Frost To Frost

​Frost To Frost columnist Joan Norberg run Grizzly Valley Farms on the Mayo Road. Her and her husband Alan can often be found at the Yukon Fireweed Market on Thursdays

Send her your questions at [email protected]

Winter: A Season for Change

“The more things change the more they stay the same” and “The only constant in life is change” are both very cliche and very true. In some sense farming and gardening means things are staying the same. We usually use the same plot of land and plant the same kinds of vegetables. We also raise …

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Winter is Coming

Over the past few years the gardens have been producing more and more vegetables. So, come fall we start to look for places to store the root crops for the winter. Our main root crops are potatoes and carrots, which need a dark, cool space with a bit of humidity. We have been storing them …

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Training For the Yukon

Recently we went down south for a family visit. At the time it was still very much winter here in the Yukon. Down there the snow was melting, there were puddles everywhere and it felt like spring. If it had been like that up here we would have already been in the garden. But no one …

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A Friend For Schwartz

Schwartz has been our only dog for the past few years. For the most part he seems to be okay, although he does enjoy playing with other dogs when he gets the chance. But being the only dog can be lonely for an animal that would normally belong to a pack. I guess Al and …

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Farmers Need Funds, Too

If you ate today, thank a farmer. If you know where your food comes from, thank them even more. Knowing where your food comes from can be a challenge, especially in the North. Why should a person support a local farmer when the food they sell is often more expensive than what can be found …

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February Seedlings

Anything can happen in February, weather-wise. It can be -30°C one day and 5°C a few days later. The sun can be very warm and the spring starts diminishing the snow and icing up the roads. January is a month of hibernation and rest. But February is a month of cabin fever; hence Rendezvous. February, the …

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Bigger is Not Always Better

In the 1970s farmers in the United States were told to “get big or get out” as a way to promote larger, corporately owned farms. Since that time, the population of people living on farms dropped from 25 percent to 2 percent, with those who work full time on a farm dropping to .1 percent. …

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Home Grown

The phrase “food security” is becoming common, and it can be interpreted in several different ways. Whether it is a lack of food due to environmental conditions, the inability to access nutritious food because of financial restraints, or the lack of food due to remote location — these are all are considered examples of “food …

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Saving the Harvest

One of a gardener’s goals at the end of summer is to preserve the food harvested. This takes many forms , from allowing a potato to set skin so it won’t dehydrate in storage, to the pickling root crops , to the canning of fruits , to the blanching of vegetables for freezing. One form …

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Seed saving

Seed saving is a time-honored way of keeping certain plant traits growing. It used to be a common practice among gardeners. This year we have decided to keep seed from some of our vegetables. The challenge is to prevent similar plants from cross-pollinating. I find it amazing, the plants that will cross with each other. …

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Fall

Living in the Yukon, people want to enjoy summer to the fullest, “summer” being those 14 to 21 days randomly sprinkled across June, July, and August. Gardeners are no different.The perception of many is that a long, hot summer brings an abundance of produce normally grown in hot houses down south. In truth though, a scorching summer …

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Fava Beans

One of the biggest animal raising expenses in the Yukon is feed. So I am always on the look out for crops we can grow that will meet the nutritional needs of the animals. When I find something that might work I give it a try in the garden. If it does well, I feed …

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Perennials

In spring, while we wait for the snow to melt, we check on the chives to see if there will be enough for a taste. Once the snow is gone we keep an eye on the rhubarb. This year I was also watching for asparagus to return. Last year I seeded asparagus in a flowerbed …

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Migration

Early in the spring, Swan Haven offers Yukoners a place to watch swans and other water birds as they stop to rest on their long migration north. Shortly thereafter we see small groups of swans flying past our farm, trumpeting as they go. Our geese really notice when wild birds fly overhead. The migrating fowl …

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A Celebration of Spring

Spring… there is nothing quite like it. Living here in the North, we generally have a long winter followed by a long spring. It seems to take forever to finish melting the snow and warming up the ground. To help keep us going, the pussy willows are out, as well as the crocuses. But to …

