Sunday, July 1, 2012

Danger of...what?!

Yesterday, Richard kindly took me out to dinner and movie, after working on projects at the house for the day.  Back in Iowa, I used to enjoy frequent dinners out with friends, but here, there is really nowhere to go, and nobody to go with.  That makes me sad, but I'm trying to get used to it and to forget the way things used to be.

Last night was an exception - we went to a small city about 30 minutes drive away which has a nice pub.  It's not fabulous, but it's OK, all things considered.  Had a nice supper and then a few minutes to wait before the movie.  We went for a short stroll around the downtown area, which was nice because at the farm, I can't go outside for strolls because the bugs are insanely bad.  I literally have to run to and from my car to the front door to avoid bites.  In the city though, it was not a problem.  How nice to be able to be outside!

Anyway, I cracked up when I saw this sign...
Apart from the fact that it was a hot summer day, reducing the chances of falling ice considerably, you have to look closely to see why I was reduced to giggles upon reading it.  I don't generally condone graffiti, but this was in pencil, and was...well, just really funny.  Here's the close up, in case you can't read it!
So, watch out for falling mice next time you're out on a walk!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

And so it goes

It's been a long time since my last post, and I do want to assure any readers I might still have left, that I have not been swallowed up by a freak sinkhole or swept away by a raging herd of water buffalo, or befallen any other accidents.  I have, on the other hand, been extraordinarily busy, at the same time as going through some time of introspection and thought, during which the blogging muse seems to have taken a hiatus.

Through the dark times of the past few months, I have been tremendously touched and honoured by the many friends who have sent support and love in various ways.  I cannot thank those people enough - and will return to this in later posts.  For now, I will just provide a brief update.

In short, I was able to get a job in early April, which has of course helped me be able to pay my bills and begin to feel less panic over my financial situation.  It's not a good job.  It's incredibly boring and does not use any of my skills or training, not to mention that it's about 1/5 of my former salary.  A high school student could do it with ease.  In that sense, it's frustrating and rather depressing, but it's at least a job.  The area where I live is very rural and jobs are hard to find, so there are few to no options for people with strong science and patent law background.

I also started a small entrepreneurial business venture in technical writing, editing, proofreading, and the like.  It's something that does actually use some of my skills, and I would rather be doing it full-time, but it is slow to build.  Also, any writing work I do has to be done on the weekends, or in the evenings, when I am not at my other job.  That means I can't take on too much, otherwise I won't be able to dedicate sufficient time and effort to it.  I hope that in the not too distant future, I will be able to focus exclusively on this business venture, or at least find something else that is more suitable for my skills and experience.

The combination of the day job and the writing has meant that I've had very little time for fibre arts, which is not ideal for me, since that is a source of stress relief and enjoyment for me.  I try to enjoy it in small doses when I can.

The animals are well, with the exception of a few chicken losses.  I still don't have a fence, and it's a major priority for me.  As you can see from the picture above, little Fezzik has come a long way over the winter and is really filling out and looking healthy.  I am so pleased about that.  I'm also starting to look at upgrading the heating system on the house so I don't have to sit around in multiple sweaters, scarves and mittens (indoors) next winter.  Fortunately I only had one incident of pipes freezing, but that was enough.

And finally, Richard has been coming round to help out with the farm from time to time.  Without getting into the details, we are considering whether it might be possible to repair the damages and put things back together, but this will take much time and thought.  For now, baby steps for me as I go forward.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The return of a hen, and her re-disappearance, and a funny egg

I really need to get rid of 4 roosters - they are big and bold and taking out their hormonal angst upon my hens.  In particular, they've been targeting my two Rhode Island Red hens.  I'm not sure why they do this, but the RIR hens are losing far more feathers than the other hens and the other day, I noticed that one of them had her flanks completely torn open on both sides.  I inspected her wounds and she had really huge openings - about 1 inch or wider - on both sides, but the blood was dried and the skin was peeled away and I wasn't sure what to do.  I decided to let her try to heal on her own.  A couple of days later, she disappeared.  Just clean disappeared.  I searched high and low, but no sign of her.  I decided she'd been taken by a hawk or another predator or something similar.

