Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: C

Today's Weekend Roundup from Tom the Backroads Traveller has the following prompts:  Starts with C, Week's Favourite, and Clouds.

Starts with C
We had a snowfall earlier this week and it accumulated quite a bit, so there was a lot of clean-up required.  This was my car:

Here's the chicken coop (double C!), with the path that I dug to it so I could easily get out there to fill the feeder and waterer!  The chickens don't like to come out of the coop at all in this weather.

I found some crab-apples still on the branch, wearing snowy hats:

Week's Favourite
I had a slightly less crazy work schedule this week, which allowed me to take a few minutes to work on a craft project - I wanted something small and easy that I could complete quickly.  Thus, I knitted this cute little hedgehog.  That was my favourite part of the week!  (Bonus letter c:  The back of the hedgehog is knitted with chenille yarn).

After the snow, there was some blue sky, but as usual at this time of year, there were also clouds, and within about 20 minutes of this photograph being taken, there was no blue sky to be seen at all. 
At this time of year, I get rather tired of grey, dismal, cloudy days.  Today is actually sunny, although very cold, but that's better than gloomy.  The long term forecast for the coming months suggests that by mid-February, we are going to head into a period of lower-than-normal temperatures which will persist throughout the month of March.  I'm not looking forward to that.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


I had to do some creative thinking this week for dear Wellington, my much beleaguered rooster.  You see, since he arrived, he suffered from a distinct lack of tail feathers.  This was OK, for the most part, because he didn't really need them to have a fulfilling life as a rooster.  He could still happily eat, drink, patrol, dance for the ladies, and pass on his wild oats. 

As you can see from this picture (not mine) of a cream legbar rooster below, he does not have that rather majestic fountain of tail feathers one might expect in a fully grown rooster.
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Indeed, there was something about his little pink rooster tail that was very enticing to some of the hens.  That picture above shows one lone feather sticking outward, and you can see some pinkness of the skin at his tail.  Chickens have a tendency to peck at things that are pink or red.  The other day I found him in some distress.  Not for the faint of heart....this was his back end AFTER I had cleaned most of the blood away, which took some time.
The hens had pulled out many feathers and broken some at the base resulting in a raw, bloody mess.  It was clear that I needed to do something immediately to address the problem, because otherwise the red blood would simply keep attracting more pecking.  I thought to use the little shirt that Izzy had to wear when she had her abdominal injury, which stopped her licking herself.  I put it on him and it worked fairly well to cover that tail area, but it ended up also covering his "back door" so to speak, and the poop was getting stuck inside the shirt.  Not so good, especially when I'm trying to keep the area clean.

As a result, I had the idea to make him a sort of a cape.  I'm not a proponent of dressing chickens in sweaters as a rule.  Their feathers provide plenty of insulation and a sweater can prevent them from fluffing up their feathers, which could actually make them cold.  However, in the past, I've used fleece sweaters on rescue hens who have very few feathers when they've arrived and they are very effective in such cases.  I decided that a modified sweater in the form of a cape would help Wellington.

He and I went looking at my stash of polar fleece to find a nice manly colour, and we settled on this Green Bay Packers football team print, which I had purchased for next-to-nothing as a fabric for making plant protectors for my winter garden.  The leftovers were still on the shelf.  I fitted him up and quickly sewed a little "cape" of sorts.  The cape is sewn closed at the neck (but not too tightly) and it has wing holes so it stays in place due to his wings being through the holes. 

Most importantly, the lower end of the cape covers his nether regions without impeding the poop production pathway, but while keeping his red rump out of view of the ladies. 

Today, having been 2 days since I created this fashion statement for him, I checked on his progress.  The redness is much reduced and there are no signs of further pecking.  It should allow for feather development to proceed and once the feathers grow in sufficiently, his skin won't be visible and it can be removed without the concern of more plucking.

I told him, following his fitting, that he was now SuperRoo.  He said he thought that was a type of car, or SUV.  "No," I said, "that's a Subaru. Quite different indeed."  He was suitably pleased and is considering watching a football game in future when he has a tail to wave around. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Weekend Roundup (B)

Today's weekend roundup, brought to you by Tom the Backroads Traveller, has given us the following prompts: Starts with B, Week's Favourite, and New Beginning.

