Sunday, July 31, 2016

Athena has a Dust Bath

If you haven't watched a chicken take a dust bath, you're missing out!  They are really quite amusing. I decided to let Athena go out in the fenced area today.  She isn't likely to try to escape the fencing by flying over it.  She's not that kind of chicken.  Some breeds are good flyers, but Athena's a bit too heavy for that and she's not the right build.  It has been quite a long time since Athena has had the opportunity to be out in an open area, rather than her large dog crates.  She did some scratching in the dirt in the outdoor dog crate, but that isn't the same because the metal mesh of the crate prevents full dust bathing.

So finally, today, she went out into the fenced area and the very first thing she did was walk about 5 feet forward to an area with soft earth to start a major dust bath.  It was lovely to see her just being a chicken again.  The woodsy area has a lot of leaf litter and pine needle debris on the ground, making for lots of soft, ideal dust bathing areas.  I took a lot of pictures of her, many of which are blurry, but that's what it looks like when a chicken is dust-bathing - just a blur!

Here you can see she's settled in to a spot for her bath.

She begins turning around and around, scratching in the earth to create a shallow depression in the soil - sort of like a "bowl" shape.

Once she has the area established, she begins kicking dirt onto herself.  Here you can see that her head is relatively still, but her back end is a blur because she is kicking up dirt and dust onto her feathers.

She continues to do this many, many times, kicking around the dirt with her legs and shaking it through her feathers.

It's quite amusing to watch her shake and shimmy around.  The dust and dirt help to clean oils off her feathers and also help to prevent skin parasites like lice and mites.  I check her regularly to ensure she doesn't have any parasites, but this is their natural way of keeping clean.

Once she really gets into the groove, she starts completely rolling over in the dirt.  You can see here that her head is upside down and the back of her neck is in the dust bath.

Shake those tail feathers, Athena!

Here she is totally upside-down with her foot up in the air.

Wheeee!  Chickens often make contented little noises while dust bathing - soft clucks and burbling noises.

Sometimes they stop part way through their dust bath to take a rest, like in the picture below.  This can cause new chicken owners to think that their bird is dead.  Nope - she's just resting!

About a half an hour later, I went to check on her again.  Still at it!  Happy chicken!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My handsome, handy hubby, and a few other bits and pieces

Today Marc installed a GFI outlet on the outside wall where the electric fence charger will be plugged in.  He doesn't like having his photograph taken, but since Timber and Izzy were there to help him out, he didn't mind so much.  That's the new plug just on the left of the picture.  Thank you, my handsome hubby!  I am so appreciative of his work in helping me get ready to have my sheep and goats come home!  He also installed the fence charging unit inside a weatherproof metal box so it can be put up on a post next to the fence.  What a lucky gal I am!

Now we just have to wait for NB Power to install the new power line so we can hook up the electric fence.  I spent some time this afternoon ripping old, rusty barbed wire fence out of the ground, because it was entering into the fenced area, and I didn't want any animal injuries resulting from it.  I dislike barbed wire very much, and hauling it out of the ground when it's been buried for years is not my idea of a good time.

I had another new daylily open up this weekend and it's a gorgeous plummy burgundy colour with a greenish-yellow centre.  This one might be my favourite!

Here's one of my favourite little neighbours - the chipmunk!  I managed to photograph him (or her) earlier this week.

I picked some more of the wild blueberries today, as well as some raspberries from our yard.  The raspberries are a big brambly tangle, and I would like to get that sorted out into an organized raspberry patch so that they are easier to pick and prune.  I found what I think are blackberries.  They are green and very far behind the current raspberry crop.  Blackberries are usually a later crop, so that's what I think I've got.  I hope so!

Here's my favourite moth from the past week - Habrosyne scripta - the lettered habrosyne moth.  I love the detailed patterns in its wings.  One day I'd like to have a proper macro lens to take even better photographs of moths like these.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday's Hunt v 2.5

It's Friday, so I'm joining in the Friday's Hunt meme hosted by Eden Hills.  Today's subjects are: starts with E, week's favourite, and bounce.

Starts with E
One of the plants that is becoming interesting in the garden is the Echinops ritro.  This is an ornamental thistle species.  Eventually, these globe-shaped flower heads will open with tiny flowers, making them look blue.  They will be really pretty then, but for now, they provide an interesting shape and vertical element in the perennial garden.

I have a bonus "E" item today.  This is Eurrhypara hortulata, although because taxonomy is a difficult and ever-changing thing, sometimes it's classified as Anania hortulata.  In any event, it was a visitor to my screened-in porch, where I leave the light on overnight to attract moths for photography and cataloging purposes.  The common name of this moth is the small magpie moth.

Week's Favourite
This isn't necessarily a favourite photograph, but it depicts a favourite thing that happened this week.  I finally put up some fencing, with the help of a contractor/carpenter friend.  We put up just over 300 feet of fencing in my woodland area for the sheep and goats.  We added 2 hot wires that are at about 1 foot and 30 inches off the ground, in an attempt to keep the goats from climbing the fence, since Lucky Nickel is an expert at fence climbing.  I still need to get a grounding rod for the charger and Marc will build me a little box for the charger to keep it from getting wet until the barn gets built.  Then we can bring the gang home!

