Chicken coop


We’ve been searching for some layer hens to start a readymade flock.  Chicks of various kinds are available but we can’t support chicks without electricity.  Our best hope is to get some hens and hope that they reproduce themselves.  There are some Silkies for sale on Kijiji that we’d like to get, as they are reputed to be great brooders.

Hence, a coop.

We started a coop out of barn wood (started in a hurry, too, when the neighbour said his friend might bring us some hens, but these hens did not materialize).

This is the design result of integrating these  limitations: portability, security, and using only materials at hand.  And haste.

Rather than two rooflines (haste) I made one lid that lifts to access the nest boxes, and until we get wheels, we’ll pick it up and carry it like a litter.  IMGP6679

It’s working well.  The corner boards extend to the ground for legs, the boards make the secure walls (thick rough cut), and the lid will fit inside the top frame.

Showing the ramp closed, tucked under the nest boxes

The lid. That’s where portability collided with materials at hand, and the design breaks down.  Materials at hand won, so the lid weighs a LOT.  Opening it’s like performing a snatch. Putting the (fragile, mostly for looks) shakes on necessitated the outriggers, so that you’re never lifting from the edge of the roof, and lifting the heavy roof evenly.  Just the flat roll roofing would not be ok, because that would be ugly.


IMGP6695Fancy design lid frame before plywood.  Notches (!) for outriggers.  All drops over an inch into frame, giving security of lap.


Sheeting, roll roofing, then reused shakes.


Heavy roof necessitated apparatus inside to easily support the roof before your arms fail holding it.


Voila, a coop that looks like it’s already a hundred years old.  Expense so far: zero.  All materials already weathering on site.  Just need some hardware cloth.

Early observations of Nova Scotia.

Wäsche an der Wäscheleine

Everyone has gardens.

Everyone has clotheslines.

The grass is so green.  Like crazy, shockingly green.  I don’t know what they do here, but Miracle Gro dreams of making lawns that green.

We’ve been soaking up our new province as we drive around (so far our opinions of the culture are mostly based on the view from the road).  I’m in love with it.  It reminds me very much of my childhood province, Newfoundland, yet contrasts very much with majestic, dynamic British Columbia, where I lived 20+ years.  The trees here are so very small.  But there are lots and lots of them.

Everyone has a box with a hinged lid for garbage at the end of their drive.  About the size of a chest freezer.  Sometimes the box IS a chest freezer.  Some boxes are fancier than others.

Mari-time seems to move a bit slower.  That’s not like Kootenay time, which just means everyone’s invariably late for any appointment and that’s kinda ok.  Mari-time just means people act like there’s enough time.  Always enough time for chatting, and moving without rushing.  I notice that while plenty of people drive the ubiquitous Canadian 10-over, plenty of people also drive 10-under, which is much more unusual to me.  That’s me these days, 10-under, rubbernecking gardens and the farmhouse architecture.  There just seems to be enough time, and that means enough time to not drive like a maniac.

When we were here a month ago and hitchhiked to Halifax I asked our driver for his advice to new residents.  He happened to be a 15-over guy but still he said “Slow down.  This isn’t Ontario.  Relax.”

People pile up a lot of firewood.

I get a general impression of self-reliance and resourcefulness.

There seems to be a higher percentage of older people.  Or maybe they’re just visible, because they’re outside.  Gardening, and raking, and building decks, and digging, and rummaging in sheds.  Looking healthy and moving sure and steady.  It feels good to have all that knowledge around.

H.W. was wondering why everyone has clotheslines (really, everyone has a clothesline, tidily strung with clothes; the first thing our neighbour insisted on giving us was a coil of clothesline); was it the wind?  I said well maybe it’s the economy and money-consciousness.  It makes sense to put clothes out when a dryer costs money.  I mean, of course it always makes sense to use a clothesline, but where people are wealthier the convenience may win over sense?  He burst out “Yeah, people do what makes sense here.  They have clotheslines, they have gardens, and they recycle.  We’re in the land of sense.”  which about sums it up.

