Friday, August 7, 2015

Realizations and Relocations

There has been a lot that has happened recently.  Some good, some bad.  Others, well, it depends on how you look at it.  This road widening and the stress of not knowing how we will do it all and knowing that we wont get enough to have someone else do it.  We are not physically capable at this time to do everything that needs to be done.  See, I recently (almost 5 months ago) had a baby.  During delivery the front of my pelvis was injured.  I was left unable to walk and move without great pain for weeks.  It took three months before I could walk around the farm without a lot of pain.  But, if I choose to do that I was still left very sore and knew I wouldn't be of much use the rest of the day.  It has only been the last month that I have felt almost no pain even after walking around as much as I want.  Sitting on hard surfaces still hurts though, as does lifting anything more then 30-40 pounds.  However, I am on the mend and very grateful.  But, that has meant that most of what we had planned this year has went undone.  He cant do everything himself!  Between the farm chores, the feeding and watering of the livestock, cooking of meals, everything for three months.  Now still doing most of it, but I am at least able to do the household chores again and the smaller animals.  Just don't ask me to lift a bale of hay.  That sadly means that we are left with the options of waiting til the spring to move, try to do as much as we can this fall and moving even if everything isn't done, or having things split between the two places.  Now the geese are flying so we know that we will have a very very early winter, which is what we didn't need!  Crops will be a total failure this year too if that happens.  We have struggled with a drought for three years now.  Oh yes, and we haven't settled with the road yet.  So why even bother pushing to move this fall?   Well, besides the issues of mental health (long story), it is for the livestock.

See, I look at this road widening and the force of the move as a huge chance.  A chance for some realizations to happen.  First thing we realized over this past year with my health issues was that one person can not do this place alone.  It isn't like we have a lot to do either!  It is the set up!!!  Or lack there of.  We know now, after having the livestock, that our current set up just doesn't work.  We need things changed.  It is a change that would have happened, but this is giving us the chance to do it faster.  At least after we settle.  We have also prioritized our lives and what has to be done and it helped us realize that there are some things that we can live without.  We have already been without TV for almost two years.  This relocation of the farmyard and our home is allowing us to set everything up in a way so that one person could do the chores if something happened.  Right now you have to go to three different places just to feed the rabbits.  You have to go to the hay storage that is no where near any of the livestock to get their hay.  You have to go to the grain bins to get the oats for them as there is no place to store even small amounts near the rabbits.  Then you have to drag the hoses over to water them or haul it in buckets.  Oh and when you have to give them straw for the nest boxes you have to go to yet a different place to get it.  Takes three times as long to do anything.  Same for the goats and Jerseys and poultry.  So, one of the first things we needed to do was have a place to store the feed near each of the livestock.  As in the winter, the tractor is not always reliable.

So, even with all the stress of trying to do the move with no funds, trying to set everything back up properly, trying to recover my health, trying to make ends meet, and realizing that no matter what else we do, crops will fail again this year due to weather, so we will have no more income, this is all a blessing in disguise.  As it will help us realize what is truly important and how to improve things when we move.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Just Keeps Going Up

So, we have been slowly getting our quotes.  This is taking a lot more of our time then we initially thought it would.  Trying to figure out everything we needed quotes for.  It is very interesting what I found as I read and reread through the initial appraisal done by the dept of trans themselves.  They make comments in writing that negotiations, professional fees, and general nuisance for us are not tangible so therefore not put the appraisal. Then they said that there will be additional charges such as hotel stays, emotional stress, moving company to put everything into storage and back out again, but that it is not included in the appraisal so not covered.

Then I talk to the rep from dept of trans.  I understand that the appraisal was done by a 3rd party they hired.  And it is amazing to me how many people on our road that we have spoken to or that the rep we deal with have spoken to and none of them have these things in the appraisals.  Yet dept of trans said they would pay for them so that the people having to move are not out large amounts of money because we have no choice in the move.