I was glad I still had a bit of fencing from Iowa.  The woven wire fence I used to be able to buy there was much better quality than what I can get here.  As you can see in the picture below, the woven wire that I brought with me from the US has a really secure twisted knot at each wire intersection, preventing the animals from expanding the holes.

By contrast, the wire I can get locally is relatively weak, and the small coiled intersections are only in one direction with no cross-wiring, meaning that they can easily be pushed aside, distorting the wire openings in the fence.  This is really not very good quality construction and lends itself to fence problems.  I'd rather pay more for well made fencing, but I just couldn't find it here.  That's another reason I decided the hot wires were needed.

This was a tough one for me.  I've been pondering it all week.  I don't use the classic dryer sheets with this name, and most of my laundry is being line-dried these days.  I don't have a trampoline.  I don't have cute baby animals who make a habit of bouncing around the pasture.  I don't have anything in my house that bounces, except possibly a dog toy or two, but I'm not sure where they are at the moment.  I forgot to take a picture of today's bread dough "bouncing" back from a finger poke before it was baked.  It's raining today and I noticed leaves being hit by raindrops and bouncing on their stems, but I really didn't want to go out and take pictures in the rain, and being able to catch just the right leaf at the right moment was going to be a tricky endeavour.  I kept coming up blank.  And then I thought about me.  That's when I realized, maybe I'm the thing that is bouncing, or at least bouncing back from where I was a few years ago.   So I got out the tripod and used the self timer...

Just over 5 years ago, I returned to Canada after living in Iowa for 9 years.  I had joy and excitement in my heart and a whole lot of dreams to fulfill.  I thought I knew exactly how that was going to play out, and I was ready to take on the world.  Within a few short months, all those things crashed down around me as a whole house of cards built on lies and misrepresentations came tumbling to the floor. The work I thought I'd be doing, the partner I thought I had, the business I thought I'd be running, and the entire purpose for moving back - all of it dissolved in a very short time frame leaving me shaken, depressed, anxious, uncertain, and lost.  Some of those losses were, unquestionably, very good things to lose!  Some of them have been more difficult, and the financial struggles of being saddled with a crumbling heap of a farm have been almost insurmountable.

But here I am, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job at bouncing back.  Initially after the collapse, I took a miserable job for a few months before realizing that was making things even worse. I then boldly started my own business, I started to fix up the farm (it's still in progress), and I eventually decided I was ready to consider dating again, I found a wonderful partner (for real, this time!) and remarkably got married at the ripe old age of 46.

We now have a lovely home surrounded by wildlife, woodlands, and garden beds, all of which bring me joy.  My business has taken a hit from the drop in the oil and gas industry, but I am still managing to get by.  The farm heap is being renovated, slowly getting better, and will eventually be able to be put on the market.  Soon I will have my sheep and goats back with me, and that will bring me even more joy.  I no longer wake up with dread in my heart and a weight on my shoulders I can't bear.  I don't have panic attacks any more.  I don't burst into tears at the drop of a hat.  I don't feel like a burden to my friends and family.  And here I am, blogging regularly again.  So, that's my interpretation of bounce...I'm doing it, each and every day.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

An unexpected visit to the Atlantic Wildlife Institute

This morning I was sitting at my desk looking at my work plans for the day when I happened to notice a movement outside.  I realized that there was a bird flopping around under the bird feeder and it wasn't looking at all well.  I ran outside (no, I didn't take my camera for this part) and went to investigate.  I found a young grackle who was unable to fly but was able to hop away from me, but not very well.  It seemed very unsteady.  Of course, being a soft-hearted bird lover (even though grackles are definitely not one of my favourite birds), I had to attend to its needs.

I caught it with a bit of difficulty (it scurried off into the underbrush at my approach) and brought it inside.  I carefully checked it over for visible injuries and checked for broken legs, wings, or other parts.  I couldn't find any kind of visible injury.  The bird had a tremendously strong beak grip on my finger, so I knew it had a good energy level and that it wasn't lethargic or drowsy.

The adult male grackle has a yellow eye, so I think this one might be female, but I'm not sure.

I decided that the best option for my little friend was to take it to the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, which is not far from my home - just about a 20 minute drive.  I happen to crochet nests for wildlife rescue organizations as a result of the Wildlife Rescue Nests organization, and I had a couple that were ready to go, so I took them with me, putting my little friend into one of the nests for the journey.  I tried him in this nest first, but I felt it was a bit too small.

I tried a larger nest and that seemed right. I also put the nested bird inside a box, for its own safety of course.

The folks at the Institute were very helpful and immediately determined that the bird had concussion. It is likely he collided with my window.  They said it was a juvenile, so not surprising in some ways - they are still learning about windows.  It was either blind or severely visually impaired based on its reactions and behaviours, which is probably a result of the head trauma and will likely be temporary. Whether the bird will ultimately survive or not is dependent on the extent of its concussion.  I shall hope for the best.  I feel good that I did what I could to help it.  I'll be crocheting some more nests to take up to the Institute soon!

