Guinea Chicks!

I’m so excited!  I’ve got a shipment of little guinea chicks!20160828_112142

They were in a Pepsi box when I picked them up – a loud box, objecting to being moved around.  They settled down on my lap for the ride home, and then I carried them gently to the hen yard.

The guineas are going to get the chickery for the time being.  The former residents got bumped up to Silkieland the night before – their final promotion.  I also moved Silkieland, so that everyone in there would have maximum entertainment on the chicks’ first day. 20160828_112229Inside the box.  Seven little striped brown heads – they look nothing like they will when they grow up.20160828_112322I tore open the box and placed it in the chickery to let them come out on their own time.20160828_112516A half hour later.

There they are, all settled down.

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Another half hour later.

They are approximately one centimeter nearer to the door of their box.

Their own time is never fast enough for me.  I tore the lid further open (alarmed cheeping!) and left them alone again20160828_121606An hour later.

All of them hiding behind the box!

And then, a bit later, busy foraging like normal chicks:

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Adorable.  They have these wide orange beaks, like tiny puffins, except they look mostly like striped chicken chicks.

They happily darted about being chicks all day, and at night we went to box them up and move them into the greenhouse.  This is what we found:20160828_143502

They were all tucked up, nearly invisible, as concealed as they could manage in the short grass.  So clever, already.

I’m going to attempt an adoption.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but these are little African birds that just came out from under a lamp, so they are going to be cold without a heat source.

I took a hen out of the Silkie coop that just went broody, and I’m going to swap out her eggs tonight for a bunch of guineas.

Surprise!  Your eggs hatched super fast!  And the chicks are unusually large. 


The Adoption failed.  I tucked the guineas under the broody hen in the night and slipped out the eggs and no one was very perturbed.

In the morning though, the hen utterly refused to mother them, and completely ignored them when I put them all in the chickery.

She was NOT fooled.

In fact, she was clearly pining, staring through the bars of the cage. To underline her disconsolation, while I was watching her she lifted a leg and wistfully rested her foot on the mesh wall like a hand, in appeal.

I couldn’t resist, I promptly put her back in a box with a set of eggs.

The upside of drought

We’ve had an epic atypical drought this year in Nova Scotia this year.  Especially inland where we are.  The coasts have had more rain. We have had about 25mm total from May through August.

Everything is parched.  Forest fires are raging in the area, wells are running dry, and the impact on agriculture is making the news.

The ground is dry, cracking, and powdery anywhere it doesn’t have a vegetal cover.  Wind blows skirls of dust across the ground.

However, these are ideal conditions for chicken bathing.

20160803_102807I come around the corner and find the rooster indulging.  He’s doesn’t usually get caught in the bath.20160803_102812

He just looked at me, and declined to lift his Henry VIII body out of his dust bowl.20160803_102944

 

 

Chickery!

I made a floorless chick pen!  It’s pretty simple.  Four uprights, the same size, and then eight horizontals, made of lath.  It’s two feet tall, and I know that because I used one continuous piece of three foot (1/4″) hardware cloth, slit the corners up 12″, and folded them out.  20160705_133148

The hardware cloth is actually stapled between the lath and the uprights, for anyone looking real close, so it’s very much secured there.

It’s not exactly a tractor, but it’s very portable.  I put it out in the field, and eight rocks hold down the outflaps of hardware cloth, so that chicks can’t tunnel under the edge, and predators are likely to find it inconvenient to get under the edge too, should they come around in the day.

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This chick is almost completely under the wall, in a little dip

It takes only a couple minutes to move all the rocks off, relocate it, and replace the rocks.

This is going to be the middle stage of the Chick Cycle.  I want the chicks to be outside as soon as possible, but it’s proved dangerous in the past to put them in with the whole flock when they are tiny, so this is a middle stage.

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Fall is here

After a terribly dry summer, the temperature suddenly dropped and it seems fall is here; the hot days are gone.

Week after week this summer the weather reports have been tantalizingly forecasting possible showers, but those much-talked-about teasers always vanish the day before they happen into the blazing sun icon – again – a whole row of full suns, week after week.

The apples are small, the grass is dry, we’ve already had a frost, and now, the weather has shifted into the third season and is plotting a course of decreasing temperatures – signalling to all that the last push of work – the last chance to do it, is on.

Strawberry snack

Going back to strawberry season….

I’ve got a chipmunk helping him/herself in the strawberry beds.

Every so often I hear a surprised “Eeep!” when I’m working in the garden, but I rarely see the culprit.

However, I see the meal interrupted on his table, which is the cutest part.

She is carrying the strawberries from the bed up onto this old chair, and enjoying a strawberry supper with a view.

