I'm a Canadian woman living in an off-grid tiny house on a small organic orchard farm in Nova Scotia, always aspiring to a "better"- more conscious, ecological, and organic- life.
I blog to keep my family and friends up to date; to share things I've learned and discovered with difficulty so that hopefully, it will help others who internet research to proceed with less difficulty; to maintain a practice of writing; and to create an illustrated journal of the arc of my life. I try to post every second day.
I write about my garden, my travels, Iceland, my chickens, dog, bees and other pets, books I read, and stuff that I build and make.
My husband is passionate about bicycling and he sometimes pipes up with stories about bikes and bicycling.
Sometimes I swear.
You can follow on Facebook too, but all I ever do there is put up my blog posts.
Loungey pigs. They’ve been rooting well, but sort of avoiding the big rooty area in the middle that I need them to work, asap. She’s digging herself a hole so deep she’s almost below grade now.I closed the small coop a touch too early. There was a latecomer.
I dropped the ramp again and du du du – trotted right up!
The guineas are killing me (poor choice of words). They are getting picked off and I can’t help them. The downside of being wild and independent. There was an owl picked one off the GH; I knew lining up on the GH was a bad idea, but I thought if they slept on the coop, right by the wall of the GH, they’d be ok. Nope. And since, they’ve been moving around in the forest, because they don’t return to any roost proven not safe. They were roosting in a big apple tree, which I thought was a great choice, nice safe spot, and it was for a few days. But last night there was another event, and I didn’t get a chance to count them today.
Meanwhile I’ve been trying to make a safe spot. I sewed together two widths of bird netting to make a strip wide enough, and draped a big canopy off the end of the GH. I set it up with electric fence at the base, they went in, I closed it up, and found that guineas slip handily right through the electric fence. Then I was after deer fence, and the co-op said they had some, until we went to buy it and they didn’t. Then I finally get some (very attractive orange) snow fence tonight, get it all set up, feel good about it, and the guineas choose to skip dinner.
T-minus one week to move the GH and get all the birds in for good.
Having a mud bath late afternoon at this time of year? It’s not that warm. They’re into it, though.And after a good restful mud flop, it’s time to go ruffle up one’s hay bed.And then get food stuck in your forehead hair. The Colonel got into the greenhouse today, laid down the law. I left the door ajar while I was cleaning coops, and then there was a kerfuffle inside, and then there was a bigger kerfuffle outside, as the Deputy seized the moment and tried to seize the Colonel’s hens while he was otherwise occupied.
Funny, I tried and tried to get the Colonel to go in the greenhouse a month ago and fertilize the GH hens, but he wasn’t having it then.
Back to coop training: Well, that looks exactly like yesterday. The Silkie chicks are all This is what we do, we huddle up in a pile on the floor, and the Chantis are cramming themselves in the broody box. I’m sure Mom loves that. She’s still got her mud dreads, I see.
The skycoop has been reinvented as a starter coop. Since a guinea got snatched off of it (owl), the guineas have abandoned it like it was the center of a sexting scandal. So I took the legs off and we put it in the emptying greenhouse, to stuff the chicks into. They need to start sleeping in a coop, to make them portable.
And to keep them safe. Sleeping on the ground isn’t good for chickens, and the greenhouse is not totally secure.
They’re kind of looking grown up. Still miniature though. After dark, I went chick snatching. The first eleven chicks took about three minutes to grab, one or two at a time, and pop into the coop, where they instantly went silent. Oh, dark and cozy. Oh, everyone’s in here.
Some were feisty, some were mild. This is the first time I’ve ever handled any of them.
The twelfth chick took about 20 minutes. After everyone else mysteriously vanished, he/she ran around distressed, chirping, unwilling to settle down. It took forever. Finally she figured out where everyone else was, tried to crawl under the coop, and I got her in. Taking wagers on how many go in the coop on their own tomorrow night.
I lifted the box off the broody hen, to check on her, and discovered:henS. What’s going on here?! They’re competing to sit on the eggs. This broody hen gets no peace. Interlopers, chicks piling in the box to sit on her…
The pigs have arranged the hay bale to their specifications, and I couldn’t have done better myself. They packed hay into the drafty edges and made two sausage slots, which they use in two ways:Day time nap formation – tail to tail L shape.And nighttime pigs in parallel.
Note the pet rock in the first picture. It’s been placed on top of the arranged hay. One of these pigs likes to keep toys in the pig house. A beet, and a turnip, has previously been the toy of choice. I’m not going to eat this turnip, but I’ll bring it into my house.
