Happy Hop Hop!
What!? No blog post?
There’s another nor’easter in Nova Scotia that caught me away from home. Driving conditions are ´orrible!
HW is tending the chickens and Apples is entertaining him by jumping out of her box. She has been known to sometimes make one great flap and perch on the edge of her box or parachute out into the middle of the floor. I would say “never a dull moment”, except, it’s almost all dull moments. 99% of the time she hangs out in her box like the most low-maintenance pet (or box troll), and only very rarely does she make a big move (which for her, is still a pretty small move).
Good god, a tick already?!!
A deer tick, first week of March! (On HW. He was pruning fruit trees). What is the world coming to?
Hello creepy crawly feelings of ticks walking on me, whether or not they’re really there. For the next seven months.
I should have taken a picture before cutting the tick in half. I figure no picture is better, now.
There’s a huge curl of snow hanging off the woodshed. You can see how the whole mattress of snow was sliding off the roof and then it was arrested mid slide.Taking these pictures, I saw that the house is doing the same thing. It was warm for much of the day yesterday, but then it cooled at night, so there was perfect conditions so the snow to slide, but get stopped part way.
Getting a load of this snow today. The Christmas card variety, that makes everything look good.Even a pallet. It’s very cozy in the greenhouse right now, banked up like this.The hens always come for sno-cone time. They love snow and ice. I can only assume it’s the texture and variety, the same reasons we like ice cream. My bees. I don’t know if they’ll make it. I lost my original hive, the big hive, at the end of summer, and this is the new hive, the late summer arrivals. Stronger stock, but will they be infected by what killed my other hive? Fingers crossed for the winter. So far, they are still humming in there.I love seeing the little bird hops through the snow. The little birds are so familiar, hopping along our paths, the deck, so close when we’re not there to see them. Here one went up to the door and along, behind the shovel…Some birds can only side by side hop – both legs doing the same thing at the same time. There’s so much going on in the brain to enable one-leg-at-a-time walking, like we know walking (balance, coordination, shifting), that birds capable of striding instead of hopping are considered to have greater intellects. There’re ravens and crows, birds of prey and pigeons, that walk, well known for their big brains, and… ahem, chickens! Not usually cited among the mental giants, but they are definitely one leg at a time walkers. The perching rooster was tightrope walking the guinea swing today. Not quite Philippe Petit, but impressive (Hmm, I think he just got his name).Very few birds at the trough today. Just chickadees and juncos today. The ground seeds were getting covered up quickly and I was re-casting, so it will be a big feast when it all melts. I love capturing transitions. The juncos are camera shy.Hey, deep snow!
Maritime Canada and Eastern US is being pummeled by an epic storm, and I’m not at home. HW is holding down the fort, (perhaps literally, in the gale), and I hear a chick has hatched for Brown Bonnet in the broody kennel. She’s now comfortably in the house, working on her pet chicken status. (It was only a matter of time. Whomever I once confidently told that I would “never have hens in the house” … yeah, yeah, ok). All the hype about these storms rolling through is making me suspicious. Isn’t this phenomena also known as … winter?
And why all these names? There really isn’t anywhere to go from “Bomb Cyclone”. That seems to set up an expectation, like it might be disappointing if it turns out not to be aggressively destructive; if it turns out to be, simply, a storm. With rain, snow, and high winds.
To compare, this is the 20 year anniversary of the truly epic cataclysm in Ontario and Quebec, and it’s known as “The Ice Storm” (dignified and deserved capitalization).
Happy “meeting of the years”, and may all your positive hopeful visions for 2018 become reality!
Well, somebody’s feeling better! I came back in the house to find the bird had escaped form the bowl and was peacefully sitting on the windowsill, HW companionably having a coffee in the rocking chair.I grabbed her with a towel and we pet her for a bit before putting her back in the greenhouse with her family.
HW set up our tree, and I decorated. To recap, last year, I lamented the lack of an angel to top the tree, and he said “We don’t need an angel…(thinking pause)… We ought to have a goat! Because that’s where a goat would be.”
Yes, yes it would. (If you are not in the know about Goats in Trees, a magical world awaits you).
So last year I set about acquiring some ornament sized goats. It wasn’t as hard as you might think (Etsy is etsellent). I got eight handmade wire and wool goats, from two different craftswomen.
