting at the kitchen table, I carefully removed all the dead leaves. It had been two plants, side by side, but one of them had died. I pulled all the dry material off, carefully, and watered it thoroughly. I decided to keep the plant on the kitchen table so I wouldn’t forget it again.

African Violet struggling

It started to look a little better. I gave it small amounts of water more often. Today, I removed a few more small, dry leaves that I had not noticed before and I gently cleaned all its leaves off. I mixed up a batch of special plant food, just for African Violets. I watered it again, lots, careful not to wet any of its leaves. African Violets don’t like their leaves to get wet. Then I noticed something new.

Despite its straggly appearance, there was new growth in the center of it. Tiny, bright green leaves were slowly bursting out from the rosette in the middle.


I also realized something else. Although the porch has more light, it is also colder. All winter long, the door lets icy cold air in and I think my violet was struggling even more there.
Isn’t this just like life? Sometimes, in the face of a struggle, we make a move to somewhere that we think will be better. Later, we have to admit that it wasn’t, or at least life didn’t go according to plan. Some parts of life were better but other parts got worse. Sometimes, we have to look at the dead leaves in our lives — the ideas that are not serving us, or old habits that are not helping our growth. We have to trim things out of our lives and then take on some water — a metaphor for nurturing ourselves, being kind to ourselves. We must be open to living in a new space, and to letting Spirit tend to us… to be open to its pruning and guidance and love.
You’re so much more than a plant, and yet you also need light, water and nutrition. In seeking more light, you may discover you get cold. All the elements need to be optimized to really grow. When you realize you need to make a move again, be gentle and loving with yourself and remember that growth takes time. Everything is going to work out.
Whatever you do, don’t get so distracted by the dead leaves that you don’t notice the new growth at your core. The tiniest new leaves are so promising! Take heart; you are doing amazingly well.