It's been about a week since she disappeared, and today when I did the afternoon feeding, I did a double take when I looked at the flock running over to the feed grains.  She was back!  I went out immediately and looked her over.  Her wounds have healed a little, but not that well, and I still have my doubts as to whether she'll make it, but she was eating heartily and holding her own.  I had no idea where she had been, but she was back.

Just before dark, I went out to close up the coop.  Was she there?  No.  She'd disappeared again.  I searched yet again, but no sign of her.  Clearly, she has taken to sleeping elsewhere.  I don't know where, and I don't know why I have only seen her with the feeding group that one time today.  She must have made herself a little hiding place where she can heal without the roosters constantly hassling her.  I really must get them processed soon - it's just not fair to the hens.

Anyway, when I closed the coop and picked up the eggs, there was this funny little hiccup egg.

I've never seen one quite this shape before.  It's my first hiccup egg from my Nova Scotia hens.  Couldn't resist sharing the pictures.  I think I've got 5 or 6 hens laying now - one has just started laying these small white eggs recently - this is the third one so far.
 Such a cute little egg!
I have more to blog about, and I will write soon, but still finding it hard to find my writing muse.  Time heals all wounds.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unconditional Love

The wonderful thing about most animals, goats and sheep included, is that they're always happy to see you.  If you take proper care of your feathered and furry friends, they have so much love to give in return.
They don't care if you brushed your hair and put on make-up before you go out to see them.  They probably prefer that you don't!  They would love some treats, but if you don't bring any, they still love you.  They don't make demands of you or expect you to entertain them, although they will entertain you endlessly if you let them!
Yesterday, when I was feeling particularly low, I went outside to spend some time with the goats and sheep.  They cluster around me like bees to a hive, nudging with their heads, stepping on my feet, and trying to see what I might have in my pockets.  Once it's been established that there are no special treats to be had, then they just follow me and seek out my hands, nosing me for attention.  After my usual hugs and snuggles with Fezzik, I spent some good times with Lucky Nickel.
Even though she is a bully with the other goats at times, she is still my baby, and she never tries to butt me or bully me.  In fact, if anyone else comes near while she's got my attention, they're the ones who get shoved away!
I took the camera out to take pictures of my little friends, and ended up doing the "extend arm - aim camera - press button and hope" routine a few times.  I was fairly pleased with a few of the pictures that I took of myself "snuzzling" my Lucky Nickel.  She put me into a much better mood and told me that I was well loved, regardless of my lack of treats for her.  This is my favourite picture - just a kiss planted on her face, and a goat who loves back.  By the looks of it, my hair and her fleece will be matching colours in no time!
 Thanks, Lucky Nickel.  I'm so glad you came to Canada with me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I'm still here

Just a short blog, to say that I have not dropped into an open manhole or a previously undiscovered well.  I am taking time to process the events that have led to my current situation, and have found myself essentially unable to write about it for the moment.  In the week following Richard's totally unexpected decision to abandon everything we had been intending, I noticed that Stickley had developed a limp in his front leg.  Within a few days, he was having a very difficult time putting any weight on that leg.  In the barn, I had also been dealing with Westley, one of my little angora goats, who had paralysis of both legs on his left side as a result of deer meningeal worm infection.  With Westley having been unable to stand up for nearly 6 weeks despite my attempts to get him moving, I decided it was time to let him go.  He was not having a good quality of life for a little goat, and it wasn't fair to keep hanging on to hope.  I took both Westley and Stickley to the vet.  Unfortunately, I learned that Stickley had developed osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that is relatively common in greyhounds of advanced age.  He would have been 11 this month.