And here they are! My conclusion: A. This is definitely the Christmas tree of my dreams! and B. I need about twice as many goats!
Back to Etsy…
They perch in the tree quite, surprisingly, well on their little wire feet. Just don’t jostle the tree! Or they all fall out, like fainting goats (also a thing). And they look authentically goatish and smug. Plus the tree looks authentically lean, as if the goats have been pruning.Best Xmas tree ever!!!
*** A reader contribution!! :) ***
Tune for Tree Goats:
Climb every mountain, ford every stream
Follow every byway, ’til you find your tree.
A tree that will give all the green you can eat
Many days of your life it’s the ultimate treat!
Climb all the branches, most can hold your weight
Tiptoe on the thin ones, now’s not the time to faint.
Climb high and higher, bleat to the skies
Look down on the low ones, you have won the prize!
By I. K. [With a respectful nod to the original:]
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I have two broody hens. Why. Why now? Anyway, a broody hen is about the stubbornest thing there is, so all I can do is give them eggs, see what they can do. Maybe they change their minds when it gets colder.
The chickery is a duplex again, with the Oreo’s mom (white) and one of the Heathers, each with a box, sharing the “yard” and snack bar. I covered the chickery with canvas, I was thinking to reduce light and distraction, and especially reduce the chance of birds falling in, because all the birds like to perch on the edge of the chickery. They switch boxes multiple times a day. They come out to eat, or poop, and then the other hen comes out, and the first one back gets on the first eggs she sees. This used to provoke very loud outrage, but now they’ve both learned to just go find the other box, and so far they are pretty responsible. Snow White’s a proven mama, she raised the Oreos (now gigantic and disrepectful).
There comes a day in the life of every Silkie chick, when they get their pants.One day, out of nowhere, they appear to be wearing little feather short pants. So cute!
These chicks gave me a scare this morning. I couldn’t find them anywhere, couldn’t hear them either, and I found their mother in the big coop with the grownups, where she’d slept – no chicks! I was looking everywhere for bodies.
Then I found them alive and well, foraging behind a hay bale with the teenagers, quiet because they were busy, and content. I think they slept in the little coop with the teens, and mom decided to take the night off of chick care. Left ’em with their older siblings, babysitting.
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.
I probably would have held out longer, living in a sweater, but HW started the first fire of the season. On the eve of October. Cozy:)
The last week of September had days as hot as any of the middle of summer, then a powerful rainstorm and the temperatures cut in half for this week, and frost on the way.
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.
Fall is here. It snuck in one week and although the season could be said to change overnight, it was hard to pin it on which night, exactly.
I haven’t built a fire yet, but I usually hold out quite a while before I give in to a fire. No reason, other than my long habit of stretching my cold tolerance. HW is already wearing insulated Carhartt jackets and flannel shirts; I’m still in shorts (with my slippers).
The chickens are no-necking in the mornings, seeming a little grumpy about it. No outright frost yet, though, to reveal all the squashes. Any day.
I went out to feed the pigs lunch, and it was quiet.
They are usually oinking with impatience; they have loudly ticking and highly accurate food clocks. I walked over to shut off the fencer, and I didn’t see pigs anywhere.
I just moved them yesterday, the fence was sound, did they seriously make a jail break? F#$%!
I started walking again and Oink! I heard a little grunt.
I stared into their enclosure. Wait, is that? What? No way! There’s a pig in there?
No, there was two pigs in there. They had burrowed under a pile of branches, and were barely, barely discernible in the pile of brush. Totally concealed.
Any reason for this gilly-suit behaviour? Unknown.
When I started walking away, they came snorting out, shaking off the branches, scampering out oinking joyously. I suspect it was purely a game. I doubt it was comfortable. I’ve never seen pigs dig their way under a brush pile. I think I just got pig-pranked.
Let’s see if she can find us here. Bet she can’t! Hold still! She doesn’t see us! You’d better oink! No, you oink! She’s walking away, doesn’t see us, hahaha! Oink! She still can’t see us and I oinked, hahaha, she’s looking right at us! Haha, oh, we got you good!
You should see the Oreos now.
They still pal around with the Silkie mom who raised them, but they both tower over her. The size differential is quite amusing.
