Sunday, March 15, 2020

Spring? Erm....not yet.

I know that many places are experiencing "spring" amidst all the crazy stuff in the world at the moment.  Not here.  Yes, we've had a bit of melting, but overall, spring is still a bit of a distant dream for me.  There are some icicles on the roof edge, which does indicate some melting.

The front door view is still pretty dismal. 

Here's my path to the chicken coop.  It's so compacted now that my feet don't break through the snow anymore, but it's over my knees in height.  That yard waste bucket off to the right is 2 feet tall and the snow is just above its top.

The raised beds have a LONG way to go before planting.

The closer chicken feed bin is 4 feet tall and the rear one is 3 feet tall.  That shows you how much snow we still have. I'm really glad I had that modification made to the coop gate to give me the winter "upper door" that I am now using because the lower part is blocked solid.

The chickens are coming outside from time to time to enjoy the sunshine on a sunny day, and the egg count is going up.  Here are Maple, Amelia Henheart, and Marble (L to R) catching some rays.

Most of the birds are just staying inside the coop still, like beautiful Smidgen here.

The path to the hay shed...still pretty deep, except the area I shovelled for the hay delivery a couple of weeks ago.

This path is pretty compacted as well.

These two have been complete rascals lately. 

With all the freeze/thaw cycles and compacted snow, they figured out that they could climb OVER the fence in one area last week by pushing it down with their feet.  Spot the rascal who thinks she is hiding.

 BUSTED!  A bucket of grain was needed to bring them back into the fenced area.

Yours truly did a bit of fancy fence weaving with baling twine to keep the fence held up so they would stop climbing it and crushing it to the ground.

It'll be a really long time before I'm back out on the hammock.

And the driveway?  It's a skating rink.

Just pure ice.  I don't recommend walking on it.

So no, overall, I'd say spring hasn't sprung here.  But I remain hopeful that it's on the way.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Ruffed Grouse

Today I had a new visitor in the backyard.  I was excited to see a new-to-me bird: a ruffed grouse.

I know they do live in my province, but I've not seen one in my area before, and I have never photographed one before today.  This one was trying to get at some berries left on some of the branches from last fall.  It climbed up on a branch for a while. 

The area behind my house is scrubby woodland, so it is difficult to take good photographs because of all the branches in the way.

When I looked up further information about the grouse, I learned that they also eat buds, so this bird may have been eating those as well.

The males make impressive displays during the spring to attract females, but when the birds are not displaying, it is very difficult to tell whether it's a male or female grouse, so I honestly don't know about this one.  But I was very pleased to see it come for a visit, and even more pleased that I managed to get at least a few shots that show the beautiful plumage of this interesting bird.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Lichens and Moss

It's definitely midwinter here.  We have a fair bit of snow, although not as much as I might expect for this time of year.  Still, it's more than enough!  Sometimes winter gets me down, but I'm trying to avoid that.  Today I went for a walk in the sunshine in the woods around my house.  I took some pictures of lichen and moss - things that are still growing despite the cold.  I don't know much about lichen really, but there are many different types.  The interesting thing about lichen is that it isn't a single organism, like a plant or a mushroom.  It's a combination of both algae (or cyanobacteria) and fungi, in a symbiotic relationship.  So, here are my lichens from today, along with a cameo appearance by a moss.

Since I don't know much about lichen, I can't give you a species on these.  I've posted them to iNaturalist in the hope that I might get some answers, but for now, I'm just enjoying their different forms and colours.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think the small brown circles might be another lichen species growing on top of the greyish-green one.

I think this one might be called varied rag lichen, Platismatia glauca, but I'm not sure.

I'm pretty sure the following two pictures are of old man's beard, or Usnia longissima, but there are some other Usnia species that are similar..

Whoops, who let that chicken in here?  Hello Smidgen! 

I thought this was really beautiful - it's a small moss cushion that has lichen weaving through it.  An interesting specimen.

This seems to be the most common type of lichen in my woods, and I believe it is in the shield lichen class, but again, I'm no expert!

I just think they're beautiful, often overlooked life forms that are perhaps more visible in winter due to the lack of foliage and the abundance of snow.  One must look harder for signs of life!

 Often there are multiple lichens on a single tree.

It was a lovely day (for a short time) to be outside and wandering amongst the trees, but it soon clouded over and became grey and cold again.  I'm glad I went out for a short walk.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A few of the girls

I can't believe I haven't blogged since Knit East.  Where does the time go?  I still need to blog about the Maritime Spinner's Retreat and a host of other things but, yeah, time gets away from me.  And it's that time of year when knitting deadlines get imposed and stuff happens and the calendar is busy and I'm still doing the 3-nights-a-week exercise classes and I just. can't. keep. up. sometimes.

So, instead of all that stuff I should be blogging about, here are a few pictures of some of my chickens, who have (for the most part) recently moulted, and therefore look rather lovely. Not many eggs this time of year, because the day length is short and we seem to be living in a phase of perpetual gloom and grey skies, which also doesn't help.  Eggs should pick up again in late February or March sometime.  For now, it's 2 a day, most days.

Here's Raptor, who was a hen that didn't get along well in another flock, and she's been with me for a while now, and seem to have settled in.  She got her name from the screeches she makes when I touch her, which for her own comfort, I generally don't do.

She's some kind of bantam cross - on the larger side of bantams. 

Here's Maple - a very serious and determined hen.  She's a Swedish Flower/Isbar cross.

This is one of the roosters that came from this year's 3 hatched chicks.  This little chick...

...became this gorgeous guy. 

Although we usually use our extra roosters for chicken stock, I can't bring myself to eat him.  He's a stunner. He also has a small comb, which is ideal for our winters. I have no idea where that comb came from because none of other other birds have one like that.