Westley and Stickley were humanely euthanized on the same day, just 10 days after Richard's bombshell.  It was one of those "just when I thought things couldn't get any worse..." moments.

So, still dealing with a lot of loss in my life, and a lot of uncertainty.  I'm not sure where all this is leading, and I dislike instability.  I leave you with some pictures of Stickley and Westley.  It has taken me some time to be able to write about their passing, and even now I have hot tears coursing my cheeks as I write this.  Too much loss in too short a time, and no light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Stickley, retired racing greyhound, track name "RJ's Elk River"
Run free my big dog, you are not forgotten.

Westley, the wee angora goat, not even a year old.  Loved while he was here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


image:  Mary Anne Potter


The place you thought you were, was an illusion.
The pictures on the walls were lovingly created inside your mind,
tended with care and the light whisper of your fingers upon them.
Now, you see the dreams have shattered, leaving sharp pieces on the floor
where you step on them by mistake, and open a new wound.

The walls behind which you carry out your little life,
did not shelter you when the storm came, nor keep you safe.
This farm to which you came, so filled with hope and life,
has stripped that hope from you with each passing day,
and mocked you as it stood in defiance of your effort.

Dark tendrils grew, spreading decay that eclipsed the light,
a sharp talon that pulled away the cocoon of comfort and warmth
leaving you bare and cold, alone in the night,
save for a bundle of photographs tied with a red ribbon
as a reminder of your folly.

Writing prompt from the creative writing blog
Imaginary Garden with Real Toads

I wrote this poem today to mark the passing of a chapter of my life.  Richard has decided not to continue with our relationship, and I am struggling to make sense of what lies ahead.  The reasons I left Iowa, returned to Canada, and started a fresh life, have been unceremoniously ripped from me, one by one.  I am cast adrift, and do not know where my boat will land.  It is a dark time indeed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


No, I'm not talking about people who go from Canada to the southern US for several months each year, although they are snowbirds of a different sort.  Today, I'm talking about chickens.  Chickens in the snow.  We had quite a bit of snow fall in the area recently - probably about 12 inches or so.
The chickens have not been impressed.  Actually, they have all stayed in the coop, where I fed them for the past 4 days, peering out of the door from time to time with a glassy eye, and retreating to the safety of the wooden roosts.

Today, it was a little warmer - above freezing even!  I had to go out into the fenced area where the chickens generally roam in order to put some wood into the basement for the wood furnace.  The flock watched me as I traipsed through the coop, decked out in my insulated coveralls and heavy gloves.  I think they thought I was quite mad to be going out in that sea of white.
I have a feeling that chickens are very uneasy about stepping into the snow because they can't judge its depth and they could just fall down into it and not be able to get out.  I trudged around the yard a bit making little paths with my feet, so that they could putter around out there in the sun.  They refused to follow.

I decided it was high time for them all to get out into the sun so I went back into the coop and shooed everybody outside.  This caused a cacophony of aggrieved cackling and flapping, but out they went.  Some of them went onto the steps quite timidly, but others burst out the coop door in a cannonball-like effort of feathers and feet.  I hadn't quite anticipated that level of enthusiasm, nor had I anticipated that several of them would fly directly up into the tree, presumably to avoid the snow.
Others flew directly to the wood pile, to take a front row seat in observing the action.
Three of the roosters clustered together on a branch that I felt sure would break, but it didn't.
And two crazy, flustered hens actually flew over the fence and out into the snow on the other side, where they sat looking surprised and a little distressed.  It was time for a chicken recovery operation.

The first of the candidates was one of my lovely golden-laced Polish hens, named Thistle.  She was in snow that was several inches deep and as I approached, she began to look somewhat alarmed, but was unable to escape her snowy situation.
I quickly picked her up and she didn't seem to mind being carried back to the yard.
I popped her over the fence, thinking she would muddle her way through the snow to join her fellow hens.