Even though they´re not full grown, they´re getting quite magnificent. Slate on black feathers with hints of emerald green, and both of them developed copper in their neck feathers.
They´re supposed to be Ameracuanas, but I think some Copper Maran got in that mix. Will the eggs be blue or brown?
One looks like a rooster, with a little pink of comb coming in.
It´s a nice hot day, so the chickens decided to flake out in the path.These are the Famous Five, the house moochers. They just kind of tip over like beached boats, and stick out a wing.
Even Jean Jacket‘s in there.
Or they´ll find some shade where they can get it.
Even a Brahma is lounging.I wanted to not get these pigs stuck on a 3x/day feeding schedule so it was possible to leave for the day, so they get their piggy rations morning and night, but to tide them over, they also get a 5 gal bucket of apples every day, or whatever fruit/scraps/vegetables (It’s a good time of year to be a pig).
Usually, there are several apples left over come supper time. If there are no apples, then I know they had a big day, and they’re legitimately hungry for dinner.Today they got turnips and kale too, and happily, they loved the kale, eating it first. I wasn’t sure after the cucumbers. They stand on it to rip a piece off with their mouths, like they’ve done it before.
The guineas are at this age where they just get into trouble all day.
They’re falling in the drink, getting stuck in or under stuff, and practicing perching anywhere they can. I get called outside frequently by the panicked shrieks of the mortally assailed, and I find chicks…
How did it get in there? Last year I planted a highbush blueberry and set a cage over it so the chickens didn´t uproot it through their vigourous appreciation of mulch.
I routinely found wailing chicks “trapped” in the chickery until I set it up on its side. Now it´s a perch.They’ve got that guinea vase shape and they´re starting to turn speckled from striped, but they’re still brown.
Then I was brought outside at dusk by some particularly sustained alarm calling.
To find this:
The chicks were getting up on the greenhouse. And they were really nervous about it, making a lot of consternation noises.It started with the grownups. They started inching up onto the greenhouse from the sky coop while mama was sitting with her brood on the perches.
A couple of days ago, they started roosting on the peak.
Not to be outdone, the chicks just decided that’s the place to sleep now.
First they flap up to the arch from the coop Then they scoot up until they gain the peak
A few of them are content to stay on the coop, which I think is smart, but I’m sure they’ll be leveled up in no time.
I have a theory that this started with the weather vane. If that bird can get up there, then so can we.
Their additions are not very attractive. They’re adding a lot of nitrogen now to the water I’m catching off the greenhouse.
No, they don’t puncture the plastic. It’s tight at night in the cold. It makes loud rumbling as they all scurry back and forth across it.
What’s funny, is that there’s not much space at the top. It´s kind of a one way street. Yet they insist on going back and forth, and when they pass each other….
If anyone gets more than a few inches from the center, they start to slip, then run in place, flapping, and either they regain the summit or abort, and push off to fly to the ground and then begin the quest again.
Eventually they line up like beads for the night. It looks like an owl buffet to me, but I don’t have any ideas how to stop them.
The only time to see the wild Oreos up close is evening time in the coop. They are handsome looking now, and not so much filling as cookie these days – they´re turning out raven black, with the blackest glossy legs.
The guinea hen is definitely setting.
Later on she scraped up all the hay in the coop, and made a lovely, perfectly round nest with high walls. When she flattens out and dozes, you can barely see comb over the sides of her nest.
No idea how many eggs she´s got. Easily 20. Perhaps a chicken egg got in there too. In fact, she could be due any day. I don´t know about guinea terms, but she´s got to be close.
And since there´s only three birds walking about yet, I suspect those three are the boys, and the other hen has found her own nest site somewhere in the woods. May she walk out healthy one day with a trail of chicks.
While I´m delighted that she´s pleased enough with the coop I made them to brood in it, there are some things that I did not consider. Such as, what happens when they hatch?
She hasn´t lifted off that nest for a moment, so I´m thinking as soon as they hatch she´ll be ready for a snack. And then day old guinea chicks will start pouring out of the coop, six feet off the ground? If they do bounce, then, how about when mom goes back to bed? If I lift in the chicks, she´ll come blazing out, the chicks will follow her out…this is a circular vision.
