Friday, May 31, 2013

Fox in the Henhouse (almost)

I've had some recent sad losses in my chicken flock.  I've now lost 6 chickens to a fox.  I think it's the season in which foxes have their young, and I believe that's why, after 2 years of no problems, I suddenly have a fox issue.  So, I put up a fence to keep my hens safer, and to keep the fox at bay.  Unfortunately, some of my smaller birds can fly over the fence, but for the most part, this seems to be an effective solution for the time being.  Not pretty, but it will have to do for now.

For the record, I'm not interested in shooting the fox, or catching it in any sort of trap.  I believe in a healthy predator population and I don't like trapping in general unless it's live trapping without injury to the animal.  However, even if I had a live trap that would accommodate a fox, in this case, when it likely has young ones, I think it would be inappropriate to try to relocate it.

Today, I heard a big commotion from the chickens and rushed to see what was going on.  Having had this happen a number of times now, I was quick enough to grab the camera on my way to check it out.  My fence worked effectively, keeping the fox at bay.  The fox didn't appear to make any attempt to go over the fence, nor to dig under it.  When I saw the fox head around to the back where the barn is, I quickly went to check out whether it would enter the barn.

The goats and sheep were in the barn, because it's a pretty warm day, and they tend to stay inside and go out to eat for short periods of time.  Lucky Nickel was adamant that I should NOT go out the door of the barn.  I had to climb over her to get out.  She wasn't letting anyone else out either.  Sure enough, the fox was out there.  Nickel was staring at it intently and did not want to move at all.

Nickel was a very good guard goat, although I don't think the fox is really a threat to the sheep or goats. It's a small fox and they don't usually take down large size prey.

When I finally got past Nickel, here's what I saw.

I feel rather sad and sorry for this fox.  Its face looks like it might be a bit injured or unwell.

It's also missing a lot of tail fur.

From some quick reading, I think it might be sarcoptic mange, which means that eventually this fox is likely to die.  That is a difficult situation for me.  I don't like the fox eating my hens, but I don't like the fox suffering either.  I might try to put some dog food out for it, laced with ivermectin, which is apparently effective in treating the mite that causes sarcoptic mange.

I know that seems counter-intuitive.  Why would I want to help a fox that has already eaten 6 of my hens.  Admittedly, the fox does actually eat the birds in their entirety, unlike the raccoons, who just bite off the head and leave the rest (that makes me really angry).  I know that nature is harsh, it's an eat-and-be-eaten kind of world.  I will do my best to protect my hens, but I also do my best to promote a healthy ecosystem and I am really distressed by the thought of this fox suffering a slow decline as a result of a skin infection.

The fox ran away after seeing me...beating a hasty retreat into the woods.  Lucky Nickel stayed on "door duty" for quite a while afterwards though.  She may be a nuisance sometimes, but she's also a good herd queen and she seems to keep the group protected.
I hope the fox gets the idea that it can't get to the chickens, and finds some other prey for its young.  I don't like my chickens to suffer, but I don't like the fox to suffer either.  What a conundrum.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Apple Blossom Time

When I took Jet for a walk this morning in the warm sunshine, I was amazed by the heavy, sweet scent of the apple blossoms.  It filled the air so completely, and each breath was like sipping a glass of spring wine.  As I walked down the driveway, my ears were also drenched with sound...the steady low hum of a thousand bees.  They were everywhere - on the apple blossoms, the choke cherry blossoms, the tiny white and purple blossoms of weeds in the grass, and on nearly every dandelion I could see.  Count the bees!

Unfortunately, Jet went charging into a bank of dandelions and ended up being stung by a bee.  I had to take my poor hound back to the house, remove the stinger, and give him lots of reassurance.  I thought he was going to lick his leg right off.

I went out with the camera afterwards to try to capture the delights of the day.  Unfortunately, I had to wear my mesh bug jacket.  Here in this part of the world, we have a lot of biting insects.  I wasn't worried about the bees, but the black flies were out in droves.  If you don't live in a place with black flies, you might think I was just talking about flies that are black.  No, that is not the case.  The black fly is an incredibly annoying little biting fly, worse than a mosquito.  They hover around your head and face and bite repeatedly.  As you'll read, if you check out this Wikipedia entry, black flies are a scourge in some parts of Canada, even causing livestock deaths due to their incessant biting.  My sheep and goats are miserable at this time of year with the bites they receive around their eyes, and there really isn't much I can do for them.  The "fly bait" traps and fly sprays don't work for black flies.  Very few repellents work at all, and those that do are only marginally effective.  So, I was "suited up" for my walk.  See those nasty bugs off to the right of my head?  Just can't escape those things!