I set off after my second escapee - Almondine - a cross breed bantam hen.  She was hiding behind a tree, keeping a wary eye on my approach.
"Oh bother," I could nearly hear her say, "she's seen me!"
 She hastily beat a retreat, not wanting to be picked up and carried back to the flock.
Chickens are funny to watch when they run under any circumstances.  Chickens running in the snow are simply hilarious.  They are like cartoon characters who are nearly falling over at every step.  Still, she got away from me because I had to be mindful where I was stepping, lest I end up in my own snowy cocoon!
 She left behind trails of wing marks in the snow, which I thought were quite beautiful.
Anyway, I eventually caught up to her and corralled her against the fence, where I nimbly (?) grabbed her and carried her to the fence, whereupon she flew out of my grasp and rejoined her flock.
By this time, I thought that Thistle would have done the same, but upon investigation, she was still sitting on the correct side of the fence, in deep snow, looking pathetic.  Another rescue...
Once she was back with the others, I turned my attention to those in the trees.
The tree chickens had left evidence of their ability to get out of the trees and find their way back to the coop.  Here I present the classic signs of a "chicken landing strip."  You can see the initial landing location with the deeper footprints and then the wing marks from the move out of those deep foot holes so that the path back to the coop was accessible.
Buttercup insisted on showing me her clean bloomers.
I spent a couple of hours putting in firewood, after having pried apart the frozen pile of cut logs using a crowbar and ice chopper, under observation all the time of course.
But, at the end of my work, I was rewarded with two "real" hen fruits, nestled among the wooden eggs my Dad made for the nesting boxes.
I do hope the chickens enjoyed their time outside despite the snow.  At least they had some entertainment while they basked in the sun!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Boxes of Happy

I've got two boxes to talk about today - both of which made me very happy!  It's always nice to receive something in a package in the mail....there's something about opening a box or package that is like unraveling a little mystery.  Sometimes you know the box is coming, and sometimes you don't!

The first box of happy was one that I knew was coming.  A looooong time ago, Millie the goat at Eden Hills had a lovely giveaway for her human's new online shop!  I was the lucky winner, and I was able to choose 2 products from her bath and body selection as my prize.  It was difficult to choose from all the yummy choices, but I selected the "relaxing" scent soap (because I need to relax more) and the "earthy" scent bath salts, because I do love a nice warm bath in the winter, and I'm a bit of an earthy girl.

It was very exciting to receive a box in the mail from a goat!  Yes, Millie Ann herself sent it!
It was very nicely packed with packing paper so nothing would get damaged.  And as I opened it, it just smelled wonderful!
 Here was the source of the lovely smell - this is the soap!  What an elegant label.
I tried to encourage Fezzik to take an interest in the soap - I thought he might like to consider daily showers with it so that he smelled less goaty.  He briefly stopped to consider it...
 ...but decided his goat chow was MUCH more interesting.
Well that's just fine by me, because I want that soap all to myself!  It's a lovely scent - not too strong, and just right for me or for Richard, since we both need to relax!

The bath salts come packaged in a lovely little jar - so pretty to sit on the edge of the bath!  Do you see that I finally got the tiles grouted?  They actually look quite nice and I'm pleased at how the bathroom is progressing, even though it's a bit slower than I'd like.  My Dad is working on a nice front piece for the tub now, so that'll be the next stage!
In any case, I think that the bath salts look so lovely in their little jar, coordinating with my tiles, that I haven't actually used any yet.  They smell fabulous and I keep opening the jar and smelling it and then putting it back because I don't want to lose my pretty bathroom "ornament" yet!
I do encourage you to visit Millie Ann's human's shop!  She makes lovely bath products!  Not only that, you can buy popcorn from her farm!  And, guess what?!  You can lease a GOAT!   Go check it out!  A huge thank you to Millie Ann Saanen and her lady in Iowa for hosting the giveaway!

