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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Friday's Hunt 4.20

Another busy week has come and gone.  This week's prompts from Eden Hills are:  Starts with T, Black and White, and Paper.

Starts with T
A tender moment between our two rabbits - Pippin in front and Epinette behind.  They groom each other a lot, and I always think it's rather sweet to watch how they interact and care for each other.  When treats are involved, then it's every rabbit for him/herself!

Black and White
I see a lot of woodpeckers in my yard at this time of year - they are especially interested in my suet feeder.  Most woodpeckers here are exclusively black and white, with touches of red on the head of the males. Here is a hairy woodpecker (male) I photographed last week who is removing the bark from a spruce tree in the yard - probably finding insects underneath the bark.

Paper
It is not uncommon to find paper wasp nests attached to various places on our house.  I don't actually see that many wasps, but I do see their homes.  I try to remove the nests when they are small, but sometimes I miss one.  This one was under the balcony deck that is outside our bedroom.

I like bees but I am not a big fan of wasps, although I recognize they have their place in the ecosystem.  That said, I find their ability to form these "paper" nests from wood fibre to be absolutely amazing.  They are talented insects!  I also love looking at paper fragments from the nests - there is so much variation in colour and texture.  It is like artisanal craft paper - quite remarkable.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 4.19

It's time for Friday's Hunt again.  The prompts from Eden Hills for this weekend are:  Starts with S, Metal and Mineral.

Starts with S
Shawl starts with S.  I recently finished knitting this shawl and I love it!  It is called the Stay Put Wrap, and it's designed to sit on the shoulders without slipping off.  It does that job really well because of its shape

The yarns I used are Fleece and Harmony Signature Yarn in Spruce (100% wool) and Good Karma Farm 60% wool/40% alpaca yarn in "Mamma Mia" (which was a variegated turquoise and purple colourway).

Fleece and Harmony yarns are locally milled at a small mill in PEI, and you can visit the sheep while you're there!  I really enjoyed working with their wool - it is a sturdy yarn with good twist.  The Good Karma Farm yarn is milled in Belfast, Maine, and I also visited there and got to pet the sheep and alpacas on my visit.  I do enjoy using yarns from small, well-cared-for flocks.  This little shawl will be a nice extra layer for my shoulders in the home office on chilly days.

Metal
On my parents' previous visit in October, my Dad and I worked on a little project to help stop the raccoon from stealing my birdseed.  We made some raccoon baffles for my feeder poles.  I can now report that the baffles are a great success and I have had no more raccoon incidents with the feeder ending up on the ground, or the suet being decimated in one night.  The raccoon can no longer climb the poles because it can't get its paws around the slippery surface of the stove pipe sections.

The baffles are made with metal stove pipe sections, metal pipe hanger or strapping (also called iron hanger strip), and metal mesh (also called hardware cloth).

We made cuts in the top of the stove pipe sections to allow for the metal flaps to be folded down, as you can see in the picture above.  Then we cut circles from the metal mesh that would be the same circumference as the stove pipe.  The bent flaps of metal on the stove pipe hold the mesh in place. 

We cut sections of the pipe hanging strap and used bolts to tighten it around the pole.  We also used a pipe clamp and then a few layers of electrical tape wrapped around the pole just below the strap to keep the strap firmly in place so it cannot slide down the pole.  Then we bent the strapping into a shape that would allow the metal mesh to rest upon it.  You can see the hanger strip under the mesh.  The pipe section is centred, but not attached at the bottom in any way, so it's not stable if the raccoon tries to climb it.  If I lived somewhere that snakes in birdhouses were a problem, this baffle would also work for that purpose.  Fortunately, I don't have to deal with snakes!

One must be careful to put the pipe on the bird feeder pole before getting the hanger strap in place.  We learned this the hard way!  It was a fun project for my Dad and I to work on together, and it has worked exactly as intended.

Mineral
As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, I have a chicken in my flock who is supposed to be a maran, although I'm not sure what kind of maran she is.  She doesn't fit the usual colours for the various maran breeds.  Because of her interesting colour variation, I have decided to name her "Marble."  Here you can see her wing - its appearance reminds me of marble.

Here is a picture of polished brown marble - see the similarity? Marble is a type of metamorphic rock.  Metamorphic rocks are rocks that have been modified by heat and pressure.  Marble forms when limestone is subjected to heat and pressure, and the calcite in the limestone recrystallizes to form interlocking calcite crystals.  Marble can also contain other minerals like clay, mica, quartz, pyrite, graphite, and iron oxides.  Marble that contains more minerals is more colourful, while white marble is almost entirely limestone with few impurities.

Marble (the chicken) is developing an interesting set of adult feathers.  Her chest has a lot of light fawn and brown tones.  Her legs and feet display the expected feathering for a maran.