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The Real Dirt

A few years ago, a neighbour told me my garden needed to be amended with some dirt. He was referring to the stereotypical black soil that can be purchased from either big-box stores or a local distributor who harvests the soil from old marshland. Neither source promised high nutrients for the vegetable garden. Here in …

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A Frozen Pipe Dream

I went to Vancouver a few weeks ago. I wasn’t looking forward to trading sunny skies for rainy ones — although the temperatures were going to be much warmer than the -24°C temperatures here. Before I left, Allan asked me to bring back some spring with me. When I got there, it was indeed spring. …

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Homemade Seed Tapes

Winter can be frustrating for gardeners.  There are days when it feels like spring won’t get here soon enough. Combine this with the knowledge that when it does, there is only a small window of time available, and a gardener can become anxious. Last year, I tried to get a head start on planting the …

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Food Security

Winter; a season many people dread. The extra work of shovelling snow, the layers of clothing, the cold temperatures, and even the shorter daylight hours are something to be endured. But I like winter, and always have. To me, it’s a time of working together — even if it is just to get a vehicle …

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A Quiet Yukon Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the farm. Not a chicken was stirring, they’re all in the barn. All summer they roam, but when once the snow flies, our hens will not go out to where the snow lies. They scratch up the bedding and look for some treat; it might be a …

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A Chicken and Egg Story

Last year our chickens stopped laying eggs. For the first time in a decade we had to buy eggs instead of selling them. The egg strike, as one of our customers called it, lasted five months. But by the time they started laying again, their replacements were already in the barn. The life of a …

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Living on Farmer Time

I have always wondered why we need to adjust our clocks for daylight saving time here in the land of the Midnight Sun. It was originally adopted in Europe to extend the evening daylight hours during the summer months. Sure, it is necessary if we are to stay in sync with the rest of North …

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Winter Gardening

Years ago I was asked by a Japanese helper what kinds of plants grew here in the winter. I laughed and said nothing grows, it is all frozen solid. She was amazed. In many places they rotate their crops based on the season. Heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers can be followed by crops that …

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The Joy of Homegrown Tomatoes

Nothing tastes quite as good as a garden fresh tomato. Here in the North these are rare enough to find, but this past summer we had enough heat to grow tomatoes outside without any protection from the elements, though we did fence them off from the laying hens. I started seedlings indoors around mid-March. And …

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Talking Turkey

Because turkeys are a North American bird, it makes sense to have them for the North American holiday of Thanksgiving. There are about 15 different kinds of turkeys ranging in colour from a slate-blue to the bronze of the wild birds. The most commonly raised breed of turkey looks nothing like it’s wild predecessors. It …

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Yukon Harvest Time

I can’t believe it’s almost over. This summer was one of the best on record as far as gardening goes. We always had lots of produce to harvest and a sell at the markets. But the garden doesn’t stop producing just because the Fireweed Community Market is done for the season. In fact, there are …

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Helpers Extraordinaire

A few weeks ago I met a guy from Ontario who asked if it would be possible to help out at the farm. Of course I said, “Yes.” He was wanting to continue our conversation about farming in the Yukon, and we were trying to talk while I was watching our booth at the Fireweed …

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Where are the Bees?

With summer comes the sound of songbirds and the hum of insects. Often insects are seen as nuisances — pests that need bug dope to keep them away. And while I absolutely hate biting bugs there are some insects I find very interesting and necessary for gardening. With ladybugs around aphids won’t be a problem …

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PHantastic Soil

It is a good idea to find out a bit about your garden before planting anything in it. What will grow in a plot of soil depends on what is in it, how compact the soil particles are and the pH level of the soil. The required nutrients are reliant on what is to be …

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Venturing into the Unknown

All good things must come to an end and two days ago this was true for our piglets. It’s been eight weeks since they were born and we usually wean them between six and eight weeks. We determine the time based on how well the mom is dealing with them. When pigs are eating they …

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Spring Means New Life

There are pussy willows, crocuses and chives growing in the garden. Migrating birds are returning to Swan Haven and mallards are swimming in the ditch just down the road. On the farm we see new life in spring as well, although it isn’t as reliant on the weather as crocuses and returning geese. Every spring …