The second Box of Happy was completely unexpected and a lovely surprise!  Isobelle's lady sent it to me! What a wonderful treat!  She knows that things have been difficult here with all the craziness due to the former owner's disregard for his promises on helping us carry on his wine business.  It has made me so unhappy and she knows that I've been trying very hard to find at least part time employment with no success.  She sent me a box full of "happy" to make me feel better.  I was completely surprised!

There were two lovely reversible placemats for our kitchen table!  There was a gorgeous skein of sock yarn that I can't wait to knit!  It has the very funny name of "Bite Me" for the colourway, which gave me a good giggle.  She also sent a lovely card with her very own hand drawn characters of her barnyard residents.  What a sweet thing to do!
She also tucked in two pairs of these lovely warm socks.  I can only show you one pair because the other one has already been worn and it's in the wash!  They have sheep on them, of course!
Thank you so much to my special "goat-sister" in New York for this virtual hug!  You really made my week!
*Special Addition (after original post)*
Since Marigold asked, even though Isobelle's lady will probably have a fit, here are her lovely drawings of her critters from the card.  I think they look super!  You can see Tuuli and Wickery the sheep, beautiful Number in his blanket, the mini-horses, and I do believe Thistle is scampering across the card.  Isobelle is lovely of course, and she would not be horrified at all!  An artist at work, here!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Goats! Trees! And an Impending Project!

The goats have been very happy for the past couple of days because they were given a special treat!  Or should I say treet?

The road on which I live had a large machine go by a few weeks ago that did some pretty major trimming along the side of the road.   Unfortunately, this trimming involved a lot of trees with pretty wide trunks, including a lovely old apple tree.  I don't know why the county felt a need to get quite so vigourous with their brush cutting, but the outcome was a massive mess of branches and lots of young spruce trees that were cut off at the base.

I gathered quite a few of these felled trees and dragged them up to the barn, because the goats love spruce, so it was a free food source that was pre-cut for me to haul up to the hungry herd!  As you can see, they are very pleased.
Oh wait, no, I guess you can't see.  Word to the wise.  When you're trying to take pictures in a cold barn, you can't breathe out at the time time you snap the picture, otherwise all you take a picture of is a plume of breath that is making a little cloud in front of the lens!

Here we go - wee Westley to the left and Fezzik to the right, along with the sheep in the background, all having a good gnawing on a spruce!
Wee Fezzik has been doing well with his winter turtleneck-coat on and seems to be at least maintaining his weight despite the cold, which was what I had hoped for.  He still gets his special molasses oats treat every day to keep the weight on him as much as I can without giving him a case of the runs!

Moving on, you may recall, if you are a regular reader, that a while ago we bought cabinets to re-do the kitchen here.  We're not quite ready to do that project yet, but when we bought those cabinets, we bought a few extra units so that we could install some in my upstairs "studio" area, giving me places to store yarn, spinning fibre, dye materials, and other goodies.  It is with much excitement that I can tell you that the project to install these cabinets is set for Sunday!  Woohoo!!

Here are the cabinets that we have moved upstairs in preparation for the project!  There are two like the cabinet facing the camera on the left.  Nice big drawer and cupboard.  Then there is a smaller one (narrower) that is the same height.
 This is the sink cabinet unit.  Eventually we will get a nicer sink but one thing at a time!
Here is where they'll be installed (the chaos zone). We'll get rid of this grungy old half-baked plywood counter and put in the cabinets and a nice piece of second hand countertop (which already had a sink hole!) that we were able to get.  It is a nice dark greenish looking laminate.  Easy to clean.
All those bottles under the sink are my fibre dyes and detergents, etc.  The microwave is for dyeing also.  All our bathroom stuff is also there because our bathroom doesn't have a sink yet, so we have to use this one for that too.  Anyway, I can't wait to do the project and get things put away in their proper, organized places.  I'll be sure to show some pictures after our work!