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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Friday's Hunt, v 4.23

Another busy week has passed by - as I say every week!  I didn't even have time to visit other blogs for a couple of weeks, which is sad.  But here we are again for Friday's Hunt, and I'm scrounging to put together a post for this week's prompts from Eden Hills:  Starts with W, Dense and Texture.

Starts with W
As those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will perhaps remember, my father is a woodworker, and he has a lot of interesting tools. Among those tools are these very small "finger planes" which are also called "whale" planes because of their shape.  Aren't they cute?!

They are called finger planes because they really only fit one finger when they are being used.  They are called whale planes because they look like tiny whales.

The whale's eye is the end of a thin steel rod that holds the wedge in place.  These planes are most commonly used by violin and guitar makers for planing the inside surfaces of the instruments.

Dense
The chicken flock is producing eggs despite the short day length, which makes me happy.  It's always fun to go out and collect eggs from the nest boxes.  I'm only getting 2-3 per day, but that's enough!  This egg is particularly pretty - it is covered with a dense pattern of darker speckles on the lighter brown shell.

I took this picture of the spruce trees that surround our house today.  They are also quite dense because they are very close together.  Unfortunately, the spruce only have live green needles at the top of the tree canopy, meaning that the lower parts of the trunks are bare.  It might be good to thin these out a bit.  The trees on the far left side are a different species.

Texture
Back to the subject of eggs, some eggs have more texture than others.  While some have very smooth shells, others have shells with little bumps on them.  This is particularly the case with the eggs from my hen, Sienna.  I don't know her breed mix but she is a bantam hen that lays white eggs, and they always have little bumps on them.  Here is one of her eggs - you can really see the textured surface in this close-up shot.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Friday's Hunt v. 4.22

I'm rather late in getting around to Friday's Hunt blog - it has been a busy weekend.  Just scraping in under the wire with my entries for Eden Hills' prompts!

Starts with V
We have two rats that we adopted from one of Marc's coworkers (her cat was scaring them so she was looking for a home where they would not be so frightened).  One rat is named Violet and the other is named Ivy, so they both have a V in their names, but only one starts with V.  We think they are lovely pets - easy to care for and easy to love.  They are fun to watch - although they are mostly nocturnal so we don't get to see them at their most active times.  Here is Violet yawning!

Our indoor cat, Mitten, does not even pay the slightest bit of attention to them.  Here is Violet again, after having a bath.

Festive
We actually put up and decorated a Yule tree yesterday!  We don't put one up every year.  In fact, I think I've only had a tree up once in the past 5 or so years.  However, we are now well settled in our home and it seemed like a good year to try to find the right spot for a tree.  It is an artificial tree because we are both very busy and remembering to water a tree is another thing on the list that neither of us really needs.  However, it is a nice quality tree and we had fun putting it up.

Marc carried the tree upstairs.

I added a festive bow to our house mouse's tail.

We assembled the tree and Pippin came to check it out.  He did an audit and determined all the lights were working properly.

A couple of hours later, it was all decorated.  I'm not much of a tinsel person.  I like handmade ornaments the most.

It looked pretty with the room lights off, too.  Here you can also see a festive wall decoration from Marc's childhood on the rear wall.

We listened to a CD of Harry Connick Jr., and then a vinyl LP of Bing Crosby, both singing holiday tunes.  It was definitely festive.  It's nice to celebrate the winter holidays even though we are not at all religious. 

Wood
Several of the ornaments that I put on the Yule tree yesterday are made from wood.  Most of the ornaments on the tree have a story or a history to me.

This lovely wood heart ornament came from Winston-Salem in North Carolina.  It was purchased on my last vacation, which I looked up today, and realized was in 2008.  That means it will be 10 years since I have been on a vacation, with the exception of a few long weekends or our short honeymoon, which was 3 nights in Quebec City. Oh, and one night away this year on PEI.  I think I am in need of a real vacation soon.


There are two wooden bear ornaments on the tree.  Marc is especially fond of bears.




This ornament is actually made from wood shavings.  I am sure it is from Europe but I don't remember where - my parents bought these long ago and I have this one from their collection.

This little camel ornament is actually made from olive wood, and I think it might have come from Bethlehem from somebody who visited there.  I'm very fond of camelids, so it's nice to have this one on the tree.

I'm hoping to do a few more blog posts about other ornaments on the tree in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned!


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 4.21

I'm rather late to Friday's Hunt this week.  It has been a busy week as usual.  I really look forward to someday saying "It's been a leisurely week."  Our prompts from Eden Hills are:  Starts with U, Mosaic, and "I ate that."

Starts with U
When I was at the Knit East event in October, I took a picture of this unusual side-car motorcycle that I saw parked on the street.  It is a Ural brand motorcycle.  I took the picture because Marc is a motorcycle enthusiast and I thought he would be interested to see it. 

The Ural factory is in Russia and they have a long history of making rugged, heavy-duty side-car motorcycles.  You don't see them very often here, but there are a few around.  If you want to learn more about the Ural motorcycle company (whose original bikes were based on reverse-engineered BMW bikes clandestinely obtained in the early part of World War II), you can read about them here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMZ-Ural  They still produce motorcycles today.

Mosaic
I really like mosaic art.  In fact, over time, I have purchased 5 books about making different types of mosaics - garden mosaics, mixed media, and others as you can see in the picture of my books, below.  I have a stash of glass for mosaic making, and the tools to cut the glass pieces.  I have adhesive and grout for mosaic-making as well.  I am all set!  I have been all set for about 10 years now, and I have yet to use any of my supplies.  Sigh.  I really need to make more time for things other than work!

I ate that
Yesterday evening we went to my in-laws for supper and a celebration of the 100th birthday of their piano.  The piano was purchased in 1917 and passed down in the family.  It is a Heintzman piano, which was a renowned Canadian piano maker based in Toronto, Ontario.  Heintzman began making pianos in 1866 and continued until 1981, when the company was sold.  As my contribution to the festivities, I made a cake to share.  I ate a piece of it (not all of it!).  The frosting was done fairly hurriedly so my hand wasn't very steady, but it's the thought that counts!

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.