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He’s picking the strawberries at the stem.  I knew I’d seen a few berries that appeared picked, which I thought odd, but I guess I interrupted the picker before she’d carried them away.

This is so cute, he’s allowed to keep it up.

Eggplant

This is my favorite way (pretty much, only way) to prepare eggplant.

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Eggplant sliced a 1/2 inch thick, sliced fresh tomatoes, and grated or sliced cheese.  Grind black pepper liberally (I added sliced green olives to this batch).   Hose down with olive oil and bake until the cheese bubbles.

Really, it’s like mini-pizzas with eggplant for the “crust”.

Super weird insect thing of the day

I hardly knew what I was seeing at first, but it was an insect of unknown type wrapped in a thick parka of small pink spider-like attack insects.

She fell into a piece of flashing I was using, and even with this load of hitchhikers, she was walking around and desperately trying to scrape the offenders off her head with her forelegs.

A bad day for this insect.

20160903_145741 I tried to interfere.  I dropped it in some water, imagining that the small attackers would release their prey under the greater threat.

No.   It just made the situation worse for the beetle, who was now swimming for her already beseiged life.  The attackers were totally unperturbed.

I tried scraping them off with my finger, and got enough off to briefly see it was an orange and black beetle, a kind I see all the time.

The scraped off bugs just surged back with the speed of ball bearings rolling toward a magnet.  They were unstoppable.  And fast.

I let her go in some grass and she was last seen apparently trying to bury herself.

So strange!

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And now, a bunny story

Unfortunately there’s no picture of this.

HW was walking along our path.  He spotted a bunny about 50 feet ahead of him, hopping towards him.

It’s very usual to see bunnies; we have a lot of rabbits around and see them every day.  They even have their usual spots.  There’s the beehive bunny, the chicken coop bunny, the other chicken coop bunny, the driveway bunny, the end of the road bunny….

This was the shop bunny, he’s already known for daily appearances and odd behaviour.  We’re not sure if all his screws are tight.

This bunny was running towards HW, not at running-away-from-something speed, but rabbit-on-his-way-somewhere speed.  Hop hop hop.  He was also drenched, his hair pasted down on his body by the rainwater on the long grass and weeds.

HW stopped on the trail and stood still, to watch this wet bunny approach.

The bunny ran right up to him, and came to a stop between his feet.  The bunny swung his head to one side, then the other, wiggling his nose to sniff each of HW’s boots.  Then without looking up (Huh.  That’s a bit different.   *shrug*), the bunny hopped between his feet and carried on down the path at the same speed!  Hop hop hop!

Eulogy for a dog

I have to just go ahead and post this…(this has sucked the life out of June/July)…

I wrote this the last day of May (but didn’t get round to posting it), after our best friend had been missing six weeks. As we were to learn later, May 31 was shortly after he would have actually died.  The awful circumstances of his death were far worse than I had imagined….(explained end of post).

Eulogy to the most beautiful Dog

I’m beginning to accept that he is gone for good.  Dead, somehow, somewhere.  Not just lost, misplaced, but lost, gone.

Devastating doesn’t really cover it.
It’s a terrible loss; he’s missing, everywhere, everything I do, since I used to do everything with him.
I haven’t really yet felt any grief.
I get to keep thinking, “but he’s so beautiful and friendly, maybe he’s ingratiated himself into someone else’s life and he’s fine. Someday he’ll escape and come back, or not.”  I want to believe that he’s fine, moving on to another phase of life that is hopefully comfortable for him.

So far his dog’s life was a hard, difficult life, thrice rescued/rejected as unmanageable, and  we did a good job with him, slowly. He was such a mental case at first that the first several, miserable (why did you want a dog?) months were just managing and controlling him, to establish his place as a dog.  At the end, it was getting interesting, once we were mutually attached and he was content and secure in his place, teachable and proud of learning.   We had come to a really good place with him.  He earned some trust by being obedient and predictable, and he was much much calmer.

Continue reading Eulogy for a dog

crows roosting

Now I know where the crows roost in our nearest town.

I’ve never seen a crow roost before, but I’ve read about it.  Crows converge at night to sleep together in a huge social group, although they spend most of their days alone or in small family groups.  They have a designated place they gather.

They spend the evening before settling down socializing, sharing information, fighting, flirting.

Unexpectedly, while I waited in the parking lot for HW to come out of the grocery store, I discovered where the city crows sleep.  Right in the heart of town.

Just before dark, they were swirling around the treetops of these few tall trees, settling down and then skirling up again, putting on swooping chases and synchronized flight maneuvers, diving and landing and taking off again, shouting raucously all the while. The trees were dotted with them and the sky full of action.