Starts with B
Baby starts with B, and we currently have a baby chick in the house.

This baby chick is from an egg that Whisp was sitting on - I showed Whisp in my blog a couple of weeks ago.  As I mentioned in that post, this wasn't planned - it was a result of my being away for a week and Marc not collecting the eggs on a daily basis.  I wasn't sure if Whisp's eggs were developing, but candling suggested they might be, so I kept her with her eggs but brought her inside because of the extreme cold we were having here, which was affecting temperatures in the chicken coop.  This little one came into the world on Monday, which was earlier than I'd expected.

Whisp seems to have taken motherhood in stride (even though these are not her eggs - they were eggs from one of our brown layers).

Week's Favourite
I know this category is supposed to be a week's favourite picture, but I'm never good at week's favourite picture, so for my own twist on this topic, I'm going to start including a brief discussion of my favourite thing about the past week, whether I have a picture or not.  And I might add a picture that is unrelated.  So this week, my favourite thing was the fact that I completed some major projects, and all the BIG project deadlines have been met.  This week (after Wednesday) was my first week in many months that I was able to look at my work "to do" list and say "Wow, I am all caught up!"  This was a tremendously good feeling for me.  I still have ongoing projects, but they are not enough to require me to work late nights and I might not even have to work this weekend, which would be amazing. 

Here's a picture from a couple of weeks ago that I rather like.  It is moss and lichen growing on a tree in our yard. I enjoy the variation in textures and colours.

New Beginning
There is a new beginning occurring in my home office at this very moment. As I said up in the "starts with B" section, earlier this week, Whisp's first egg (of 4) hatched. With no further signs of hatching, I thought the rest were not going to hatch, since they usually hatch at about the same time.  This morning I was cleaning the cage and I decided it was time to get rid of the other eggs since she was not sitting on them reliably any more, being more focused on her new chick.  As I picked up the bag of cage waste material to take to the garbage, I heard a noise from in the bag.  I rushed to get the eggs back out of the bag and realized that one of them had a tiny hole (a "pip") and that there was a chick that was in the process of starting to hatch.  I'm so glad it made that tiny noise when it did!

Here is the current new beginning at the moment (around 3 pm this afternoon).

I set up the incubator and put all 3 of the eggs in there because Whisp was too focused on her little one and she was not sitting on these eggs very consistently.  This is actually normal because, as I said, the eggs tend to hatch at the same time, and the mother hen typically only waits a day or two after the first one hatches and then abandons any remaining eggs.  What I think happened here was that Whisp started sitting on one or two eggs the day that I left, but other hens kept laying their eggs in the same nest box while I was gone.  Thus, the first egg was ahead in its development.  The one that is now pipped is carrying on in its hatching process. 

Around 4:30 pm, the chick began the "unzipping" process in which they begin to open the eggshell completely by creating a break that goes all the way around.  Here was that process underway:

The other two are not yet pipped and may not ever hatch, but I need to give them a day or two more just in case. 

I then went out to pick up our sustainable local fish delivery for the week, and by the time I got home, about 20 minutes later, the chick was out.  I have put it in with Whisp and her first little one.  I had to get it out from underneath her for the photo.  It is still drying off and fluffing up.

Tomorrow it will look like its sibling!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Weekend Roundup

Now that Eden Hills has passed the torch on a weekly blog link to Tom the Backroads Traveller, I will still try to participate, although it's tricky with my crazy busy life at the moment.  Today's blog is brief because I have a lot on the "to do" list at the moment!

This week's prompts from Tom are:  Starts with A, Week's Favourite, and Art.

Starts with A
Here's a picture of Twilight, my sheep, adorned with hay after getting into the new bale that I put out for them.  Perhaps she looks a little abashed?  But still adorable.

Week's Favourite
I didn't have time to take many pictures this week.  In fact, the only pictures I took were a few last Monday of a pheasant in my backyard, under the bird feeder.  This one is my favourite because you can see the action of the snow flying as he was digging for seeds.

I liked this painting of a cow, which I took a few weeks ago at the conference centre in Ottawa when I was there for a meeting.  I'm always fond of animal-themed art.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 4.25 and 4.26

I missed last week's Friday's Hunt due to being busy with preparing for the holidays, so I'm doing two in one to make up for it.