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Our Egg Situation

My husband Allan got a goose egg last night. He wasn’t hurt as some may suspect, rather he found an actual egg out in the goose pen while doing chores. Lately the egg situation on the farm has been nonexistent. Our laying hens stopped giving us eggs some time just after Christmas. For the first …

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Head Starts and Crop Rotations

In early spring it is very hard not to dream of the summer growing season. Gardeners who want an early start often start plants indoors. These are usually the heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers. With our very short growing season it is to the Yukon gardener’s advantage to start other plants as well — …

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Tiny Little Pieces of Life

I got my seeds today! Seeds … tiny little pieces of life, stored until spring arrives to awaken them. It is this miraculous life that makes them so attractive to gardeners, especially after a long, cold winter. Each seed has its own set of requirements hardwired in them. It is up to the gardener to …

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Deep in Snow and Going to Seed

When we moved to Whitehorse, from Saskatchewan, I had been led to believe that gardening here was next to impossible. Then I visited Yukon Gardens and was inspired. They had all the ‘regular’ garden plants that seemed to be doing very well. That’s when I knew it wasn’t impossible. But it was still years before …

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Dig Those Diggin’ Pigs

They don’t dig like dogs, with their front feet, but with their noses. It is unbelievable how strong their nose muscles are. They can even lift fence posts out of the ground with enough time and effort. So one of the first things needed for keeping pigs is a strong fence. When we first started …

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What’s ‘Up’ in the Garden

They’re up … radishes and swiss chard that were planted only a week ago are now pushing up through the soil. The radishes looked like they have been up for a while, too, but I didn’t notice them because I was still planting other parts of the garden. When Allan watered last night, they became …

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The Joy of Weeding

Well it seems that summer is here. The heat that we have been getting has been a bonus for the garden. Everything is up, even the corn that I planted outside in containers. Usually in the Yukon, one of the main challenges is to keep enough heat on the plants and to prevent frost. Not …

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To Market, To Market …

I usually plant more vegetables than I am going to personally use because I like to attend the farmers’ markets in Whitehorse. It started out that I was just bringing the surplus of the garden, but soon it became a reason to plant more. When I started to attend the market, it was being held …

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Give Peas a Chance!

This year we have been having record temperatures. With the heat, some plants start start to bolt to seed. My spinach has done this and the radishes were finished weeks ago. The lettuce is starting to make heads, which leads to seed production. One challenge in gardening is to prolong the time we can harvest …

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Unearthing Harvest Treasure

It’s fall. I know that no one wants it to be fall, but it is hard to deny. With every season, there are vegetables that are in decline and those that have just reached their prime. Root crops are usually biennials, which means they store up energy in their roots the first year, then flower …

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A Gaggle of Geese

In the fall, wild geese migrate south. But domestic geese are bred for meat, so they are almost too heavy to lift off the ground and therefore can’t migrate. They do, however, still have similar instincts as wild geese, as far as gorging themselves before winter. This year we had eight geese on the farm …

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News from the Barnyard

With winter finally here, the farming workload seems to lighten. Winter is a time of rest and contemplation. It is also a time to recuperate from the busy summer season. Normally we just have laying hens in the barn, over the winter, so the chores take almost no time at all. But this year we …

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Christmas for Farmers

I love Christmas … the lights that light up Main Street, the smells of Christmas baking, the excitement of wrapping up secrets and putting them under the tree. I love just about everything about Christmas … except the commercialization of it. So when doing my shopping, I try to look for things that haven’t been …

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The Signs Point to Spring

The pussy willows are out! Willows are one of the first plants to show any signs of life in the spring. Even with mounds of snow on their roots, they still seem to be able to sense that it is time to awaken for another season. With the warm temperatures that we have had recently, …

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The ‘Love Apple’ Needs Love

With the snow so deep, it seems impossible that spring will ever arrive. Gardeners, however, take things into their own hands and start seedlings in the sunniest window they can find. Onions, tomatoes, peppers and leeks are just some of the seedlings that are started as early as February. There is nothing quite like watching …

