Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Semiannual Plant Repotting Dance Party!

For the past few months, it has been painfully apparent that my plants at work needed some attention. I had rooted some spider plant offshoots in.... March? April? I can't remember - it was that long ago. The Princesses had been confined under the desk since about then as well, when I discovered they were suffering yet another spider mite infestation. (Damn mites.) Things were looking a little ragged and unkempt, and I had adopted two more plants and assumed responsibility for Kim's succulents in the meantime. So the cleanup was well overdue.
If you had walked past my desk, this is what you would have seen - plus another piece of plastic enclosing the Princesses under the desk. It looked terrible.
The main plant area. On the desk, back row, l-r: white-stripe spider plant; Vancouver Centennial geranium; solid spider plant. Desk, front row: spider plant babies; a mixed pot of succulents (Kim's); donkey's tail (Kim's); more spider plant babies. Under the desk: the saddest Princesses. On the white table: fuchsia. Then two aloes on the right, the matron (the original plant from my Mom's ancient aloe) and an incredibly prolific plant.
Area #2. A giant fern on the floor, and the table holds...
... Two aloes (the front one is Kim's); A mixed planter of succulents from the local plant sale; and a pot with three mystery plants.
So I came in at 5, and got to work. The Princesses were suffering from YET ANOTHER mite attack - so they went in the garbage. Seriously. They were gorgeous (they were parrot's beaks, aka Impatiens niamniamensis) but they'd been plagued by mites ever since we picked up the fuchsias (Kim had one too) and a welsh onion for free. The mites hitched in on the onion - and took up firm residence in the princesses. The onion got tossed about two years ago, but I tried so hard to save my Princesses... Alas, they have succumbed/been tossed. I can look into locating another in the future.

So, a full 6 hours later, and I have finished repotting, rearranging, cleaning, and watering.
The new view from my desk
The desk. On top, back row l-r: white stripe spider plant; geranium; solid spider plant. Front row: Kim's mixed succulents; my mixed succulents; and Kim's huge donkey's tail. Underneath: Kim's aloes; an aloe I'm holding for a friend; and the mixed mystery pot - now down to two plants.
The babies: a geranium I'm attempting to propagate; the spider plants; and the baby aloes - all 7 of them came from one pot!
The tall plants: the aloe matron; the prolific aloe; and the huge fern.
I sent a white stripe spider plant and the fuchsia over to keep my colleague's coffee plant company.

The white stripe spider plant originally looked so full because it had split into two plants, so they got separated. The solid plant has also split, but it's not to the point that I want to battle it to split it (it's hard!). The prolific aloe, which is one of the last repotting's babies from the matron, gave me seven babies, and was putting up an eighth which I accidentally destroyed. The pot was waaaaaaay too small and she was prone to falling over, so she got repotted into a larger pot, and her 7 babies will be sold if they all root in the next month or so. The spider plant babies will also be sold or given away - there's 12 there that need to go next week. The geranium propagation is an experiment - I have no idea if it's going to work, but the main plant is getting nice and big and the missing cutting isn't terribly noticeable. The mystery pot and the fern are my two recent adoptions - the mystery pot came from an event in town that a coworker attended, and the fern belonged to another coworker (who got it from yet another coworker) and they have moved on to other opportunities.

I must say - it looks a lot better over here now, especially without the Princesses and their quarantine shelter.

(And a disclaimer: I have NO IDEA what I am doing with any of these plants, really. They get watered once a week, and I haven't lost any other than the Princesses (damn mites). My terminology is all wrong; I don't know the Latin name for any of these and can only identify half with any certainty. So if you want to try your hand at greening your work space or living space, take everything here with a box of salt, and a liberal dash of common sense - and Google or another gardening resource or mentor.)

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Clearing Snow

I know it's been a while, and I'm sorry for it. The delay is caused by a few factors, including: being busy with other things; needing more down-time; a lack of all things farm-related to post about (we didn't even do a garden this past year); and, if we're being honest (which I am), just generally being fed up with living here.

A very quick update before I get into the real topic of this post:
- The chickens have gone to live with a friend. Their egg production, while still good, was slowing. Our friend had a buff orpington roo, and borrowed our girls to hatch some new hens. These, along with other chicks, were taken out by a coyote attack :( So we gave her our birds, including Foghorn, along with some feed and the nest boxes I'd built. We might do meat birds again, and just butcher them all - we'll see.
- Jordan has been working on a trade, and has successfully achieved his red seal certification for fourth class power engineer. He's now focused on getting his third class. (Power engineering is set up differently than other trades in that other trades are first year, second year, etc while power engineering is fourth class, third class, etc and does not go by "year", per se, but rather the Safety Authority exams and the hours worked.)
- We got a puppy! His name is Baran and he is a cocker spaniel. He comes complete with the usual cocker issues, including but not limited to: extreme submission, including submissive urination; excited urination; ear infections; and overwhelming cuteness. He's just finished a round of antibiotics to knock out a possible bladder infection, which may be the source of his 'triggerless' urination (basically running and peeing without being scared, submissive, or excited).
A very young Baran - this is a photo from the breeder

Baran in September, at 7 months old.