So, we get told in May to get all our quotes together.  We have been working on that.  Finding some people to do quotes is proving exceedingly difficult.  Such as, I can not find a mason anywhere!  No one knows anyone that isnt retired.  There is a chimney that is built from brick that has to be removed because it connects the house to the basement, so therefore can not stay, but will need to be rebuilt and repaired.  Some of the people to get quotes from are hours away and costs us money to get them to give us quotes.  We have spent almost $1,000 just in getting the required quotes from companies already.  So we press on.  Keep getting them.  I am glad to report that we only have four quotes left to go!  The contractors have been here to get the info they need and I am just waiting on them to arrive.  So glad!!!

So, what is the damage so far?  Well, let me break it down for you:

Replace Her driveway $67,417.68
Replace our driveway and dugouts that will no longer be useable  $176,628.37
Permit to build per site $50 each for a total of $100
Replace all water and sewer lines $108,075.00
To get gas service back to both residences $15,226
For sea cans to store all the stuff while the homes are moved and repaired $2,370
To box and move everything into sea can and then back into houses afterwards $3,512.50
Travel trailer for us while the house is moved and repaired $4,158.00
Handicap motorhome for them while house is moved and repaired $17,451.00
To drop three power poles for the homes $40,500
Generator to run power to all three homes until power poles are dropped in 6 months $35,721
Replacement of the shelter belt $ 29,400
Fence replacement (remove old fence included) $20,000

Total of $520,559.55

Then we are waiting on the running of electrical to the homes from the poles
Cost of rewiring her home to bring it to code
Cost of replacing the decks we currently have and my greenhouse that is on one of the decks
The building mover to actually move the home
The cost of the new basement to replace hers, the crawl space to replace mine
The permits required for the rest of the building sites.
Replacement of the landscaping

Those things all come from four places, Electrical company, General Contractor, Permit Pro, and Landscaper.

I cant believe some of these prices.  We have gotten known companies from the area to give us the quotes.  The sewer and water line is even the company the province has on contract to do these things in this area.  I about choked when I gathered up all this so far and realized that this is going to be more then I ever expected.  This just keeps going up and up.  And nothing we have put in here isnt what we already have.  I am seriously afraid to see how high this is really going to go.  I also know from talking to other residences that have been in negotiations already, that they are countering and not giving anyone what they are asking for.  I do have every one of these quotes in writing from the companies though.  I had one contractor off hand, that does this stuff for a living tell me he estimated it would cost us around $800,000 to do everything from the size of the project.  It isnt like we want to have to do this.  We have missed out on getting one of our fields planted this year all because we have been dealing with contractors.  We have not asked for the $20,000 in lost revenue due to it not getting done while dealing with all these contractors and permitting agents and the reps themselves.  I seriously dont know what to think of all of this.  Things are so expensive up here.  Granted a gallon of milk in town is $6.10.  It just keeps going up!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Just Keeps Getting Better

Well, it seems right as we are getting a handle on everything going on, something else comes up.  Now, our county is changing by laws and it WILL affect what we can rebuild on the farm.  It would not allow a commercial processing building (which we have, but has to be rebuilt due to the road widening) on Agricultural land.  So we would be out half our income.  Much less our farm store which it simply states "no retail" and retail is defined as sale to the public.  So, now, not just dealing with the road widening and all the headaches that are coming with that, we now have to try to fight the county on some of the wording before they pass it.

Want to know what makes this even better?

They sent the letter to our grandparents that have NOT owned the farm or ran the farm since November 2013.  Our grandparents that are in Calgary.  Not to us nor to "mom" who are listed as the property owners and have been since November 2013.  And it is a legal document to boot!  So, grandma and grandpa got the letter on June 4th.  With a dead line to respond by June 2nd.  Yeah, we have had to raise hell and in the midst of everything else, try to get all the bylaws read and ready to be responded.  Oh yes, and the first reading was at their meeting on May 5th and it is set for vote on June 9th.  I wonder if there is a law that say the amount of time from first reading til it can be voted on....

Yep, another fun legality of a day lol.  I swear, this is becoming more about the legalities of trying to farm, then actually farming lately!

Want to see the new proposed bylaw?  Here it is:

Want to know the one that bites the worst????