This beauty is Onyx - she's a maran cross.

Here's Paprika and one of the other red hens (either Poppy or Marigold I think) enjoying some pumpkin.

Lucinda would like to show you her fluffy bloomers. There's a show-off in every crowd!

Shadow is an Icelandic/Isbar cross hen.  I love her black-laced feathers.

The girls do like to sit on this old Craftsman table saw stand.  We don't have the saw, and I was going to throw out the stand, but thought they might like it, and sure enough they do.  Here's Onyx and one of the red hens (maybe Kaede) with a young black bantam rooster in the background. 

I do love my chickens!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Busy Days and Knit East 2019

Fall seems to be a busy time of year for me.  Work has been busy, but there have been other things going on as well.  I signed up for some exercise classes this fall, so I've been doing aquacize 2 nights a week at the local university pool.  It's a good class, although I wish that there were more dance moves like the aquacize class I used to take in Moncton.  Still, it's fun and gets me active.  Also, I'm doing line dancing on Monday evenings.  It's not country music, thank goodness, but all sorts of music types, although primarily Latin rhythms.  I'm enjoying that as well.  It's keeping me really busy though. 

Also, September and October are busy times for fibre-related events in this part of the world.  I went to Knit East this year, which is a bi-annual event that takes place in St. Andrews by the Sea, a small town in western New Brunswick.  The event occurs at the Algonquin Resort, which is a truly lovely location, and when the weather is fine, it's really enjoyable to stroll the grounds of the hotel and visit the town.  Here's my hedgehog purse (named Ruby) enjoying the sunshine in an Adirondack chair at the hotel.

It's the third time I've attended Knit East.  I usually try to make the most of the weekend by signing up for four workshops, which is really the maximum number one can take.  That meant I was in workshops Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon.  Each workshop is 3 hours long, so it's a busy and learning-filled weekend.

On Saturday morning, I did brioche knitting with Margo Beckwith-Byrne.  I had never done brioche before, but it's not that difficult once you get into the swing of it.  Here's my single colour brioche sample, which isn't very exciting, but I can't find my 2 colour sample at the moment.

We spent time learning how brioche differs from fisherman's rib and double knit, and did a sample in 2-colour brioche as well.  I'm definitely interested in trying some brioche patterns now.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a class called Hot Sock Tricks with Lucy Neatby.  My mom actually taught Lucy's daughter many years ago, so it was fun for me to meet Lucy and learn what her daughter was doing so I could pass along the news to my mom.  Lucy is an incredible knitter when it comes to colourwork and double knitting.  Her work is just stunning.  Our sock class included some really clever tricks and useful shortcuts in sock knitting.  We did a sample toe and learned a new technique involving grafting (Kitchener stitch) as well as a host of other useful techniques.  Here's my sock toe with the grafted top (in a different colour to make it stand out).

Saturday evening is always the fashion show in which various knitted garments and accessories are modeled, and during which door prizes are awarded.  Many people enjoy going to the show, and I'm no exception to that. 

One thing I really like about the show is that they plan ahead what will be shown, so a list is distributed at the beginning, and we can take notes on which patterns we like and would want to consider knitting.  I also was happy to win a door prize - this Sakura cotton skein.

On Sunday morning, I took a class called Knitting Every Which Way with Elizabeth McCarten. I actually follow her blog so it was fun to meet her in person.  She is essentially a queen of seamless sweater knitting, and we learned an awful lot in her class - things that I will need to repeat to really get them into my head.  I don't knit a lot of sweaters, but I have good notes from the class that will help me when I do.  We made a mini knitted vest during the class that taught us the techniques, including double knit pockets and a really clever trick for inserting sleeves.  Here's my mini vest.  I want to finish the other side and see if I can use it as a photo prop for one of the rabbits! 

My last class was another one with Lucy Neatby, on the topic of steeking.  If you're not a knitter, you may not know that the term "steek" means to cut through your own knitting, which for many of us is a rather alarming task.  It's done so that we can create knitted tubes (knit in the round) and then cut them open for turning them into cardigans, or it can be used for inserting necklines and other features.  I've never steeked, but I'm a bit more confident about it now.  In that class, we also made a wee knitted sample.  Mine isn't finished yet, but I do plan on finishing it and steeking it, just for the experience. 

All the classes were great, and I learned a lot.  I also had fun shopping at the vendor marketplace.  Tiggy Winkle, one of our bunnies, was happy to inspect my yarn winnings and purchases.

All in all, a lovely weekend.  Of course, then coming back for a regular work week is challenging because all the things I would normally do on a weekend didn't get done, and it's a scramble to get caught up, especially with my exercise evening commitments.  This coming weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, so that gives me a little break.  I won't really be celebrating it, but I'll see my parents at the end of the month to celebrate both of their October birthdays.  Next weekend I'll be in Prince Edward Island for the annual Maritime Handspinner's Retreat.  So, as I said, busy days! 

Speaking of Prince Edward Island, I collaborated with the women who run Fleece and Harmony yarn store and sheep farm on a little Thanksgiving story about their sheep.  I wrote the story, and their neighbour, who is an illustrator, made some adorable illustrations for it. 

They had the book printed up, and when I was at Knit East, I was able to get a copy for myself.  They had quite a stack of copies, and when I was at the booth looking at the book sample, they mentioned to a couple of shoppers that I was the author.  That, very unexpectedly, led to those shoppers asking me to sign a book for them! 

So, I spent time later Friday evening signing the rest of the copies of the book.  Here is the finished stack of signed books!  I hope everybody who bought one enjoys the story!