So, on to the reason for this post: I want to document the reasons behind our snow-clearing plan this year.

In past years, we've used the quad with the snow blade attachment to clear our snow. This takes a lot of time, and heavy, wet snows are particularly hard on both the quad and the blade. Additionally, we could only push the snow so high before we had to get someone in to push the banks back for us and give us more room to pile the snow. This first two winters, we used a local excavating company, and the owner (one of our far neighbours) would come by with his front-end loader with a large blade in place of the bucket and push our banks back. Last year, we learned that fuel costs had made this service uneconomical for him and prohibitively expensive for us, so he recommended another much closer neighbour who has a snow blower on the back of his tractor. This worked wonderfully last year and was much cheaper.

This year, after a few discussions, we decided to use this neighbour exclusively, and limit our use of the quad. There are a few reasons that this made more sense for us this year:
- We have both joined the gym, which means we are spending less time at home. Adding snow clearing on top of this would have added way too much stress, for me at least.
- Last winter, we bought a Nissan Xterra to replace the car, a Chrysler Sebring. The Sebring could not handle much snow - she was notorious for slipping the fan belt off at the worst time, due to a missing belt guard that would normally block the area from becoming packed with snow. She also had many miles on her, and was starting to encounter other serious problems (the starter, the suspension, etc). The Xterra can handle much deeper snow. Four-by-four and greater ground clearance, when combined with studded winter tires, makes it a wonderful vehicle in the snow. You may recall that our other vehicle is a one-ton pickup, which is also equipped with four-by-four and outfitted with studded winters. This means that we did not have to be quite so attentive to, or stressed about, the depth of the snow on our road.
- We are not broke. We are not rich by any means, but we can afford the cost of getting our neighbour to clear the road when needed.
- We have a deal with our neighbour that he only comes by when we call him. I believe he does most of his other clients 'unprompted' (as in, he clears when he sees an accumulation that would be difficult for a car, without waiting for them to call him), which works out to more frequently than we would need our road cleared.
- By not using the quad, we are reducing the fuel and maintenance costs.
- The lock on the shop is prone to freezing, making it difficult to open. The less we have to unlock it, the better.
- And last, but certainly not least, contracting our neighbour has greatly reduced my stress level every time it starts snowing.

And nature has given us a perfect example to illustrate why this is the best choice for us, in my opinion. Yesterday morning, our predicted snowfall at the airport was 2 cm. (We often get more snow and lower winter temperatures than the airport does.) There was already some snow on our road - about 3-4 inches worth. Jordan and I had a date planned: take the dogs snowshoeing, go see the new Star Wars film, and go out for dinner. As the morning turned to afternoon, it was clear that we were getting more than the predicted amount of snow; a quick recheck of the weather forecast indicated that we now had a snowfall warning for 15 cm. And this snow came with wind too. The road was snowed over as we left to snowshoe; when we returned an hour and a half later, our previous tire tracks were now invisible under at least 6-8 inches of snow. We left again 45 minutes later, our tracks again obscured. When we finally returned home after 6 hours, we easily had a foot of snow in the 'low' spots and drifts up to two feet high in two areas. These were no problem for the Xterra. It continued to snow overnight, and Jordan had no problems getting out in the morning in the truck. I called our neighbour, and he came to clear our road with the tractor - and it took him 20 minutes. 20 minutes! It would have taken me AT LEAST 3 hours; I would have been stressed, cold, wet, and miserable; and the dogs would have been cold and wet as well. Add to that the fuel and maintenance on the quad, the other plans I had for today, and the fact that he cleared not only the road, but the entire turnaround area in front of the shop and longhouse plus Jordan's half of the driveway - and paying to get the job done is clearly the best choice.

And if we break it down to just money: we pay $50 for our neighbour to clear snow. I make $27-something an hour at work; Jordan makes over $30. Fuel for 3 hours would probably be about $15; I'll put maintenance at $15 for 3 hours as well (the winch needs some work, and the blade is getting pretty bent up; we'd likely have to replace both by the end of the winter if they were used heavily). It would 'cost' us over twice our neighbour's rate to do the job ourselves.