I brought a hay bale for the pigs, now the nights are getting colder. I’m confident that they’ll make their own bed out of it. They were quite excited with the novelty, and as usual What are you doing in our house?Pancakes getting high centered on the bale was especially funny.
On the way to Pigland…
I thought I’d get a quick pic of the barrow and bale, fall leaves everywhere, maybe it might turn out the way it actually looked, but there was a sudden ambush:
The chickens, as usual, are all up in your business, no matter what it is.
HW busted three of them in the house! Which I really wish I’d seen. The screen door was snapped ajar, and two chickens were (reportedly), inside rummaging in the pile of beans I have out on newspaper on the floor drying, the third was posted lookout in the bootka. Oh shit, there he is! Quick, grab all the beans you can!
We moved the pigs a fair distance, from where they were recovering the field from the alder and buckthorn, to beside the greenhouse. They must till up the ground where I’m about to move the greenhouse to. It involved setting up the fence a couple of times in long corridors. The pigs were cooperative.Now they’re back in the sun, and practically on lawn, which they are making short work of. It’s kind of strange to have them (back) in the middle of everything, smack between the chicken tribes.
Something has been snatching guineas. A couple of adults are missing, and now there’s only one chick:(But gosh, it’s cute. A pile of bumps in the food dish: The guineas are not exactly “mine”; they’re very much their own, unlike the other obedient farm animals. They don’t mind eating the food, but they are cunning and very hard to trick or contain, even for their protection. They’ve been sleeping in the trees, and I’m racking my brain for how I can get them into someplace safe. I don’t even know what’s getting them. Nor do I have “someplace safe” in mind. I’ll get them all into the greenhouse for the winter, but it’s another week+ before that’s ready. What to do?
I love the outrageous purple of scarlet runner beans. It’s like the fake colouring of grape candy. And they are preposterously large beans, too – the plant, the pods, and the beans. Jack and the beanstalk beans.
HW was brushing alders, and discovered an impressive nest. He broke off the branch to show me, and demonstrate the features of the nest:
The nest builder used a combination of twigs, thick grass, and plastic threads from a feed sack,then moved down to finer grass for the inside bowl, and lined it with pine needles. From the back of the nest, you can see how the builder brought in short twigs and stacked, layered and crossed them, securing them with weaving, in the crotch of the host tree, almost exactly like we would go about building a treehouse platform in the fork of a tree.The ends of the “foundation” twigs are all sticking out the back. You can see how it was made to support this whole area. Birds are marvels. It is a very nice nest.
I got a few watermelons this year, that was exciting. Yellow flesh and pink flesh melons. Watermelons before:
And after:And a little later:The chickens love their melons.
Speaking of melons – a bucket of cucamelons. Weird little things, supposed gourmet items, exTREMEly productive. They are starting to fall off in the GH, raining like hail. To the pigs, as usual.
A rubber egg, almost perfectly intact.That won’t last long
The hens are enthusiastically emptying out the bucket of greens. Chard and green cabbage yes, celery and red cabbage, no thanks. They have to reach down a bit farther.
This little beast, the Deputy, lower right, thinks he’s the big king now.Look at all those ladies he’s managing. This is the second in command Silkie rooster, who has recently decided to organize the house hens – the layer hens who hang around our house, mooching and sunning in the paths. Now he thinks he’s a big boss. Some of them even let him mate them, which is truly awkward. He’s so small, sometimes he tips over and falls off of them. If hens could roll their eyes.
The Colonel concerns himself with his own breed, and the young Ameracuana roos that are coming up haven’t come into their oats yet and are still meek.
These pigs are going to be spoiled (well, in a way-they’ll be sleeping outside), but they’re going to get hot meals. Cooked potatoes kept warm on the woodstove all night with hard feed, or some hot water and milk over meal.
After all, who wants to dig into a cold bowl of cereal on a sub-zero morning? Not me.
This is the best time to have a pig, there’s so much food. Potatoes and squash and apples and greens, loads of waste veggies. Between the pigs and the birds, nothing gets wasted. The pigs get the chicken food fines, the chickens pre-graze the pig lunches:
The pig lunch buckets get lined up a few days ahead. I pick up a wheelbarrow load of apples at a time, and the garden greens day before usually, so the chickens get first crack at the buffet. They don’t hold back. Sometimes they’re in a mood and clean up on the kale, sometimes not. They also choose a few apples and pull them out of the bucket to eat.
Proper frost. Not the first. We got a squash-killing frost Sep 30.