Her wings and tail are darker with more grey and even some barred feathers, more like a cuckoo maran.  She was hatched from an egg from a farm that breeds blue birchen marans, but she doesn't look right for one of those either.  Maybe she's a mistake cross and that's why her egg was included as an extra for the person who originally bought the eggs.  She's so unusual - I think Marble is a good name for her. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Meet the Flock

After the sad end of my last chicken flock in Nova Scotia, about 4 years ago, it took a long time for me to be in a position to acquire chickens again. I really missed having chickens - they have wonderful personalities and they bring me a lot of joy. Apart from that, I also enjoy having fresh eggs. This summer I was able to pay somebody to remodel a former dog house into a chicken coop. The dog house was well built and had a very sturdy roof, so I thought it would be ideal to re-use for a coop, but it needed to be taller so I could get in and out for cleaning. After that was completed, it was just a matter of finding a few interesting birds to bring into the new digs!

I thought it would be fun to blog about the flock members that have made their home with us so far. Our first group of chickens were silkies, brown layers, and a random bantam. They came from a farm that wasn't taking very good care of them and they were very soiled and smelly when they arrived, and I don't think the silkies and bantam had ever been outside of cages. I am glad they are with us now!

Licorice is a black silkie hen who just began to lay last month. She is the dominant one of the three silkies and is also the most adventurous. She has lustrous black feathers and is quick to do the squatting hen dance when I approach (she thinks I'm the rooster). She lays a small cream-coloured egg.

Whisp
is a "splash" silkie hen, which means that she is white with a spattering of black feathers throughout her plumage. She is a little younger than Licorice, and was in rather rough shape when she first arrived - very lethargic and not showing much interest in food. She is now much more normal in her foraging behaviour and has just started the squatting hen dance, which means she may start to lay eggs soon, but because of the time of year and the shorter day length, she may not do so until spring.

Dazzle is a blue silkie hen, who arrived with Licorice and Whisp. She was also extremely timid and not well socialized when she arrived. Like Whisp, she needed an immediate bath when she arrived because she was very dirty. She is still not laying yet. She is a really lovely colour and I hope that she'll become more brave over time.

None of the silkie hens seem capable of perching to sleep, unlike the other hens. They all huddle on the floor of the coop, which is a bit odd. I put a low perch in place for them and have sat them on it numerous times but they still prefer the floor.

Sienna arrived with the silkies from the same not-very-good home. She is a bantam sized hen of mixed heritage and I have no idea what breeds are in her, but she is assertive and somewhat more aggressive than most of the hens. She is second in the pecking order from what I can determine, and will be quick to put another hen in its place, even if it is a larger hen! She is very fast and flighty - hard to take good pictures of her. She lays a white egg nearly every day. She's also very vocal about her eggs.


Marigold
is a red hen of unknown breed, but she might have some Rhode Island Red in her heritage - she has a real mix of brown feather tones. She is what some people would just call a "brown layer" because she's a standard size brown egg layer. She is definitely the flock queen and number one in the pecking order. She lays a nice brown egg almost every day.

Juniper Moon is very similar to Marigold in appearance, but virtually opposite in personality. They came from the same farm as Sienna and the silkies, but I think they had been allowed outside before, because they knew how to forage, whereas the others didn't. Juniper Moon has an old eye injury and is either blind in one eye, or has very limited sight. She can get up to the roosts to sleep but she was having real trouble with getting down, and every morning I was helping her down so she could eat and drink. My Dad helped make a ramp that she now uses. I think her vision problems make it difficult for her to judge distances. Juniper Moon likes to sit on my lap sometimes.

Not long after the above team of hens arrived, I acquired another pair of hens.

Jellybelly is a tiny black serama hen who is a little over 1.5 years old. She has excellent stance and looks like a little show hen. She was in the flock of a breeder that bred show hens but who folded operations. She was being picked on by the larger hens at her former home, so her owner was seeking a new home for her where she would be comfortable.

Cream
arrived with Jellybelly, and her name suits her colour! She is a very elegant little serama hen who came from the same original breeder. Both she and Jellybelly are about the size of pigeons. So far, they haven't laid any eggs, but I think the move and the time of year are to blame. I hope they both will lay eggs in the spring. Tiny serama eggs are very cute for hard boiled eggs on salads.


Flavia arrived not long after Jellybelly and Cream - she is also a serama hen, but slightly larger than the other two. She is named after Flavia de Luce, the young sleuth heroine of the series of books by Alan Bradley. She also hasn't laid any eggs, yet. At this time of year with the short day length, I expect she won't lay until spring.


The most recent additions to the flock came just about 3 weeks ago.