The prompts from last week were:  Starts with Y, Tree, and Shadows.

The prompts from this week are: Starts with Z, Reflection, and The End.

Starts with Y
Yard starts with y.  This is our front yard.  As you can see, we do have some snow, although not a lot, yet.  I like the setting of our house with all the trees around it, although I like it even more in the more pleasant seasons of the year.

Starts with Z
This is Whisp, one of our silkie hens.  She is sitting on some zygotes

A zygote is a biological term for a fertilized egg cell.  When I was away the week before last, the eggs didn't get collected and I came home to a broody silkie (i.e. a hen sitting on a clutch of eggs that she was incubating).  Not having the heart to separate her from the eggs and throw them out, I brought her inside with her eggs.  It appears that 4 of the 5 are fertile and showing signs of development.  She is really quite young - only about 8 months old at most, but she seems quite dedicated to her egg sitting duties and hopefully she will be a good mom to her little ones if they hatch successfully. 

The week before last, I was in Ottawa with another consultant to run a workshop for Agriculture Canada.  I took the train for that trip, giving myself some time to work on the train and avoiding the stress that flying causes for me.  At the Montreal train station, the holiday displays included this rather dazzling tree decorated in pink - not exactly traditional, but very effective in my opinion. 

For my train trip, I booked a sleeper cabin for the portion of the journey from Moncton to Montreal.  It's about 18 hours long, through the night, so a good sleep is necessary when one needs to work the next day.  This is my little sleeper cabin window, with a reflection of me taking the picture in it.  You can see a pillow at the other end of the seat area on the left side of the reflection.  On the right side of the reflection, you can just see the door to the bathroom that is part of the cabin.  The seat folds down and becomes a bed for the night.  It was very comfortable and cozy.

Here's a slightly better picture with less reflection, showing the seating area and my ever-present knitting bag.

At the conference location, which was one of the buildings of the Agricultural Museum in Ottawa, there were some interesting bee-themed decorations being installed in the hallway.  They look like stained glass, although they are actually a kind of plexiglass or similar substance.  I presume real stained glass would be too costly, too heavy, and too dangerous for a public space in case it broke.  It was tricky to get good pictures of the panels due to the shadows on the panels.  Here is an installed panel with shadow on it, and you can also see the shadow of the ladder. 

Here's a yet-to-be-installed panel to show more of the detail.

The End
I've enjoyed participating in Friday's Hunt for the past 3 rounds.  It helped me blog once a week in times when I didn't feel like blogging or didn't have anything to blog about.  Sometimes I feel that it is what kept  my blog going.  Since Friday's Hunt is coming to an end, I'm hoping that in 2018, I will try to make time to keep up with the blog in other ways. 

As the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens.  Maybe the end of Friday's Hunt will open the door for other blog opportunities.  I will try to keep writing.  Things are so busy for me these days.  Although I've tried to take some time off in the past week, work is breathing down my neck like a dragon with halitosis, and the first few weeks of January are already super booked and busy.  I'm hoping to learn to do a better job of balancing work and home life this coming year.  We'll see how well I manage with that.  I'm also trying to improve my fitness level this year.  My new sit-stand desk should arrive in early January, and I have plans to sign up for an online yoga site that will allow me to choose from various beginner level lessons that I can incorporate into my day.  I am also getting new orthotics soon, which will go into my shoes and hopefully alleviate some foot pain that I have been experiencing when walking.  So, perhaps I will have some things to write about, if I can just make myself take the time to do so.

To illustrate this concept of endings being beginnings, here is a pinecone in the snow.  It fell off the tree, and is thus the "end" of one phase of the tree's development, but the pinecone has seeds inside that will feed squirrels and possibly find their way into the soil and start a new tree.  For me, this also says that even when things are bleak and cold and kind of depressing, spring will return and with it, the joy of green leaves and sunshine. 

Progress with the Garden Shed

I wrote this a few weeks ago and forgot to post it.  Busy brain syndrome!
This past summer, my helpful local builder built a floor for my metal garden shed, and then he and his brother constructed the shed, which I purchased as a kit.  Once the shed was in place, I was using it for its primary purpose, which is the storage of hay bales for the sheep and goat.  However, the shed had a secondary purpose, which was to store my gardening tools and requirements, so they were not taking up space in the garage, which is Marc's domain.