My friend in Utah with a masters in civil engineering told me that Nova Scotia’s (and Edmonton’s and Scandinavia’s) waste management system is the envy of the world.  I believe it.  I remember being blown away by the local transfer station in 2010, with its meticulous required sorting.  One of the first things we noticed driving into Nova Scotia was the separated waste bin at Subway – compost, recyclable, trash.  Nothing generated by a Subway meal would go in the trash.  That and the driver who needlessly stopped for us to jaywalk made H.W. say “we live where there’s nice people, who recycle!” And then at Canadian Tire, and the gas station, and every public trash can anywhere – at least three slots.  Sometimes a fourth, for paper (which otherwise goes in the compost).  I really want to know how this province arrived at such a progressive, pervasive, successful operation.  Where did the political will come from?

At any rate, I’m so grateful to be here and love everything I see.

Photo from

Robin’s nest

They grow up so fast!  No longer hairless wonders.
They grow up so fast! No longer hairless wonders.

We have a clutch of robin’s eggs in the shed.  Three nearly hairless little birds, asleep whenever I look at them.  That means we will have to try and keep the shed from falling down before they fledge.

H.W. discovered them; he was always seeing the robin in the same place, looking “up to something”.

The mother, and possibly father (sometimes there’s two), it’s true, are always boinging around in the area, like they’re on springs, the way robins do.  Usually there’s something hanging out of the beak, too, so they’re working hard bringing up the babies.

I just learned that crows (I admire, adore, respect, revere corvids) are primarily an urban bird, and a formidable predator to most songbirds. So if crows show up here, it will be because we drew them here, providing them with resources.  I plan to try to deter them, to preserve the bird life that was flourishing here before we got here.  Crows are flourishing all over the world because of their brains and adaptability, but the songbirds they predate are threatened and in retreat everywhere that people expand their habitation into rural areas.  I want to protect and encourage the local birds that were here before we were.

I want this robin’s chicks to make it, since I’m pretty sure it was a raven that savaged my barn robin nestlings in BC.

There’s been one crow that flies over  high and fast in a straight line midmorning, then returns four or five hours later.  She’s shown no sign of stopping.   When he passes he riles up the hawk and owls – they all talk.  I remarked the crows really do sound different here, from B.C. crows, having just read about regional differences in corvid sounds.   H.W. said  “Mmm, the Maritime accent?”

A few birds need to be encouraged to stay.  Swallows (and bats too).  We could stand for a whole lot more blackflies to get swallowed.  There’s a house up the road that has dozens of birdhouses up, and the air and wires around them are filled with tree swallows, so they’re doing something right.  I hope it’s an if you build it they will come scenario.


The daily birdsong here is breathtaking.  Constant, loud, varied.  Several kinds of woodpeckers, and other birds I don’t recognize beyond their type-wrens, juncos, finches.  The songbird life is rich.

In particular the chickadees seem to have no concern about having us as neighbours.  There’s one or two always chatting in a tree right over my head, or flitting by, or bouncing on a branch nearby.  One’s around me so often I feel like I’m being followed.  H.W. says they are not following him.  I think chickadees are endlessly adorable with their fast, perky energy.

It turned out we parked the camper right by a chickadee nest in the making- two, but it seemed to choose one over the other after a couple days.  It was hollowing out a dead tree started by a woodpecker.  In the first tree the hole was only deep enough for half the little bird body, so I could see the tail bobbing – what is it doing in there?  Then it would back out, fly to a nearby branch, and pfft, spit out a beakful of sawdust.  Repeat.  It seemed to choose the second tree and give up on the first, though.  This hole is lower to the ground but smaller, and the tree is only about 4” diameter.  We looked in and the cavity is about a foot deep!

Impressive for such a tiny bird, one mouthful at a time.  I haven’t seen him working on the excavation for a couple of days, so I suspect and hope that this means she’s setting on her eggs now.

*I guess he was gone courtin’;  he brought back a nice lady!  We were lucky enough to catch her inspecting the nest, and she must have approved of it, because then they both danced an excited little shimmy dance, and mated!  Proving the shimmy is universal.  So now she will be laying, and then setting.