Wellington is a cream legbar rooster. The cream legbar is a fairly rare breed and I am excited to have him. He is an exceedingly mellow rooster who is about 4.5 months old and he is just learning to crow. He seems to love sitting on my lap and stretches his head out along my arm and closes his eyes when I pet him. The serama hens chase him and he runs away, so he's not very assertive yet, but he will probably grow into his rooster-ness in time.Unfortunately he contracted a respiratory infection and has been on antibiotics for the past 4 days, and has been kept indoors on quarantine as a result. He is on the mend and should go back with the flock soon. Meantime, he also likes to sit on my shoulder while I work!

His tail feathers were pulled out by the other roosters at his former home so he needs to grow them back again!

Wellington arrived with a cream legbar hen who is just beautiful. I am still trying to figure out her name. She is elegant and dainty, but assertive. She will lay pale blue eggs when she starts to lay, which isn't yet, and may not be until spring. She has a crest of feathers on her head that give her a very dignified look, as if she is wearing a fancy hat. She might need a sort of royal sounding name, like Charlotte or Clementine, or maybe even Anastasia.

Wellington also arrived with this darling little maran hen. Unfortunately, I have no idea what kind of maran she is. She was an extra hatching egg that was included in the batch that the seller purchased, but her exact type wasn't provided - it was just labeled as a maran egg. As a maran, she will most likely lay a darker brown egg. To be honest, she doesn't really look like any of the maran breeds that the originating egg farm (Greenfire Farm in Florida) raises, so she is a bit of a mystery. We'll see how she looks as she gets older. She also needs a name.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Sergeant Pepper, a splash silkie rooster who originally arrived with the initial group of silkies. He sadly lost his life to a hawk, which prompted me to stop allowing free ranging of the hens, and next spring I will build some chicken tunnels to allow them to run around other areas of the yard, but for now they stay in the fenced and covered area around the coop. Sergeant Pepper was very good at taking care of his hens, but he was a very aggressive rooster who attacked my ankles daily and would charge at me at the slightest opportunity. I was trying to work on helping him understand I wasn't a threat, but I didn't have the time to finish that task. I thank him for defending the flock and helping keep the layers unharmed.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 4.18

Another week gone and I sometimes wonder where the time goes, but I've had a lot of projects on the go and that's been coupled with a sick rooster and other various activities so it just seems that time flies and although I want to do other blogs apart from Friday's Hunt, it seems all that I can keep up with right now!

Our prompts from Eden Hills this week are:  Starts with R, Glow and Vegetable.

Starts with R
I was away in Halifax last weekend visiting my parents and having a late celebration of my mother's birthday.  We had the wonderful opportunity to see two concerts while we were visiting.  The first was the Finnish singing ensemble Rajaton (pronounced Rye-a-ton) perform with the Nova Scotia Symphony Orchestra.  Although Rajaton is not that well known in North America, they are very popular in Finland, having been around for 20 years, and are well known for their a cappella singing.  The concert was part of the "pops" series with the symphony, and the whole concert was a wonderful mix of Abba songs with the orchestra playing the music and Rajaton singing.  It was a superb show - so full of energy!  I didn't take any photographs during the concert, but here is the page from the program.  I thoroughly recommend seeing them if you have the chance!

We also went to see O-Celli, which is an octet of cello players based in Belgium, but hailing from a variety of different countries.  I love the sound of the cello, so listening to eight cellos at once was absolutely delightful.

A bonus R item - my indoor rosemary plant is blooming.  I always had trouble keeping an indoor rosemary plant alive when I lived in Iowa, but for some reason, my experience is much better here in New Brunswick.  I have now had this one inside for over a year and it has done very well.  It does not flower often, but it suddenly decided that now was the time.  The blooms are very delicate and pretty but they do not last long.

Glow
As I mentioned last week, when I went to Knit East on October 21 and 22, the weather was amazingly warm and beautiful - most unusual for the time of year.  I sat outside a lot and here I am bathing the sun's glow in an Adirondack chair in the grounds of the hotel.  I was so lucky to have such a wonderful, sunny weekend.  I think it made me glow, too!

Vegetable
I was a member of a vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture) program this year, which meant that throughout the summer, I picked up a weekly assortment of fresh, locally-grown, organic vegetables.  We ate a lot more vegetables than usual as a result of this program, and I will definitely do it again next year.  The last pick-up is on November 14, and then I have to wait until next July before it starts again.  Our growing season starts late and is short - that's why it doesn't start until July.  One of my favourite vegetables at this time of year is the Delicata squash.  This variety is very flavourful and I might try to grow some myself next year.  If you see it in your area, give it a try!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 4.17

Unfortunately, I missed Friday's Hunt last week.  I was away at the Knit East conference, which is a bi-annual knitting event that takes place in the lovely town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea in western New Brunswick.  I didn't take a computer with me because I wanted to dedicate my time to my knitting workshops and enjoying the break.  By the time I got home, it was after the deadline for joining.  But, I'm back in the swing this week.