The outdoor sunflowers are finished. They didn’t tip over like the GH sunnies, growing strong stems from living outside. I spread them out on top of the wood stove (hmm, it’s cold and I could stand to start a fire but now I can’t), because if I spread them out on the floor again, then…Dum dum dadum. Here come(s) the mice!(bride).I experimented with ripping the backs off the heads, since there’s kind of a hollow stem and air pocket. My theory is that less organic matter to get soft and mouldy means faster drying seeds. My entire take of homegrown sunflower seeds this year will be approximately one day’s wild bird ration. I feed the birds 7 bags of black oil seeds in the winter. That’s a fair chunk of Saskatchewan sunflower field. I want to get good at growing them – lots of them, but so far am bad at it. I love the fractal quality of the seed heads. Magical.
OMG, peanuts! They look like real little peanuts. I couldn’t wait to open them. Inside they’re jammed in like peas, the pod is soft and wet, and they taste not much like a peanut. They taste like a raw bean. Fun preliminary success with the experiment of the year. I think they’ll be much happier in the greenhouse next year.
I think this cold spell might have put paid to the fruit flies too (calloo, callay!).
I did all kinds of other things that needed doing, but not The Thing. And those tend to be the best days. A friend visit, sitting companionably with pet birds, and doing frost prep in the garden that’s going to sleep now under a thick blanket of mulch.
Two perfect fall days, crisp and bugless and sunny, and instead of the harvest pressure overwhelm, holding a sense of ease and “enough”-ness.
I may also be getting more sleep due to the shortening days – that may have something to do with the bliss. It’s almost the “it’s either done or it’s not done, full stop” time, when you walk away regardless of “done”.
I could be all-seasoning my garden, but instead I’m putting it to bed. Getting more out of the year will come later. As I take in the late beans, etc, I’m thinking about all the things I’ll do different next year (More watermelons. And orange and yellow tomatoes), the mistakes I’ll correct (plant melons later, they don’t like it cold) . There’s always next year. It’s easy, and pleasant, to look forward to what will be bigger and better with the lately earned experience and knowledge, and it likely will. But it’s nice to look back and recognize for a moment that it is better, now, than it was.
I’ve learned to garden some. I grew cabbages. I have a garden shed now. My beds are really getting in order. I’ve experienced the joy of sweeping a mulch blanket off a bed and finding it ready to plant. No-till is awesome. “No-work” is a crock of…. There’s a great deal of work, mostly upfront, and then the quality, weedless bed must be maintained – kept covered when not in use like a jar of milk, lest it grow unwanted things.
Maybe it’s coming with age (or the decline of energy that, once boundless, must now be budgeted) . I’m getting better at rationing my ambition. It won’t all get done at once, or nearly as soon as I’d like to. Given enough time, it will. And it will be better along the way if I aim low. Instead of how much can I fit in, I’m starting to think more like how little can I get away with planning to do? (Oh, the tyranny of a plan!) I’d love to paint the house. It needs it, blah blah, but hell, it can wait! It will be great when it gets done, but not worth the weight of grimly determining to do it. I’m not going to put that on a mental list yet, because it will be heavy there. I’m choosing the lightness of unscheduled, and any time unscheduled is a win. The time gets filled, with good and productive things, even things I might have planned, but it’s sweeter when it’s not on a list. (I’ve known this forever. It’s still elusive prey).
I’m thinking about my successes and gifts of the year, what I want to tweak: how I can spend more time with my friends?, hoping I can share out part of my greenhouse, how to ration out my time? (half a day seems to be the best maximum for focusing on any one project), will this be the year I finally get potatoes in the ground at fall?
How can I escape the September crush? Because it’s bad. Bad for me. I want to never feel like that again, and it has been part of the annual routine since moving here. And that, I think, is part of the adjustment that comes with diving into the farming life (along with, you’re going to suck at everything at first and make big mistakes). I’ve got to find a new rhythm. But I grew brussel sprouts, so I can learn to adjust my rhythm. Give me time.
We’re real birds! The Blondies in a rare moment of repose:It’s funny; all the birds that grew up here, and then some, are into perching. They love the tangled alder brush. There’s the baby guineas. Nice to get a sighting. All mixed up in the flock of young adults.Time to groom like everyone else! Surprise! The second, smaller walnut tree is bearing. They come later, and they are a different kind of walnut. This kind is nice. The husks are round and super easy to shuck off the shell (on the right), and the nut is round, exactly like ye old familiar walnut.On the left, the pear shaped walnuts (from the big tree) have flat, pointy shells, and stubborn husks.I’m starting to get a respectable haul, for the first walnut harvest ever. Nice.
The fall colours are out in variety and force, and as always seems to happen, the colour change is followed by strong sustained winds to knock off all the leaves, and make “fall” not a figure of speech. It’s no hurricane or anything but it’s a gusty evening.