They were loud!  A big crow social hour; a party before bed.

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Waiting for rain

It’s that kind of day.

It’s been so hot, for so long.  Everything is parched, tired, thirsty.  Fire risk is high.

Every day I haul water to keep the greenhouse and garden residents alive.

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My broccoli is thriving!  A surprise.  Cabbages utterly failed last year, so I thought cruciferae didn’t agree with my garden.

Also I have 5 asparagi! (yeah yeah, asparguses).  Asparagus is the first thing we ever planted, our first month here, but that attempt didn’t take.  The asparaguys wanted a more prepared bed.  Now they seem happy.

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A honeybee working a blackberry cane by the well.

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We’re standing on a pile of sticks. What’s it to ya?

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I tried to add my fingers for scale. didn’t really help

I found this enormous spider.

She was bigger than my cell phone is wide.

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Everywhere, snakes.  Snakes like it hot.

Today at work I fed the future layers some lettuce.

These birds have decided that people are terrifying, and jam themselves in a corner to hide.

They’re just past the awkward stage.

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They’re hiding. As hard as they can.

One intrepid bird always sticks their neck out first.

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Hmm. Is this worth coming out for?

I had to be outside, with the door closed, before they would emerge from hiding.

Chickens in a box- lockdown!

Since the most determined little brown hen got up off her eggs for the second time, right before they were due, toasting another clutch, I finally listened to HW and removed her from the coop and locked her up.  This is her third nearly-complete round, and that’s a long time for her to be sitting and mostly not eating.

Another brown hen went broody at the same time, and I got to them just in time, as each already had an eight egg horde- a little ambitious, but it’s summer, so I let them keep all eight.  Now they are boxed.

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HW and I went back and forth- I have had bad luck when I interfere with them, but it has also not gone well when I don’t interfere with them.  They find ways to screw up; it’s very frustrating.  He told me “just take them out of the coop entirely, then there’s no distractions, no more eggs to steal”.  This means I will have to reintroduce them to the flock, and learning how to go in and out of the coop may be that much harder, but we’ll cross that hurdle once we get some chicks, I suppose.

They are in ventilated boxes next to the door of the greenhouse.  I’m a bit paranoid of them getting too hot in there, and how secure are they in the GH at night?, but so far, so good.  There is always a healthy cooling  draft through the GH.  They each have a fount with their poultry vitamin supplement (chicken Gatorade), and a little bowl of food, which they both consume a little of every day, I’m glad, and I sometimes have to scoop their poop.

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There are four more sister hens and the original white hen (outside), who is a little old lady now.  She seems to have shrunk, so tiny when you pick her up.  Still cranky though.  If any more drop into the broody trance, I’m going to have a whole lineup of bird boxes.

Bumblebee nests

I’ve been suspecting that I had bumblebees nesting along our path through the woods.  I’ve heard and seen them flying low and sort of furtively in the area, since last year.

Then I learned more about bumblebees and that it’s sort of special to find a nest (they burrow in the ground), so I was keeping a more attentive eye out.   Yesterday I happened to be walking out in the morning and caught a medium sized bee in the act of  leaving her burrow, rather clumsily and noisily, bzzzZZzzz, like she hadn’t had her coffee yet.  I knew it!

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These are in a bank on the side of our daily walking path

I found four little holes in the area, two of which have perfectly clean entrances you can see into before the tunnel curves (so I’m sure those are in use).  What do they do in the rain?  They remind me of bank-dwelling swallows.  They seem to like the clayey soil and the compacted dirt of our path.

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This one is RIGHT in the middle of the path.
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Now we have it flagged to not step directly on it. I’m pretty sure this one belongs to a Bombus Ternarius that I run into VERY often flying low in the area and generally beehaving sneaky. I’m sure it’s her.

I must report to bumblebee watch.  It’s going to be awfully hard to figure out what kind of bumblebees live there.  It will be a long stakeout, or else I’ll have to set up a trail cam, ararar!

Lightning bugs and chicken feet under a full moon

The lightning bugs are out in force tonight over the blueberries and the moon is pink and bright.

I was bodysnatching chickens out of the coop under cover of moonlight to rub vaseline on their feet.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is half of the anti-scaly leg mite procedure, which my Silkies seem to  always have, and a few of the layers have mildly.  Since their feet look remarkably better after a night of vaseline so I thought I’d experiment with the moisturizing treatment before the exfoliating scrub, what the hell.

I did the layers first and they were not into it.  Easy to catch, but the coop was a writhing mass of complaining murmurs in the background.  They were squawking and squirming around fighting for the corner.  It was like Playing Koi (Lumosity)- what birds have I done?