The prompts from Eden Hills are: Starts with Q, Orange, and Animal.

Starts with Q
The town where the knitting conference took place is very small, but it has a number of quaint homes in it.  This is one of my favourites.

It looks like a sort of fairytale cottage - I love the curve on the edge of the roof and I adore the little turret out the front.  The fence detail along the side of the house is also rather quaint.

Orange
The fall colours are nearly finished here, but there was still some lovely fall foliage last weekend, including red, yellow and of course, orange leaves.  This was the view as I walked down to the main street to look around.

There is a cute little gift shop on the town's main street, which is called The Whale Store.  It had an orange chair sitting out the front, and as you can see, it has a lovely art piece mounted on the front of the store just behind that orange chair.

Lots of orange on the fish on this delightful piece of art!

Animal
The whale probably qualifies as an animal, seeing as it is a mammal, but I would also like to share this interesting metal sculpture of a horse that was in the grounds of the hotel where the knitting conference took place.  It has a leather tail and mane.

As you can see, there is an inscription on the base that reads "Equi dentes inspicere donati," which has been attributed to Ovid.  Ovid's quote in full seems to be "Noli equi dentes inspicere donati," which means "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."  However, this variation doesn't have the "Noli" so it means "Look a gift horse in the mouth." which is appropriate since the horse is meant to be looked at and admired.

I was very lucky to have such superb weather for my weekend away, and I think the horse was enjoying the sun almost as much as I was!  I was able to sit outside on the hotel deck and knit, which is extremely unusual for October here.  Two years ago at this conference, it was terribly cold, damp and not at all a good time to be outside.  I was delighted at the unseasonably warm weather this year.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 4.15

Time for Friday's Hunt after a busy week, but I'm managing to actually do it on a Friday.  I missed visiting the other participants last week but will try to visit everybody this week and comment on the posts I missed last week. 

The prompts for this week are:  Starts with O, Purple, and City/Town.

Starts with O
Orange starts with O.  This week, the rabbits have been eating a pumpkin that I bought.  The outside of a pumpkin is a very bright orange, and the inside is also orange, but a lighter shade.  The sheep also like pumpkin, so I really bought the pumpkins for them, but the rabbits ate almost an entire pumpkin before I managed to find the time to chop up the second one for the sheep.

Here's how it started - some innocent nibbles on the outer orange pumpkin skin.  No, the decorative mouse wasn't responsible!

Pretty soon, we had this situation...

...after which there were just a few seeds left.  No more pumpkin needed for those bunnies!

A bonus orange item - here's a jar of the 3-citrus ginger zucchini marmalade I made for my Dad for his birthday.  It came out very well and he gave it the thumbs up on a taste test!

Purple
This one was a bit tricky for me - I don't have a lot of purple things to photograph.  I noticed that I do not have many spools of purple thread on my thread rack (at least not compared to other colours).

I have some fabric in my stash that includes purple tones - I haven't decided what this fabric will be yet, but I love the colours and patterns in it.

Here's a crochet project that is currently on hiatus while I work on some other items, but it has some touches of purple in it.

City/Town
I was born in a large city - Montreal, in the province of Quebec, Canada.  The population of Montreal is almost 1.75 million.  At about age 5, I moved to Scarborough, which used to be its own city, but now it is an administrative district of the city of Toronto, Ontario.  Toronto has about 2.8 million residents.  When I was about 10, we moved to Halifax, in the province of Nova Scotia.  It's a smaller city, at about 415,000 residents in the greater metropolitan area. 

It wasn't until my mid 20's that I moved to a smaller town - Truro, Nova Scotia, in order to attend the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.  Truro is a town of about 12,300 residents.  That was the smallest place I'd ever lived to that point in my life, which I thought I would really dislike, but I found something charming about being able to drive around and see fields full of cows and sheep.  As I've grown older, I have come to truly appreciate living in a more rural setting. 

I now live on the outskirts of a town of about 5,500 residents.  I love visiting a large city to take in the sights, enjoy the cuisine options and partake of the cultural life, but I am very content to live in a rural setting.  I listen to birds, not traffic and sirens.  I breathe clean air, not smog and exhaust from traffic jams.  I can enjoy the freedom to have sheep, goats, and chickens on my property.  I can see more stars on a clear night than most city dwellers ever see.  I hear the unmistakable haunting cry of the loon on the nearby lake, and the hoots of owls as the sun goes down.  I smell the tang of freshly cut hay on the air, or the fragrance of the pine and spruce trees surrounding my home.  I belong in this setting - going back to live in a city would make me feel cramped and stressed.  Here's a view from one of my recent walks around the streets where I live.  I think you can see it's not city life, but it's a great life for me.