The hens are behaving strangely, procrastinating about going in the coop.
And the guineas are electing to pile up on their skycoop rather than sit on the peak of the greenhouse tonight. The two chicks are doing well. Saw another bat too!
I thought – super cool insect discovery! Weird weird! These little grey lumps – clearly insects, that shrink away from being poked, all grouped up on a branch, with abundant hairy frosting all over them with a kind of fungus texture.
The apples are superabundant this year. Far more than last year.
“They say” that a good apple year means a hard winter. We shall see. It seemed true in 2014.Tree #5 has huge fruits on it that would rival any store bought Honeycrisp. So would the taste. Delicious.
These trees, while some have been released or had a little pruning, are for the most part still as wild as when we got here. Overgrown, diseased, crowded. Poor things. There’s too many. They don’t get plenty of attention. This tree, #47, is glorious! Huge, I can’t even get it all in a picture. The trunk has a mean lean and it looks like it’s nearly dead, but every year, it’s a wonder. Despite a 45˚ list it’s still tall, and crazy heavy with apples. It also has large fruit. I like this little tree. Not so little, but it has little pink-yellow fruit and in the two summers since it got released it has been rejuvenating itself. New low branches, and the fruit is coming in thicker and larger. I also don’t know what any of these heritage apples are. I get conflicting IDs.
The pigs are the chief beneficiaries of these riches. They get a bucket of windfalls every day. And the birds, and chickens, and squirrels, and chipmunks, and wasps. I have too much applesauce left over, so I’m not canning it this year, but hopefully, there will be cider:)
These are my favorite days of fall – not too hot, but not too cold. The bugs are gone and the ticks are long finished. We’ve been warned, by the frost, that winter is coming, but then there are lovely “gift” days of perfect, peaceful weather. It feels like it should be time to rest, peruse, hang out in the hammock and enjoy summer taking her last breaths. But it never is. September and October are always the worst months of the year for me, and I’m panicking and faltering under the crush of things that have to get done, so that everyone and everything will be ok for the winter. I’d like to change that. Possibly if there was only harvest to be done, it might be manageable.
The chickens don’t have that problem. It’s not as hot as it was in the summer, but they are still flopped out in their dust baths and sunny patches all afternoon. HW says “there’s chickens strewn about all along the path.” They aren’t inclined to move, once they get into their dirt bath doze. Sitting chicken‘s posture seems to be improving, by the way. She’s in the pile.
The guineas love perching in the walnut tree. There was this one night when they all flew off the greenhouse, after dark ,and tried to land in the top branches of the walnut tree, and some were more successful than others, some falling all the way to the ground, bouncing off branches the whole way. But usually, they like the long low branches over the feeder and the coop.
In the late 80s, there was a hair styling product called Mudd.
This hen saved her money and went with the Mud with one D. Her hair is nearly dreaded.
Well, I’ve got another broody hen. A bit late, but that’s ok. I’ve had November chicks before. Two Silkie hens failed to brood this year (psst, I think they’re defective), but this is a proven mom. Tomorrow I’ll have to box her.
I wonder if this is the lady who lunches. I suspect it is, because both moms are usually front and center in the GH come feeding time.
*Yep, it’s the one who leaves her eggs to eat. The eggs were abandoned this morning at breakfast time, but I felt them- still hot. Except for the risk of not getting back on the right eggs, this makes sense. At the end of a brood, she won’t be starving and depleted. And cranky. Especially if she’s running her heater in the early winter.
I have a chicken who forgot how to walk. She waddles around, and sets her tail on the ground. It’s very strange looking, and came on quite suddenly.
This chicken took sick a couple weeks ago. Comb went blue and floppy, she stopped eating and hunkered down into the pre-death chicken trance. I was sure she was done for.But she came out of it, as quickly as she went in. Comb red again, although still floppy. Appetite back, hanging out with the other hens, even dust bathing. Just one side effect. She walks really funny, like it’s raining all the time.
I’ve looked it up. She’s an old hen, past laying, so she’s not an internal layer or egg-bound. It’s been over a week, and although it looks so wrong, she seems otherwise fine, not struggling or suffering. Just sitting around.
Only two guinea chicks running around today. Life is brutal for latecomers.
They’re so funny! Little bitty chicks, the size of ping pong balls, scuttling around on their orange legs right in the middle of the big flock, like they belong there. They’re hard to even find in my pictures.
It’s a big rain day. The rain is thundering down; I caught 300 gallons of water in an hour off two roofs. Everything is puddled and the hens are mostly huddling under their new tents.