Trying to see the little digital camera screen through the mesh is a challenge.  The mesh is very fine and therefore the screen is hard to see in much detail.  I took almost 200 photographs and had to weed through them and crop a few to get the pictures I was aiming for.  Still, I think you'll be able to enjoy the sights that I was seeing.  I just can't get enough of those apple blossoms. They start out as a deep rosy pink in bud form.

Then they burst open into a pale pink that becomes more and more white with age.

They are only here for a short time, but it's a beautiful time.

Last year, due to late frosts, the apple blossoms never came out for me.  I really didn't have any to speak of, and I think I saw about 20 apples total last fall on all my trees (about 10 or so).  This year, every tree is thickly covered with blossoms....hundreds and hundreds of them!

The bees were enjoying all the pollen they could fit onto their legs.  Here's a bee on a dandelion.  See his pollen "baggage" on his legs?

His pollen trousers remind me of water wings that children wear in swimming pools!

Then, there were the bees enjoying the apple blossoms, probably just as much as I was, if not more.  Here comes one from the right, choosing its blossom.  You can just see the wings.
Bee bum!  
 I love how this picture turned out.  The blossoms aren't the showiest, but the bee is great!
As I continued to walk around, I noticed another visitor in the apple trees.  I had a flock of cedar waxwings who were eating the blossom petals.  I didn't know they would eat petals, but after some research, I found out that they do.  Not a bad breakfast, for a bird!  The waxwings are a little bit secretive and furtive in their movements, so it was hard to photograph them, especially given my difficulty in seeing the screen, but I think you can see them well enough in these pictures to identify them.  There are three of them in this picture, if you can find them amongst all those blooms!

Here you can see that the bird on the left actually has a petal in its beak.
I managed to catch one in flight.
Unfortunately I didn't manage to get a picture showing those tiny red tips on their wing feathers, but they are still lovely birds.  I think there were about ten of them hopping about in the trees.

I was quite captivated with the beautiful show that nature put on for me this morning, despite the black flies. See, I am still smiling!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Spring is finally here

I'm glad to say that spring is finally arriving here in my part of the world.  It sure has taken its time this year, but things are beginning to turn green instead of being brown.  I won't mention the fact that there are flurries forecast for tomorrow because that would just ruin everything...

So, I have daffodils!  Yay!  The one thing that the goats simply don't eat.  I'm not sure why, but apparently they just don't taste good.  All the other bulbs were destroyed by the goats, before they really made it out of the ground, but the daffodils keep coming back.  That's a lovely treat for me since I love gardening and used to have a really beautiful flower garden.  One day when I get fences put up, I can have one again I hope.

There are three different daffodil cultivars in my garden now - the classic all yellow, the one above that is white with the pale yellow "frilly" inside, and this one below, which is rather beautiful with its dark orange rim.  See the little ant in there?  I didn't notice that when I took this picture!

The tree leaves are just starting to come out.  That's pretty late, even for here.

I have a lot of trees with black knot fungus.  Unfortunately it's so widespread in this area that there really isn't much point to trying to control it.  It only affects Prunus species, which in this area means choke-cherries and wild plums.  It looks unsightly but the leaves cover it later in the summer.

Down on the swampy part of my field, the wild iris patch is coming back.  They have beautiful yellow flowers later in the early summer.  It's strange because there's just this one patch, but it's lovely when it's in bloom.  It's nice to see those green spears returning.  Here's a picture of the patch from my driveway.

Here they are a little more close-up!  I think if I were a duck or other water bird, I'd like to hang out in the middle of that patch to build my nest!

Some of the trees are beginning to blossom now.  These have a lovely scent.

I'm particularly pleased to see copious blossoms forming on the apple trees.  Last year there weren't any apples on most of the trees because there was a late frost and the blossoms didn't make it.  I'm hoping for a better harvest this year.  They make great treats for goats and sheep!

This is one of those interesting evergreen species that loses its needles every year.  They're starting to emerge again now.  I think it's a larch species but I'm not sure which one.  If anyone knows, I'd be delighted to find out.

Also, I've seen some tadpoles in the stream!  This picture shows the area that makes a fairly deep pool most of the time, and that's where I see tadpoles at this time of year, and fish later in the year.  The rest of the stream is shallower, rushing over rocks and making little waterfalls, but this one area stays more calm and has slower movement.  When I walk by, if the sun is in the right spot, my shadow makes all the tadpoles and little fish dart to the shady spots to hide.

So here's how it looks overall when I'm taking Jet for a walk on my field - the grass is certainly green now and the trees are starting to get a green glow as the leaves emerge.  There's still a lot of vegetation that hasn't broken bud yet, and therefore a lot of bare branches.  But, at least it's nicer to look at when it's green!  Unfortunately, the blackflies are out as well, and I had a swarm of about 20 around me on this walk.  I will have to start wearing my bug jacket when we go for walks or I will be forever scratching at bites.