It would REQUIRE A PERMIT to FIX MY FENCE!!!  Seriously??????  Our home quarter is a corner lot.  And as per section

3.2.1 The following developments shall not require a Development Permit provided they otherwise comply with the other provisions of this Bylaw:

3) In all districts (other then Hamlets and Rural Settlements), the erection or construction of gates, fences, walls, or any other means of enclosure (other then a corner lot or where abuttinga road used by vehicular traffice) less then 2.4m (8ft) and the MAINTENANCE, improvement and other alterations of any gates, fences, or wall or other means of enclosure.

Yeah, each building permit is $150 too.  So several times a year I have to go get a permit to repair my fences.  A car drives through them (happens about twice a year, seriously), a wind storm knocks a tree on to it, a moose goes through it, etc...  We fix fences at least once a month here.  Total BS!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Power or powerless?

So, we were told last month that we have to have everything moved by next summer for them to break ground.  Ok.  So, in the midst of trying to still farm, we have to move the farm homes and farm yard.  Ok, we got this.  Or do we?

As we have been getting all of our quotes lately, we are finding it is taking a lot of our time.  Seeding should have been done last week, but we had to take time to find companies and schedule times to bring them out, show them the buildings, houses, and new sites.  Depending on who they are and what they will be doing depends on how long it takes to show them what we need.  For instance, today we had the company come out for sewer and water.  They are the company that is contracted with the municipality to do the water lines.  So, they were out here and it took about two hours for them to look at the lines that are here, where lines have to be ran, and where the new septic tanks have to go.  But, we arent too far behind seeding, we hope.  So there is that little fun tidy bit we are dealing with.

However, the real issue that came up this week is the power.  Granted, our home we were looking at doing as much solar power and wind power as possible.  Being tide to the grid as a back up for the deep winter months.  We also will have a natural gas generator that will back up in the power goes out.  She (Mom) will have a natural gas generator to replace her power and have the power as just a back up.  Why are we glad we made these choices?  Cause we were told today that the power company couldnt put in the two new poles to run power to our new sites for 6 months from the time we schedule them!  IF we schduled them now and prayed that we had funding before it was done, that puts not getting power til end of November.  We are into -40 easily by then.  So, do we go ahead with the move and hope that the system that we are putting in will be enough electricity to hold us out til the power lines are put in?  A system that we have never used and just learning about?  Then again, we have power outages every winter, anywhere from two to three days to a week at a time.  So is it that bad that we may be a bit short on power?  So, we are told by Dept of Transportation to be moved next summer.  Yet we cant get power til winter.  What do you do?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The True Beginning

As some of you may know, the hwy in front of our house is widening.  When the "old house" was built the road in front of the house was a dead end dirt road.  It was built by our great grandparents back in the 1950's.  It was their second home, one they hoped to live out their lives in and they did, great grandpa passing in the 1970's and great grandma in 1993.  Their first home they built in 1920's when they homesteaded this property.  It still exists here on the farm as well, just not within the new road allowance and set backs.  A lot has changed in this area since the 1950's.  The road was widened to be two lane.  Then it was paved.  Now it is widening again.  We were told that it will eventually be a four lane hwy.  So, it is very evident that the road will continue to widen.  Great grandma and grandpa had one child.  A girl.  Our Grandma Inger.  She married Grandpa Ray.  Grandpa worked in the oil patch as the head geologist and lived with Grandma Inger in Calgary.  Their two children now live on the farm that has been ran by the family since it was homesteaded.  Mom (who wishes to not be named) lives in the "old house" that was built by our great grandparents.  Her brother (who will be left unnamed) moved a mobile home onto the property 2000.

Now, the by-laws of our area say that only two homes can be on each quarter, So, with Mom having the "old house" and her brother having his trailer, there are two homes.  Our home was built as an attachment to the "old house".  Our home is attached by a porch, according to the by-laws that makes it one home.  So, there are now three homes and three families living here.  The road widening affects all of us in different ways.  Mom's brother's house is not in the way, but will have to have new electrical and new water ran to it, everything else stays the same for them.  Our home has to be moved as does the old house.  Since the by-laws changed this year, we can now have three homes per quarter, we are not putting the homes back together.  Instead, we will all be moved to our own sites.  We are moving to the west side, he (Mom's brother) stays on the east side, and Mom moves to the south side.  This will give each family unit the ability to have their own families while still being part of the bigger picture.  What does this mean exactly?  Well, it means that we have to get utilities to each new location.  Also septic systems, driveways, barns, chicken houses, etc.