I decided to put a screen door on the coop so I can keep them all in there a couple of days, or something.
Applying the screen door was fine. When I set a dish of food and water inside the door, however, whoooweee!
She is terrifying! She opens her mouth like a cobra, spreads her wings wide and full, so she looks like a flat feather wall, and stares. Then one piercing squawk, and wham! cobra strike. She gave me a good chomp. Same when I refilled the water, after she tugged the dishes in close to the circle around her nest. Then I had to reach in even closer to her. I didn´t risk the food dish.
And then four hens decided to hang out in the woodshed, even though it wasn´t raining.
Wood ticks lie in wait everywhere.
This was a bad tick day. I had ticks all over me all day, and I thought I should have kept count. I probably had 30 ticks on me today.
So the next day I did count. It was not as bad a tick day as the previous day, but I carefully counted all the ticks I pulled off of my clothes and self:
In the vicinity of the bird feeder, there are a couple of sunflowers sprouting!
Out of all the pounds of black oil birdseed, a couple seeds escaped consumption, and found fertile ground.
I wonder if they have a chance to make it to maturity? I´ve had a hard time growing sunnies on purpose, because they are very tasty when young! To many consumers.
This one has been sampled:
The piglets are settling in, and getting a little friendlier.
They are kind of like dogs in some ways. They stretch out their back legs behind them when they first get up, wag their tails, enjoy a good sprint, even do some barking, which sounds like whooping cough.
These pigs are so dynamic, I can’t believe the difference from the 2014 pink pigs. They are not lazy or laidback. They express themselves with a good back and forth sprint the length of their fence, whenever we come out with their food, or a treat. They´re deep into rooting already, and don´t sleep in. They´re up with the chickens.
AP (“my pig”) is pushy (the one with a blaze). AP is bolder. Spots, or Spotty, has more white on her face – her blaze is patchy. She also has white lower eyelashes on her right eye.
They have a big splashy go at the dog bowl.
They have a big wrestle over it, but it seems to come out equal, so we haven´t introduced a second bowl yet.
Joinup! First contact, helped by the prospect of some milk:)
I´m going to be so sore!
We were attacking the garden today, replacing fence posts; the old ones were rotten and broken (“these should last for a year” – three years ago!). Shaping garden beds out of the remaining areas of our fenced space. These spots have been covered with waste silage plastic (as seen in background) for a year or more, and the earth is awesomely root-free.
In other words, digging shallow trenches. Which immediately filled with water. Digging that is like wet concrete, clumping and dragging on the boots and shovel and resisting being dumped out of the wheelbarrow. Especially since I´m digging to the clay layer, which will be filled in with wood chips. Getting that topsoil off to pile on the beds, instead of supporting weeds in the aisles.
But the bugs aren’t out yet! So it´s all glorious. Any day now, the bugs, the peepers, and the tree buds will all pop out at once, so it´s time to enjoy the peaceful working conditions.
My first planting! Spinach, two weeks late, according to my planting calendar. I felt like I should start gardening like I mean it, so I put some brain work in in the winter planning the planting schedule for starts and direct sowing, and it sure feels good now to have a simple schedule to follow.
I mapped the garden in seven areas, for crop rotation, estimated how much of X thing I want to grow, and then calc’ed back/forward from frost date and made a calendar. Now all I have to do is follow it. Far less thinking. It´s nice to not be mapping each little bed for “what was in here last year/previous two?” Tedium.
Provided my last frost date projection (guess) of May 21 is not wildly off (actual date fluctuates between Apr 30 and Jun 1 in the last five years), the planting calendar will be a wild success.
Inside, the starts are thriving. Again with the calendar, I shouldn’t have too-leggy tomatoes and too-late celery when it´s time to transplant out, thanks to my planned and staggered starting. Yes, I´m just now figuring this out.
Sure enough, the piglets went to bed in the pig house. Excellent.
We closed up the fence in the night. We’ve so got these pigs now.
In the morning, HW went to feed them. They both bolted, straight through the fence like it wasn’t there.
You’d think, maybe there’s something wrong with the fence. They don´t even squeak when they go through it. HW, having had the same thought, is checking the fence the hard way, every day, and it’s on. He’s getting a good lift, even with big boots (I will not check the fence that way).