The Silkies are a different breed.  They all stay in place and I pick them up one at a time, spa their feet, and replace them.  Just a little bit of peeping protest (including the rooster-he emits the most unmasculine squeaks when he’s handled) and then they stretch out for the foot rubs.  They are so small and delicate and soft and fluffy like you think a dandelion should feel.

It must be very confusing, but they seem to sort of enjoy the massage part.

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Oh, are you going broody too? How committed are you?
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Pretty committed then. I’ve shifted her to the other clean side of coop, it’s coop cleaning day.

We got two hot days, finally, but could I open the hive?   No! We had rip-your-hat-off wind that would not take a break.  Too windy.  Someday I’ll get to see in the hive.

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HW is in a 600km randoneuring event this weekend.  He is almost finished the two day (!) ride, but the heat and wind must have been horrible.  He is having difficulty in the last hours.

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An interesting bug

I am pleased with my sweet potatoes.  i planted the “slips” that came, although they looked like ragged little stems (accompanying literature said ‘this is normal’)

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In a few days, they looked even worse. This is one of the better looking specimens

But then, overnight, stems standing up and new leaves a purply brown colour.  They live!

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These pictures don’t look like anything. It looks like two pictures of a pile of straw!

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Whoa!  This new build is on a low swinging branch of the apple tree.  Only a few feet off the ground.  But these wasps know what they’re doing.  There will be no commute at all to the windfall apple feasting that will come soon.

And this is a chicken path.  I’ve started to notice chicken ley lines where they move through the veg in single file.  Often they use our paths, but they also make their own trails.

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Ant attack!

The bees have been in a pitched battle with ants, and I didn’t realize it.

I had noticed they were rather testy lately, quite irritable when I go to close their door at night.  They had briskly seen me off a few times and I was even stung.  I thought that was odd because they used to be so mild.  Now I get it.

Once in awhile I’d seen an ant on the bottom board drawer, but no biggie, right, if they aren’t in the hive.  A couple days ago I pulled the drawer and there was a pile of sticks on it, the kind of collections ants like to build, and more ants.  Hmmm.

Looking in where the drawer goes, there were ants on the front wall, right underneath the bee entrance/ledge.  Well, I thought, the bees I’m sure are handling them.  A healthy hive can protect itself from ants.  I dumped out the antwork and replaced the drawer.

Last night I arrive to shut the bees at night (they don’t get shut in, I reduce the opening so they don’t have a big draft and can keep it warm more easily) and just as I got there, I saw a bee pop out on the ledge holding an ant, and take off.  I assume she went and dropped it somewhere.  Wow!  And hmmmm.

I checked the drawer and uhoh, there appeared to be a pitched battle taking place at the front of the hive.  There was also a high pitched bee distress buzz happening, but I couldn’t locate the distressed bee.

Rush to the internet.  Quickly learn that ants can be disastrous for a hive, in short order, especially the nasty red and black ants (my ants!).  I don’t love interacting with these ants. They pinch, or bite.  It stings.  Ant colonies abound here. The hens are using their mounds for La-Z-boys.

If it’s not one thing it’s another.  I blithely thought bees and ants got along just fine.  They are related.  These ants lived under the hive, dragged off the dead bees… but no, they wanted more!

The only solution on offer that was actionable immediately was powdered cinnamon.  I dredged the legs of the hive stand and the front of the bottom board drawer with cinnamon, and also kicked off the board covering the ant colony, to give them something else to focus on.  20160617_192622

Today – no ants!  I can’t believe it!  The cinnamon worked! (but I think I’ll moat the legs of the stand next since some people say cinnamon is only a temporary fix).

The bees are acting differently too, not all crowded along the ledge like they’ve been lately in the evening (instead, they’re filling the drone salon).  They’ve been cranky because they’ve been in a prolonged battle with a bunch of stupid ants! – in fight mode.  20160617_192637

The ceiling of this space, where the drawer slides in, is the mesh bottom surface of the hive, the main floor that they generally come and go from.  Debris and dropped pollen balls fall through it onto drawer.  You can see little bee legs poking through as they walk around on it. In the front and the right edge there’s a mysterious hanging garden of sticks and debris, and it seems to be glued or stuck in place (?).  Possibly the bees have been building a barrier, trying to block out the ants.  I read or heard about bees encasing a dead mouse that died in the hive in propolis, to protect the hive from side effects of the decomposition.

I can’t wait for a decent day to open the hive.  Maybe I’ll get to see what’s really going on.  I suspect they may already need another super!