I am very pleased with our decision.


I think I will continue to use the blog do post about non-farm related things. I'll definitely give an update on the house, and on the puppy (who is now 10.5 months old) - but who knows what other topics may be included!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Princesses, and Phoebe

You recall my last post on the Princesses, right?  Well, I'm happy to report that after a few weeks of sadness, they are now doing amazing!
18Feb - Propogation day

21Feb - Droopy! This is why I named them 'Princess'

8Mar - Already putting out flowers!
And Princess One is now furiously putting out new shoots.  I might keep her just to continue propogating new impatiens - come fall, I'm going to be swimming in them at this rate!

In other news, we are down to seven hens - Phoebe died a couple weeks ago. We couldn't determine the cause of death, as she had no predator marks, had been eating and drinking, and had no sign of health issues. So we've chalked it up to natural causes, and have been keeping an eye on everyone else, who seem to be doing just fine.

Aside from Phoebe, things are good here. We had a windstorm yesterday, and I'm happy to report no damage and only 5 small power outtages, lasting from 5 seconds to 20 minutes each.  Large chunks of the city were without power all day yesterday and into today - proof that town living doesn't guarantee a consistent power supply.

Well, time to go visit the chickens!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why I took a break from the blog

Hi, folks.

Just a heads up: this post is going to have very, very little content related to the farm.

So, as you likely noticed, we've been fairly silent since October. This wasn't a planned absence - I came home from a knife-sharpening workshop in early November and hand-wrote a blog post with the intention of posting it - but the stars kind of aligned and kept me away from this space. I wasn't checking other blogs, either. I missed reading posts from my friends (as I count most blogs I follow to be friends, especially Buttons and Tessa) and I missed updating you all on what was happening in our life. As such, I'm making a conscious effort to reconnect with you, and make our lives available to you as well.

As you may know, both Jordan and I work full time. Jordan is extra busy right now, studying and writing tests to advance his career goals, and I am busy with work as well.  I'm a library technician at a small academic university, and I manage all of our online resources. This includes ensuring our users, both students and faculty, can access online books and journals, article indexes, and specialized resources (including 3D anatomy modelling!) that the university spends a lot of money on. I turn it on and make sure we are providing proper access points; I troubleshoot when users, or myself, can't get access to what is needed; I turn resources off at the end of our access period; I do some work with off-campus authentication so users can access the resources from work, home, or wherever their research (or vacations) take them; and I provide support to our Collections and Acquisitions librarian so she has the information she needs to make decisions regarding our e-resources. In addition, I provide 4 hours of reference a week - answering research, citation, and access questions. Right now, I'm slotted to contribute all my reference hours on chat reference with users from post-secondary institutions across BC and the Yukon (as opposed to face-to-face reference with our users).

As you can imagine, this means that I have 35 hours a week staring at a computer. I really enjoy my job, and I love my career path, for so many reasons - but all of the computer work I do to get paid means I'm not super enthusiastic to come home and spend more time with the computer.  I spent a good portion of December and January battling headaches at work, and it turned out my glasses prescription needed to be updated. But this meant that looking at the screen hurt like heck for a few weeks, and I was forcing myself to look away at least once an hour to get make it through the day.

I've also been busy with Zim. We've been at school two nights a week since August. It's been going great (more on that in an upcoming post), but as I'm struggling to avoid burnout, I will be taking a break from class for a bit. I plan to make some of the equipment (with Jordan's help) so we can keep practicing at home, but I'm also looking forward to taking a break from all extracurricular activities (except my work with the union at work - I am in a position with a two-year term, which ends next January) and try to regain my balance and sanity.

If we had the snow load that we had last year, I would have lost my mind this winter. I'm not exaggerating - last year's snow was so hard on us and it was a struggle to keep up. We also bought a small SUV for me, which has decreased my winter stress (look for a post about that soon too).

Anyway, I'm currently attending a conference related to my job: Electronic Resources and Libraries, or ER&L.  The conference is in Texas, but they offer online attendance as well, which is about 10% of the total cost to attend in person. But the conference is on Texas time, so it starts at 6:45 am local time, and we live out in the sticks without "real" internet, so I am attending from Kim's house in town. I brought Zim in with me yesterday, and he'll join me tomorrow too (as it's his last class tomorrow), but today it was just me with Doodle and Pongo. And Pongo likes to sing. So I will leave you, for today, with a quick video of my favourite shelties singing the song of their people during a break between conference sessions.

And, rest assured: I am making an effort to be present on the blog. I'll be back soon with more news from the last few months.