On my way home from work, I met my pigs coming out the road. This is disconcerting, to meet one’s livestock strolling up the road you’re driving down. Oh hey!
They looked small from the driver’s seat, vulnerable, like a couple of toddlers confidently taking a walk together.
I chased them all the way home, although they kept pulling over to the shoulder for all the world to let me by, and they weren’t afraid of the truck. They kept stopping on the side of the road, looking back at me. Go ahead. Why aren’t you passing? They were afraid of ME, though, when I stepped out of the truck and charged them. Zoom!
That did it. they’re expanding their territory now. The pigs can’t be marching up the road visiting the neighbours. That’s just embarrassing. (This is all embarrassing, it’s just kind of funny too, and if it helps someone else-).
I extracted the stored chicken fence, schlepped it over and starting setting it up around pigland, knowing the piglets would be moseying over from the driveway, hungry after their big run home. I was about half done when they showed up, and seeing me, hid themselves. I finished anyways, rushing, leaving a big funnel open. If they go to bed at night again, then we close the fence in the night, muhahaha!
I lurked. I waited. I furtively encouraged the pigs from the woods to pigland vicinity. I watched from afar. The pigs approached the sizable gap in the fence, did some sniffing, had a discussion, reached consensus, turned, and purposefully marched off into the woods.
Oh GOOD GOD! I set off at a run, down our trail, and got in front of them. It was a near thing. They were headed somewhere, deliberately. Now it was dusk, and I walked back and forth in front of them, and after they turned, kicked around making noise until they wandered back in the vicinity of pigland again. This time, with dark falling in the woods, they were content to root around under the bird feeder, winding down. I waited, for ages, until I saw them hesitantly take steps into the confines of the fence, and I retired. NOW we’ve got them.
Yes, now we’ve got them. This works. Two-strand electric fence for pigs? No way! Chicken/sheep mesh fence – yes.
At the beginning of the winter when the chickens were first incarcerated in the greenhouse for the season, we prepared some bird baths.
Inspired by my neighbour, who brings warm (room temperature) sand from her house to the hen house (hot bath!), I put a bunch of mud on the woodstove to heat up.
I shoveled the mud out of a couple of popular summer-time hen bathing holes, where, when it wasn’t soaking wet, it was fine dust. The old style metal crisper trays were perfect for heating on the wood stove.
It took days to dehydrate the dirt. It cracked like the desert, made little popping volcano vents, and then we’d break it up and cook it some more. HW stirred it assiduously, raving about how much those lucky birds were going to enjoy these baths, and pronouncing it not yet ready, day after day.
Finally, the bird baths- heavy with warm, finely stirred, premium dirt- went out to the greenhouse. I was looking forward to seeing the birds enjoy them, too, probably in the lazy, sunny, afternoon. I expected to hear excited clucking, to find two hens and the oversized rooster jammed in one bin at once and overflowing the sides, legs sticking out in odd directions….
and I never saw them. Not one single solitary sighting of a chicken getting her dirt bath on.
They were definitely using it. They were using it with vigour. There was a dirt radius around each bin. Feathers in the dirt. Week by week, the level in each bin went down. Every time a chicken bathes, she covers herself thoroughly with dirt, then gets up, walks out, and shakes herself off like a dog, making a Pigpen puff of dust. This slowly erodes the dirt capital.
Months passed. Then last week, I caught a brown hen in the bath! I crept back from the door, went for my camera, and of course, she was finished her ablutions by the time I got back with it. One sighting in months – the odds were poor that I’d ever catch another.
But I did! I didn’t waste time going for my camera but used my damaged phone – a sighting!
It was rearranging time again in the greenhouse, which is a big party for all the birds.
First their hay bale play structure was on the north side of the greenhouse, now it’s going to the south. The bales are really disintegrating now, but that’s ok. They don’t have to last much longer.
Funny, the most action is not where I’m removing the hay bales from, but where I’m putting them. There’s a bale here now where formerly there was not? Fascinating!
Immediately they have to stand all over it and discuss.
Now they’re starting to get interested in what’s exposed on the other side of the room.
I love the rooster mincing across the high wire. And the guinea on the right.
As usual, the layers tired of the gym and the Silkies came and established their clubhouse.