 

New bee boxes

I’ve been assembling  bee supers and frames.  They look so nice, all fresh.

The idea is that if the bees are ready to swarm this year (so far they are thriving and vital, so I’m hoping for the best), that there will be a move-in-ready apartment conveniently right next door!

My idea is to leave the bottom super empty, maybe a couple frames in the top box, to be spacious like a swarm box.  Since I haven’t built a swarm box yet, I need to build supers anyway, and I want to have something ready in the event of a sudden swarm, then this is a better-than-nothing measure.

I was assembling frames in my tiny camper, and stocking them outside, when the robber bees arrived.  They were doing their nervous, zigzag robber bee thing, investigating the new wax frames with enthusiasm.

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More and more bees arrived (they were uncannily camera shy though).  I started to get nervous, and promptly put up a box in the field for them to inspect.

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Immediate investigation

They haven’t made any moves on it, but they know it’s there.

This has been such a drab, cold!, protracted spring, that there hasn’t been a day warm enough for me to make a full hive inspection.  I feel like I should.  I am heartened that it takes a long time to find a Varroa mite on the bottom board, they are sucking back the syrup I give them, and they have at least doubled last year’s numbers, judging by the comings and goings.  So far they seem to be caring for themselves quite well.  I hope I can give them a third super in time.

6 ways to rock National Dairy Goat Awareness Day (today)

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 11.33.45 PM1. Enjoy a reprise of the Lonely Goatherd

hero62. Build your goat a tower (Or at least read about goat towers around the world)

moroccostylegoat3. Have you seen goats in trees?  If not, you are really missing out.

from mountainviewfarms.webs.com
from mountainviewfarms.webs.com

4.  Learn all about fainting goats. It’s a thing.

screaming goat5.  There are also screaming goats.

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Nothing cuter than a baby goat!

6. Read about goat farming (meat goats, in case they’re feeling left out today) and the joys of goat feeding, and goat transport.

First strawberries of the year!

20160609_170155 20160609_172516And the chives are making a bid for world domination.

Life carries on, driven to grow.

In the background these days, we are coping with the discovery that our beautiful dog, missing since April, died a long horrible death.  He was a five minute walk away on our neighbour’s property, and I am in disbelief and pain that I did not find him while he was still alive.  He was a  good and sweet dog and deserved much better.  I cry every day.

And another turtle…

So soon after my first Blanding’s turtle sighting, here comes another!

 

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Let. GO. of me!
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Let GO!

 

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According to the plastron markings, this is actually the exact same turtle as the first (last) time.

1.4 km away from where we were last manhandling her, ten days ago.  She’s pretty over the shell modeling thing.

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Ok, are we done here? Can I go?
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I’m so outta here.

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 rhubarb leaves for the hens, expecting them to definitely not eat them.  Surprise!  Later on, the leaves were completely skeletonized.

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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!

Solar granola

We’ve been making a steady supply of granola in the wonderful Sun Oven.

This stems from a compound realization:  1. We both like granola.  A lot.  We eat it very often.  In spite of the risk of being called granolas.  2. It’s bloody expensive!  Analyzing monthly expenditures turned up an alarming number on bulk granola.  Oh, but it’s so good!  Can’t stop! (see #1).   3.  Rolled oats- not so much.  Very cheap, or relatively so for these days. Really, it beggars belief how much the price for an oat can inflate if you drip some sugar on it and toast it.

We can make it ourselves!

So we’ve been mixing up big batches of granola and toasting by the panful on sunny days, which have arrived in abundance in April.

Our granola kicks a** on the granola we used to buy, and HW even muses that what makes it really special is he can “taste the sun in it”.  We won’t be going back.  Making enough to last through the winter might be a challenge…hmmm.

Our recipe:

(we usu do twice this much at a time, and amounts are approximate, but this is the basic)

  • 3 cups oats
  • Cinnamon, and often the usual pumpkin pie culprits- nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
  • Dash of salt
  • Optional 1/2 cup of some deluxe optional additions, like sliced almonds, pecan pieces, hazelnuts, flax seeds or pumpkin seeds; finely chopped dried pineapple, or candied ginger, or dried strawberries.  This is what adds the wow!

These are the dry ingredients.  Stir ’em up.

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • Splash of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsps brown sugar
  • 1 Tsp vanilla

These are the liquids.  Heat them, together, and drizzle them over the dry while rapidly tumbling the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Bake.  Normally this might say 15 min at 350F? or some such.  It’s about twenty minutes in the sun oven, and then stir it up and leave it another 10-15.  Watch the oven!  If it gets to dark brown, it could be just fine with milk, but there might be too much sun in it.

 

 

Happy about living naturally