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Manure Tea and Mud

One of the main spring tasks is to clean out the barn. On our barn we have two four-foot doors at each end to help with the easy removal of the manure. With the doors wide open, the chickens take advantage of having no fence and go exploring. They usually don’t go too far as …

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Gardening is About Community

”Gardening is about community” is part of a phrase that caught my eye in an e-mail I received today. And I agree. I didn’t learn to garden without someone teaching me pruning methods for tomatoes or what a weed looked like in its early stages. My mother was a huge influence in my gardening and …

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Where the Chickens Roam

With the warmer weather we have been having, my thoughts turn to spring. I am wondering if this year I will be able to get into the garden earlier than last, or will I have to wait until June. Even without the warmer weather, my thoughts would probably still turn to spring. There is only …

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Fall’s Bittersweet Song

Fall is a bittersweet season. The mountainside is absolutely glorious with the sun shining off the golds and reds. The days are still warm enough to work outside comfortably. The later-season vegetables like broccoli and cabbage are at their prime. And root crops are still going strong. But summer is coming to an end and …

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Everything Has Its Season

The garden is just buzzing these days. I noticed a lot of bees while I was pulling up the radishes that had bolted. Even after the plants were on the wheelbarrow, bees were still harvesting the pollen. I couldn’t help but wonder what radish honey would taste like, but I guess it would also be …

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Dig the Taste

One of the best types of vegetables to grow in the Yukon are root crops. Most root crops can take late frosts in the spring, so they can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. They also don’t require high amounts of heat units which aren’t plentiful up here anyways. I like …

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A passion for piglets

Last spring, we took both Kali and Sienna to visit Boris, the boar. So this fall we were waiting with bated breath for them to give birth. Sienna was first, and we learnt a lot from that situation – mostly what not to do. We had thought that in September it would be warm enough …

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A Time to Be Thankful

Summer ended abruptly this year. When the first snowfall came, I was very thankful that all of our veggies had been harvested. Harvesting is backbreaking work at times, and having snow on the ground and a cold wind only makes it harder to do, especially with root crops. After the second snowfall a few days …

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Some Like It Cold

With the snow blowing around and the temperatures dropping, most people and animals prefer to be indoors. This isn’t the case for the geese and one of our pigs, Kali. The geese are in a yard attached to a small building and they have the option of going inside. In fact, their water is in …

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Reap What You Sow … Now!

The sun is shining, the snow is melting off of the roof and it is starting to feel like spring. But we are still in the month of February and spring is a long way off. Still, there are things that can be gardened indoors even in February. Tomatoes, peppers, onions and leeks all need …

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Ode to Beets

Most vegetables have their share of pests and problems. If it’s too wet, mildew will attack peas or tomatoes. An early fall frost can kill many of the garden vegetables commonly grown up here, such as lettuce and potatoes. Radishes, cabbages and others of that family have a beetle (I don’t know the name of …

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Volunteers and Other Visitors

Volunteering is something that a lot of people do to give back to their community. Sometimes it is more than that. Some volunteers go a very long way to help out others. We have had people volunteer to help out on the farm. Some were travelling around the country and took part in a program …

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Mother Goose

They say birds of a feather flock together. When you visit our barnyard, you will see that the chickens don’t like to spend much time with the geese. In fact, most things give the geese a wide berth. Even our dog, Schwartz. The geese tend to patrol the barnyard in a very stately manner, hissing …

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Will It Germinate?