I didn't have time to deal with the garden tools until this weekend, when I was finally able to install the tool hook racks that I bought, as well as some shelving.  Now things are finally looking a bit more organized.  The long-handled tools are installed on a partial wood wall that my builder also made for me.  Then I have two racks for the short-handled tools on the right side.  The sheep leads are hanging from the roof bracket at the far end.  Now I will be able to find things next spring when I want to do some garden work.

The other side of the shed has pallets on the floor and then hay and straw stored on them.  The straw is really for bedding in the chicken coop or the barn.  The metal garbage bins will be for storing feed for both sheep and chickens.  They have tight fitting lids so the raccoons and other critters will not be getting into the feed.

I'm really pleased with the utility of the shed now and I feel happier that this year I will not have to haul hay bales from the garage to the sheep and goat area - rather, I just have to take them out of this shed, which is right next to the fenced area.  So much easier in the snow!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 4.24

It is time for Friday's Hunt again!  I am a bad blogger because I have not visited any other participant blogs for the past 2 rounds of Friday's Hunt.  I feel badly about that. I have been super busy with work, doing minimum 10 hour days, 7 days a week, and often more than that, so I'm just not finding time for things I enjoy.  I hope this will subside somewhat in January.

Today's prompts from Eden Hills are:  Starts with X, Craft and Growing.

Starts with X
Xanthophyll starts with X.  Xanthophylls are yellow-coloured pigments that one might find in a variety of natural sources, including leaves that turn yellow in the fall.  Specific xanthophylls include lutein and zeaxanthin, which are the compounds responsible for the yellow colour of egg yolks.

Today I made my quick and easy egg custards with some eggs from our lovely flock.  Look at all that xanthophyll!

Combine 4 eggs with 1/2 cup of sugar.  I use brown sugar for added flavour.  Wait a second...
.....why (I hear you asking) are there more than 4 egg yolks in the picture?  Well, the eggs I am using are from our Silkie hens, which lay eggs that weigh about 1 oz, compared to a regular egg that is about 2.5 oz.  Thus, 9 Silkie eggs = approximately 4 regular eggs!

Whisk together the eggs and sugar with a splash of vanilla.  A teaspoon or so will do.  Sometimes I use almond extract instead.  Action shot!

Add 2 1/2 cups of milk.  Alternatively, you can add 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1 cup of water.  I like the full milk version.  I also use full fat (homogenized) milk.  That skim milk business is nasty.  Whisk again, not too vigorously, or it will splash all over the place!

Prepare a 9 x 13" glass pan - fill it about 1/3 with cold water.  Then set the custard cups (ramekins) into it so that the water goes about halfway up the sides of the cups.  The water helps ensure even cooking, and prevents bubbling in the custards.  It is a cooking technique known as "bain marie," derived from French, and previously from the Latin.

Bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes.

The tops will be firm, not wet.  You don't want the tops to be puffing up - if they do, you've cooked it for too long.  It will still taste OK but the texture will not be as smooth.  Here are my finished custards.  Super yummy with a swirl of maple syrup on top!

As most readers know, I do a lot of craft-themed things, when I have time.  I haven't had much time at all lately.  Here is a cowl I knitted a couple of months ago.  Knitting is definitely one of my favourite crafts.

There isn't much growing around here at this time of year!  However, I do have a few house plants, including the following succulents.  I am fond of cacti and succulents.  They have very interesting shapes and forms.

As you can see, I keep them on a sunny windowsill.

This is a plant with a cute common name - fairy washboard.  Its proper name is Haworthia limifolia.
Double points, for X no less (!!) - this plant belongs to the Xanthorrhoeaceae family.

This is an Echeveria, but I do not know which one - there are hundreds of species and I haven't had time to pore over the many pictures of them online and determine which one it is.  It might be Echeveria shaviana.  I do love the ruffled edges.

Finally, this is a cactus species that I affectionately call "Hairy Mary" but it is actually Rhipsalis burchellii, also called Mistletoe cactus.  I used to have one in Iowa that was huge and very robust.  This one is much smaller and less full, but hopefully over time it will become more dense.