First week

We’re here!

The ecstasy is setting in.  We deliberately planned to spend several days NOT zeroing in on any projects (very tough to do-required a strong intention), just arriving, adjusting, recalibrating, and observing.    We didn’t want to barge in with ideas and impose them on the property, but to plan with and around what presented itself here.  So we walk around looking at stuff and talking about it, and making many lists.

The place is crowded with life of all kinds- birds and rabbits and squirrels and chipmunks and porcupines and owls and hawks and snakes and coyotes and bald eagles and maybe a lost or feral tabby cat.  It’s a little awing.  Everywhere one steps or moves someone might already live there or be using the territory.  I feel awkward moving in, like excuse me, mind if we just budge in here?

Besides the tumbledown structures, everywhere there’s work to be done, work to balance and assist and improve the ecology.  Lots of areas in the forest are choked with one type of tree, the fruit trees are struggling in overgrowth, and piles of debris are cluttering up corridors.  There’s a ton of work.

IMGP6598H.W. can’t resist some manual labour, so he’s started to take apart the collapsed barn and also haul rock in the wheelbarrow from the nearby mine site gravel pile to reinforce our access road/“driveway”.  I dug out a rotten culvert and built it up and “bridged” it with big stones so it will endure being driven over without further collapse.

Also he’s been exploring on bicycle in all directions from the former rail trail and unmaintained road that form two of our boundaries.  He’s over the moon-ecstatic about the possibilities, and the wildlife.  In all directions, woods and wetlands and animals, and adventures.  So he’s off on his bike every evening, happier than I’ve ever seen him.

The air is incredible -truly fresh (as H.W. says, “the tress just made this oxygen”), and .  The weather has been lovely- the beginning of summer, with days full of warm sun, smatterings of rain.  Some days clouds are constantly coming and going overhead, but they keep it moving.  The trees are just popping leaves and buds.

IMGP6612Our sleep pattern has adjusted so quickly.  Seems instant.   Asleep at dark, awake at light.  Amazing how fast it happens without artificial light.

The change in me has come on fast!  I feel relaxed, I feel safe, my energy is returning, and that knowing that everything is working out the way it should and is right and whatever happens is right and ok – that’s back.   It’s been gone for so long.  My headaches are decreasing and my skin’s improved- everything feels better.   Like plants.  Slow if you sit to watch them grow, miraculous if you watch them over a few days.

We’re home.


I was snipping down scrub in the field when there was a rustling at my feet and IMGP6583tiny brown furballs came scuffling into view.  I thought they were voles I’d disturbed at first.  Then I caught one and brought it to H.W.

Adorable!  Too small to be perturbed about capture, they were just happy to be warm and held.   They were in a little bowl of a nest in the grass.  I always thought rabbits had their young underground, that that’s what warrens were for.

We caught the rest, H.W. fortified their little area so we wouldn’t walk over it accidentally again, and we put them back. Since then we’ve avoided them, so we don’t know how they did, or if mama was too scared to come back to them.  We’ve seen rabbits around, though- big brown robust rabbits, nearly like jackrabbits.

Each of them had a little white tuft between the ears.


We are here!

IMGP6538We are here!

A few days after my 40th birthday we finally arrived at our Nova Scotia property, to stay.

The waiting and preparing and working towards is over; we are here.

I was oddly shaky the night we arrived, trembling, and exhausted, as though I was burning out at the end of a marathon (which I don’t know anything about firsthand, but I’ve seen pictures of braver people that evoke how I felt). Every day and week up until now, work got done, list items were eliminated, bureaucratic necessities coped with, so that, arriving- a final hurdle, means that one list of have-to-dos has become very short, and another project is about to be begin. A new list is about to be written. But this time, it’s all part of something that we believe in, that we want to do and have dreamed into being already.

We are ready to be here. The relief is very big. It doesn’t flip like a switch, though, from distress to joy. Our bodies ease us through transitions, unfolding slowly into new states of being. Not unlike plants.