Children, when learning to garden, show this quite plainly when they dig up a seed to see if it is doing anything. Sometimes this actually slows things down. And even though a seasoned gardener may have faith that everything will come up, they too sometimes have the urge to dig into a planted row and …

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Peas Aplenty

I decided to go with the larger package. It is a variety that has done very well in the past. It was almost funny, when I opened the parcel with my seeds. I know I ordered a large pack but I really hadn’t visualized what that would look like. A packet of pea seeds bought …

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Schwartz on the Job

One of my pet peeves is dogs (no pun intended). More specifically, other people’s dogs that come onto the farm. One reason dogs were domesticated was that they were territorial and would protect their territory and their pack. Farm dogs are here for security of the pack, which includes humans and farm animals. Our dog, …

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Better Late Than Never

Spring! There is just something about it that gets the blood moving. It could be the excitement of new life pushing its way up from the cold, rocky ground the way crocuses do. Or the ability to go off the beaten path to explore. Not having to wade through knee deep snow does make a …

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Farming

Multi-tasking Time

Springtime on the farm is one of the busiest times of the year. Harvest is busy, too. You’re racing the frosts and fall rains to get everything in without losing anything. And everything harvested needs to be processed in some way, so that the harvest is stored for the winter. Harvests on our farm seem …

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New Life, New Challenges

Well, spring has sprung. I am seeing the evidence of this everywhere. Trees and bushes are starting to bud, grass is coming up and crocuses are in full bloom. The geese are back and heading further north. The barn is getting cleaned out and the garden is drying off, although it isn’t quite dry enough …

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Changing Accommodations

Every spring, we start preparing for chicks. This usually means a rearrangement of how animals are housed. In the fall we usually move everything into one building or at least to a central area. This makes chores a bit easier, as we aren’t slogging through knee high snow, or fighting the north wind to feed …

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Living Self-sufficiently

There’s more to farming than feeding animals and planting seeds.” This is a quote from my husband, Al. When he said this a few weeks back we were talking about the firewood he had just finished bringing home. He’s right, too. The typical farmer tends to be a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” …

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Talking Turkey

While I grew up on a farm, it wasn’t until after I started farming as an adult that I realized how many phrases in our everyday language have their roots in farming. Money management can be a harrowing experience, but we are told by investment companies not to put all our eggs in one basket. …

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Flipping the Calendar

In mid-July, I dream of January. For most people it’s the other way around. Cold temperatures have never really bothered me and, after a very busy summer, a time of respite is very welcome. But I am still farming … in a way. I pore over seed catalogues to select the varieties we want for …

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Christmas on the Farm

Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh, o’er the fields we go, laughing all the way, ha, ha ha. Bells on bobtail ring making spirits bright, what fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight….” This is a common Christmas song heard at this time of year. And while most …

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Cool Veggies

Most people associate fresh vegetables with summer, especially in the Yukon. So when my cousin came for a visit near the end of October, she wasn’t expecting anything to be growing in my garden. She is from southern Manitoba, where seasons are longer than ours and she hadn’t heard of harvesting in October. When she …

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Facing the Frost Threat

One of the most beautiful seasons in the Yukon is autumn. But with that beauty comes the threat of frost. In fact, frost is probably the cause of the beauty. Frost is also one of the main challenges a gardener in the north has to deal with. Living this far north we don’t have to …

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Considering Food Security

Well, it’s harvest time again. Whether you’re a gardener, hunter, berry picker or farmer, the freezer starts to fill up for us all. Not so long ago everyone did some sort of fall harvest and food preservation. Large chains of supermarket type stores have almost done away with this sort of practice. It is possible …

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The Juggling Act

Sometimes farming takes on aspects of a circus act more than anything. In early spring, you throw one ball up in the air and order some chicks. Then another ball follows when you order a few piglets or goslings or both. With only two or three balls in the air, it seems quite reasonable to …

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Ordering a Garden

January is seed ordering month for me. It usually involves sitting down with two or three of my favourite seed catalogues, my garden journal and a cup of hot beverage in front of the fire. First I plot out what should go where in the coming spring. I try to rotate crops every year. This …

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Changing Quarters

I always enjoy watching the interplay of one species with another. So when Allan decided it was time for the piglets to start using an outside pen along with their inside one I wondered what the eventual outcome would be—because the pen they would have access to was the one the geese were in for …

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Moving Sienna

With the wind blowing and the temperature almost at zero as I write, it doesn’t seem like a typical Yukon winter at all. But I am thankful that it is warm – not because I find the cold too hard to bear, but because Sienna has to acclimatise herself to the winter again. And that …

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