Two years ago now the farm land was inherited jointly by Dan (Mom's son) and Mom.  Dan and Tera ("us" or "we") run the farm and Dan inherited all the farm equipment to run it with.  We already had our livestock that we bought and pay for separate from the farm land under our business.  Since we run the farm now we are in charge of planting the crops, harvesting, paying the bills for the farm etc.  So, the barns and chicken house will need to be moved to our new site, cause going to the other side of the quarter in -40 weather to care for animals is not feasible.

Now, I have to say, the people hired by Dept. of Transportation are at least trying to work with us.  They came back with their first offer and as they looked over it, agreed that it is not a realistic amount and to get appraisals and quotes and we will go from there.  They are even willing to bring an engineer from the Dept of Transport out to see the layout of the quarter so that they understand that there is little flat land here to built on or move a home to.  Given the harsh winters, things have to be close and usable.  All we can do is wait and see how this goes.  We know what we need to do and where we need to move to and why, we just have to get them to see it.  So far they are willing to work with us on it and can only hope it stays that way.

We plan to keep a blog of things on a weekly basis.  We have so much we have to do and things that will change.

And here we thought that our journey began a couple years ago when we came together and decided what we wanted our future to look like.  Now our true beginning starts!
Our new site!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Spring Prep

Once Christmas is over, most farmers start to turn to the new year.  Some are looking back in order to move forward while others see it as a fresh start every year.  There are as many reasons and opinions on what to do as there are people. 

As with everyone else, I like to think that we are ahead, but it always feels like we are trying to catch up.  Last winter we set out to change that.  We unfortunately didn't get as much done over summer as we were supposed to, but it made this years prep easier.  You see, last winter we made a list of all our fields, the problem weeds we have, what we can plant to help control them or if they can be controlled.  Combined that with the feed we would need for the livestock and what small cash crop we could grow.  That is normally half the battle here.  We made plans last year for 7 years. 
My livestock is bred in the fall, so again, not much to do.  Chickens are put into breeding flocks in November.  Cows are bred in July.  Goats in October.  So, spring prep for livestock will be first the chicks that hatch in January.  Well, the chick cages are bleached and stored every July, so they just need shavings and filled feeder and water unit.  Then it is the goat kids in March.  Not much there.  Just the normal supplies that we keep on hand.  Same goes for the calves in May. 

So, what does our spring prep consist of?  Seed catalogue after seed catalogue.  We have several that come every year.  Some things we already know what varieties we want and some we dont.  We have to look at what we ate as a family, what sold, what grew, what didn't, what kept, and what didn't.  Not to mention the amount of what was eaten.  Only after we know all that can we start our seed catalogue search for just the right seeds.  Some things we save the seed from.  Others, we simply can't right now.  So we sift through the half dozen or more catalogues to find open pollinated heritage or heirloom seed.  Then we order.  Oh man does it feel like it is expensive.  Reality is, if you don't plan what to plant, how you will use it, and the amount needed, it can be very expensive and wasteful.  Try not to get caught up in the "look" of the seed and all the new things to try.  Are you really going to eat it or have time to care for it.  If you can't answer yes to both, don't get it.

Next it is taxes.  Yeah, no one likes it.  No, everyone has to do it.  Yes, refunds are good.
It is also a good idea to revise any plans you have.  Grazing plans.  Fences may need repaired due to a winter storm.  Creek path could have washed out.  Any number of things.  Field plans, even though you may have 7 years of them still have to be looked at.  Did a new weed show up?  Was one weed worse?  Did a neighbor over spray killing hay crop?  Will you need a new bull this year? 
Spring prep is all about planning.  Planning to succeed in the year to come.  The more planning you can do the better prepared you will be and the more work you will be able to do.  I recently read something to the effect of " do the right work to move a head, not just the busy work".  Anyone can work 9 hour days.  But to move forward you have to know what is most important to do then.  Planning is the only way to do that.