From toads to hens

I love toads.  I’ve always been crazy about them.   For some reason.   I used to build elaborate toad mansions under the back porch when I was young, hoping to entice the toads that got trapped in the window wells to stay.  Occasionally, they obliged.

Grown up, I’m happy to learn that toads eat slugs and are therefore a gardener’s best friend.  This is good, because I’m already friends with them.  I like their simple, clumsy toad ways.   And the grumpy faces.  I have to reprise some mansion-building in the garden to make it more comfortable there for them.

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I tossed out some rhubarb leaves, expecting the hens to definitely not eat them.  Surprise!  Later on, the leaves were completely skeletonized.

Edit: Rhubarb leaves are super poisonous!  The oxalic acid can kill animals, or us, if we eat many many rhubarb leaves.  Put it on the list, with styrofoam, of proof that chickens do not know what they should and shouldn’t eat.

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The Robin is not nesting in her usual spot.  We saw her earlier, and now she is conspicuously absent, so she is likely sitting on eggs at the moment.  When they hatch and she has to feed them, then we will know where her nest is.  She acts all sly and sneaky when she’s feeding her chicks but totally gives away where they are.

I’m hoping that she has finally moved out of the Robin Shed, so called since she has raised at least one clutch of chicks every year we’ve been here in a  nest above the door.  Perhaps she has finally deemed it unfit for avian habitation, and we will finally be able to tear it down.

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The Silkies are soooo pleased to be outside.  I feel guilty for not getting them outside much sooner (they stayed late in the greenhouse this spring).  Suddenly they spend all day outside poking around, and lounging in this corner where the grass is longer.  I see this photo makes it look like they are wistfully looking at the greener grass beyond their entrapment, but that’s not the case.   Someone must be passing by.  A nosy red chicken.

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I like the walnut trees with their early leaves on the tips of the branches.  They are exotic and kind of ornamental.

My first Blanding’s Turtle

I finally saw my first Blanding’s Turtle!  Blanding’s are an endangered species in Nova Scotia,  with only three small areas with known populations.  We just happen to live almost on top of one of those three areas.

Yet, I hadn’t seen one yet.  I’m always helping turtles cross the road, but they aren’t the special turtles.

This turtle, we saw passing through our neighbour’s yard, of all places.  We were just stopping by, and I noticed “Hey, a turtle”, as we parked.  It was marching past the garden.  I went and picked it up, and then we had to take pictures, to report the sighting.

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This turtle may appear to be smiling, but he/she was not happy about being picked up or diverted from his mission.   She may also appear to be limp, but he was very actively trying to push my fingers off.  She knew exactly what the problem was – my fingers on the side of his shell.  Let me go! They are strong.

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Also fast.  I don’t buy the tortoise and the hare thing.  Our rabbits loll around.  Turtles can move.  There’s a big snapping turtle that lives in the culvert at the end of our road that I’m dying to get a picture of (so tall, so armored dinosaur looking), but he/she’s way too fast, gone by the time I whip out my camera.

She did not stick around for canapés after the photo shoot.

 

 

 

Honeybee watering hole

Not satisfied with their own hiveside water bowl, the honey bees have taken over the chicken water dish (they line up along the perimeter drinking), and now they have settled on the top of the water barrels as a favorite watering hole.

So thirsty!  There are always about a dozen bees, often several dozen, drinking from the crease along the top of the water barrels.  It’s a nice safe place for them to drink without falling in, so I have to pour more water on the top every day as the water evaporates otherwise.

I can hear them humming around the barrels outside the window all day.

They are hard to perturb when they’re drinking, too.  You can nudge them, nudge nudge poke, and they’ll hold on tighter, keeping that tongue dipping in the water.  Serious business.

The bees are thriving

Everyone has been asking:  Are your bees ok?

Happily, they are doing very well.  Not bad, since I thought this hive sat on the edge of 50/50 winter survival chances.  They are vital and exploratory, polishing off a jar of syrup every few days, and making appearances at the neighbours’.  The pollen du jour is now bright orange.  Dandelions, perhaps?

Even though I can’t inspect them thoroughly yet, I gave them an empty super, sure that they were gonna bust their seams any moment.  All that pollen has to go somewhere.

H.W. has taken more of an interest in them, watching them every day, and reporting that the bees HATE the “door” (the entrance limiting stick).  We’ve been having warm days, and the inbound flights start bottlenecking at the entrance mid-morning.  Then he pulls out the stick and “the bees BOIL out!”. It takes a few minutes to rebalance, like traffic after an accident is cleared.  Then the bees come shooting in and out like a time lapse video of La Guardia at 16x speed.

The bees have decided to share the chickens’ canteen.  I don’t understand; they have their own perfectly good bowl.  But they line up on the edge, drinking.  Every night I have to go and fish out (usually three) soggy bees and deliver them to their doorstep.  In the day they can pull themselves out of the pool and dry off and warm up in the sun, but at night they are too chilled to fly home.  I hold my finger with three bedraggled bees by their door.  The evening arrivals are zooming in and they land on my hand on their way in.  I can feel the warm sweet air of the humming hive coming from the entrance, and the grateful swimmers perk up in the warm draft, drag themselves off my finger and indoors.

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Bees have pushed the stick open themselves

I tell H.W., who is sympathizing with bee frustration, that the stick still has to go back in at night.  “But they hate it!”  As it turns out, the bees are more than capable of opening the door themselves.  They just don’t shut it.

 

Manual sewing

It was a beautiful sunny day when I decided to finally sew the curtains.  Pretty soon, we’re gonna need them to help keep the house cool inside when it’s sunny out.

I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so much of a total body workout.    I’ve never associated sewing with ab and quad fatigue before.

The century-old treadle sewing machine sews like it plans to sew for another hundred years.  Even, serene, but determined stitches, marching in a resolute line.

Most electric sewing machines I’ve used have a delicacy about them.  If you look at them wrong, they might start pinching the fabric, the  stitches might get cramped and tight, or the thread on the underside might generate big loopy snarls while you confidently sew away!- because the top thread looks perfect.  You have to coddle them; create ideal conditions around the tension, bobbin, threading, lubrication, etc, etc.

This machine scoffs at your mysterious bobbin issues.   It’s not very delicate to stomp vigorously and repeatedly, and maintain the rhythm of a train, for the presser foot to lap the miles.

I didn’t plan to break a sweat sewing.  But curtains happen to be long straightaways of stitching, requiring maintained speed.  Also focused concentration, to fold and feed the fabric to the munching presser.

Who knew?  Off-grid sewing = exercise.

While I sew, I can’t help imagining Laura Ingalls and her mother, exercising their (fantastic new labour-saving) treadle machine, wearing floor length dresses and corsets!