In other news, the Deanne Fitzpatrick Rug Hooking store in Amherst, Nova Scotia, is now carrying 5-yard lengths of my handspun yarns for rug hookers.  It's not latch hooking - it's another kind of traditional rug hooking that is often done with strips of wool cloth, but can also be done with yarn. There are plenty of examples on her website of the types of rugs and wall hangings that are made that way.  Here are the yarns I took this past week.

And finally, here's a picture of wee Fezzik the goat, because I just love his smile.  One of these days he'll have to have a post of his own.  Signing off from spring in Nova Scotia!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A few crafty bits and pieces

I thought I'd do a little blog post on the crafty things I've been busy with lately, which admittedly isn't that much, but I suppose it's better than nothing.  My writing work has been really busy for a while so I wasn't able to do much crafting for a few weeks, well...months really.  Things have quieted down a little on the writing front, so I've had a bit of time.

I've done some sporadic sock knitting.  First, I made a pair of "Aradena" socks in the "Bite Me" colourway of merino/silk blend yarn from Cherry Tree Hill.  You'll find the pattern here if you're a member of Ravelry.  You might remember I blogged about this yarn a long time ago - it was sent to me by Isobelle Golightly's lady, when I was having a particularly rotten time.  This was my second full pair of socks.  My very first pair of socks is still just a single sock.  My second pair, made with Lion Brand Thick-and-Quick yarn, was my first complete pair.  So these are my third pair, but technically my 4th and 5th sock.

I then moved on to the "Twinners" pattern from Avalon Fiber Arts (pattern is at the bottom of this page) and I did it in Universal Classic Worsted Tapestry yarn in a self-patterning red and grey mix, which is 80% acrylic and 20% wool - durable for hard-wearing socks, and washable.  I really like the pattern.  I decided to do the back of the leg plain, instead of patterned.  Here it is on my foot...

...and here's the pattern down the front of the leg in more detail.

I still have to do the second sock for this pair.

In the meantime, I started the sock from the "Socks that Rock" club that I'm in for this year - I get a sock pattern and a selected yarn every 2 months.  This pattern is called Petrosinella and it's definitely just my colours! I love the pattern but it's relatively complex and quite fiddly.  I'm working on it....slllooowwwwly.

I finally got around to listing some of the scarves I had in stock....they're now available in my Etsy store.  I know it's not winter, but it's good to be prepared!  I had some good weather so I took photographs outside and I had them all hanging on the short fence line - the fence has no real purpose other than to be decorative, and to be a good photo prop!

I also listed some of my felted and beaded pendants.  I love taking pictures of them using natural settings, like the stones and stumps in my yard.  I feel that brings out their charm in a way that an indoor setting just can't do.

Lucky Nickel tried to help with modelling a pendant for me but it didn't really work out.

I also sheared Maggie May, the bunny.  She was overdue for a fibre harvest and I took advantage of a breezy day to do it.  The wind keeps her fluff out of my nose!  She's a very pretty rabbit - sort of chocolate brown face and pale buff all over.  I will enjoy spinning her fibre.

Most of the "good fibre" is in the aqua coloured basket - the belly fur and the not-so-nice bits (otherwise known as a bunsplosion) are scattered to the winds for the birds to use in their nests.

Maggie looks a little bit naked but I'm sure she'll appreciate her summer cut when the temperatures really start to warm up.

For the past few weeks I've been enjoying the opportunity to go to "open studio" time at Deanne Fitzpatrick's rug hooking studio in Amherst.  It allows me the opportunity to chat with fellow fibre-folk, and it also gives me "permission" to spin some yarn, which I don't always allow myself at home because I'm too distracted by all the other things around here that need to be done.

Here's some variegated Jacob fleece with copper angelina in the "Earth Day" colourway from Desert Garden Farms in Idaho.

Here's some coiled art yarn that I made with some Blue-faced Leicester fibre in the "Alice in Wonderland" themed spin-along from BeesyBee Fiber.  I loved the vibrant colours and felt that the Alice theme lent itself to a fun interpretation full of unexpected texture and a touch of craziness.  I plied it with some hot pink crochet cotton.

Here is the yarn I made from some Polwarth fibre available as part of the Split Rock Ranch spring spin-along.  This was one definitely in my colours - I love lime greens!  This is a 3-ply (Navajo-ply) yarn and I haven't decided whether I'll sell it or not because I'm really fond of it!

And finally, I also did a bit of unravelling.  I bought a 100% wool sweater from the thrift shop that was particularly thick and chunky, and I decided that instead of felting it, I'd rather re-use the yarn in another project.  So, here's the original sweater...
 ...and here's what it looks like now.

So that's all from the crafting department for me!  What have you been up to?!