Already! Two little guinea chicks showed up at feeding time in the middle of the guinea herd!
Only two? She had about ten eggs in her nest even after the close call with the tractor, but I checked it out, and there were two empty shells, and four intact eggs. Maybe something happened, she rolled out a few eggs or something stole a few.
Then HW came home, discovered the new additions, and said “did you see the three new chicks?”
Three!? Sure enough, there was a latecomer. Easy to tell which one. Just a few hours made the original two old hands at life. The late arrival was shaky and slow and having a hard time navigating uneven terrain and obstacles.
Mama isn’t as crazy as she used to be either. She let me pick one up.
I got six “new” hand-me-down layer hens last night. They traveled quietly and stowed easily into the coop.
This morning, they came down the ramp looking around with their necks at maximum extension. What? Is this where we live? Where are we? They walk around slowly, lifting their feet high and setting them down cautiously.
And the home girls are long necking at them. Who are THEY? Where’d they come from? Harumph.
Everyone is very suspicious, and the roosters are very busy taking charge.
One large advantage of the tiny house, free from the usual punctures in the envelope for plumbing and wiring, is that it’s almost mouseproof. Mice can’t get in from underneath.
However, because the soffit isn’t done, mice can get into the walls by climbing the house and going in through the roof, and occasionally, a very enterprising or highly intelligent mouse does. Not often. Every month or two, long enough for us to forget where we put the mouse traps, a mouse with heightened problem solving skills appears who finds its way in.
Then there’s the sound.
Crinkle….crinkle….scritch scritch! that makes our eyes pop open in the night – MOUSE! Then HW rises to find and set traps, and that’s the end of the mouse of superior intellect.
But this mouse is surviving much longer. Why would I want peanut butter, out of a jar, when I can eat plump organic sunflower seeds? It’s a smart mouse, after all. I’ve spread traps around and among my spread out seeds, hoping he’ll run across one by accident. He isn’t.
This mouse is not necessarily eating the seeds either – how much can a mouse hold? Instead, he’s relocating them. I find little piles of seeds, so far: under my socks dropped on the floor, in the dishtowels, in the laundry basket, and in the kleenex box. He’s keeping those seeds cozy.
I just cleaned up all the seeds, though, so the end is nigh for Mensa mouse. As soon as he gives peanut butter a try.
The bees are doing the strangest thing. They are obsessed with the chicken food, groups of them buzzing and crawling over it all day.
The chickens are a little nervous about this, but they eat anyway.
It started as soon as I opened the last bag of chicken food, so the only thing I can guess is that this particular batch has a lot of pollen in it. If there was some weed in the field or one of the grains in flower at harvest time, pollen might have come to be ground into the feed, and the honeybees are scavenging it right out of the chicken trough.
Every day, the bees are in every chicken dish, all day, working. I’ve never seen such a thing before.
When my phone slipped out of my hand and the screen shattered (exhibit H, lower right), becoming instantly useless, I scrambled to find an old phone that would work in the meantime.
I went to that box (the “someday, I’m going to be glad I saved that pink flip phone!” box), and found almost all the phones I’ve ever had.
The clutch of old phones got me thinking about electronic waste.
I resentfully entered into cell phone ownership in the late 2000s (pink flip phone), and, like cars, used my phones until they expired (which didn’t bode well for my current project), and with no hunger for cutting edge technology (as might be apparent).
So even with a very non-disposable attitude towards phones, I’ve gone through 11 phones. Three are not pictured. There was a silver LG flip phone (best phone ever!) that was impervious to all kinds of abuse, and I passed on to someone else for whom it continued to go and go. Oh, the days of T9 texting. The tenth was another LG, the chastity belt phone, that refused to unlock for any coercion and became a camera. And one got lost in the woods.
I started charging phones. Two of these don’t take a SIM card, so although they function, they were obsoletized, alas (someday…that pink phone will have its day, again). Which would be the one that could get me through this pinch? Maybe a blackberry? Between the two of them, one complete blackberry is present, but it doesn’t talk to the network. The iphone was hopeful. Elegant phone, totally functional but for a broken internal antenna – garbage. First LG touchscreen – total digital screen failure – kaput.
The Samsung on the end worked like a charm, yay! The reason it got retired has not yet become apparent. I’m about to buy phone #12.
I (self-identified resistor of phone consumption) am at an average of a phone every two years, which is about average (my attitude affects nothing). All those pounds of waste! Times billions of people, times all the years to come that we will continue to consume cell phones!
I’m also not doing anything useful by keeping my phone collection other than hoarding precious metals in an inaccessible form. I need to get these recycled.