While I was there, I was able to see a juvenile peregrine falcon, a porcupine, some juvenile crows and Eastern bluebirds.  The porcupine was definitely my favourite little critter - what a cutie-pie!  I didn't have my camera there, but he climbed the wall of his cage and showed me his big claws.  I wouldn't want to touch him, but he really was cute.  You can see a video of a porcupine eating an apple on the Institute's Facebook page.  I'm not sure if it's the same one or not.  They make very cute noises when they eat.

In other bird news, I'm having continued success with enticing the chickadees to take seeds from my hand.  There are several who will now cooperate with this morning ritual of mine!  I finally managed to coordinate myself sufficiently to hold seeds and take a picture at the same time.  Here are a couple of pictures of this morning's brave little souls.  I just love them!  They are really fast, so it can be difficult to get good pictures.

This is the best picture I was able to take.  I'm quite pleased with it.  You can see this bird already selected a seed and it's about to take off!

Bye-bye birdie!  (that greyish blur in the middle of the picture is the chickadee, and is representative of many of my pictures this morning!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Improving my bird photographs

I've been taking a few more pictures with Marc's new camera.  It's a Canon Rebel T6 1300D.  I'm trying to improve my bird photography skills.  I found out that you can get remote control devices for some cameras to allow you to set up a tripod and then move away from the camera area, but this isn't available for the T6 - only the T6i or the T6s.  How frustrating!  Still, I am working with what I have.

The black-capped chickadees are the most acquiescent subjects when it comes to close-up pictures, so I've been focusing on them for the most part.  I've had some good success although I still have difficulty with camera shake, and I also sometimes have trouble with focusing on the wrong thing (like the feeder, rather than the bird on the branch behind it).  I'm mostly still using the automatic settings on the camera as I learn more about it.

I like this image that captured the sort of "squat" that the bird takes to peer in at the seeds.  Notice how this particular bird has a slight buff tint on the sides of its chest/belly area.

This bird, by contrast, doesn't have that buff colour showing at all.  I'm not sure if that's because it's a juvenile or just natural variation.

This shot isn't perfectly clear, but I love the fact that it captures that initial moment of take-off.

 Awwww....look at the widdle toesie-woesies... (ahem, sorry about that, I am reduced to baby talk when confronted with cute bird feet).

 They really are very agreeable little birds.

I'm having a bit more difficulty with the red-breasted nuthatch.  Needs work!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Blueberry Snack Cake

I decided to use some of the blueberries I picked from our woodland area in a recipe.  I had thought I would make blueberry pancakes, but I decided I should try something new.  I found a recipe for a blueberry zucchini snack cake with lemon frosting, which sounded rather delicious to me!  The recipe I used is featured here on "The View from Great Island."   It is a blog I hadn't visited before but the cake post came up in my Facebook feed and I thought it was worth a try.  She has posted a recipe for a completely sinful dulce de leche ice cream that I might try another time, but that's beside the point for today!

I made a few tweaks to the recipe, and here they are:
1.  I used 3/4 cup of vegetable oil, instead of 1 cup.
2.  I used 2 cups of sugar instead of 2 1/4 cups.
3.  I added two 90 gram pouches of "Happy Squeeze" Twist organic fruit and veggie puree, in the apple, mango and kale flavour.  This made up for the reduction in oil and sugar.  I sometimes use the Twist mixed in with my plain yogurt.  I get it from Costco.
4.  Instead of using 2 cups of blueberries, I only had about 1 1/2 cups of blueberries, so I used those and added about a half a cup of frozen cranberries.

I love my stand mixer!  I have had one for years and wouldn't be without it.

The final batter went into the 9 x 13 glass pan.  The original blog post said to use a metal pan, but I haven't got one in 9 x 13 size, and I'm happy with the way things cook in my glass pan, so I went ahead with it.

It came out of the oven about 50 minutes later looking scrumptious.

I made the lemon buttercream frosting (there is nothing better than a good, homemade buttercream frosting - that pre-made stuff in the tubs is nasty....don't go there!).  I had to wait a while for the cake to cool, especially since it's a rather warm day here.

It was worth the wait!  Marc really likes it too!

I would definitely recommend this cake.  The frosting is super too.  It's very moist and flavourful.  I really love the addition of cranberries, but it would be good with just blueberries too.  Another time I might try adding lemon zest to it.  If you have some extra blueberries, give it a try!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The installation of a pole

We have an outbuilding that will be Marc's workshop when it is finished, for his motorcycle projects and other projects that he works on.  It's not as big as he would like, but it will serve the purpose. Unfortunately, it isn't presently insulated, nor is it heated.  He needs to complete the insulation and heat the building so that he can use it year-round for his projects.  We determined that the electrical panel that services the house is already full, so there wasn't sufficient power available for him to heat the building with the electric type of heater that he would like to use.  So, he decided that he would have a new, separate electric panel installed on the outbuilding, and that required the installation of a pole so that the wires could be brought to the building for the separate panel.  Here, almost all electric wires are overhead.  I much preferred the underground ones in Iowa (which gets just as cold as it does here, so we ought to be able to do it here, but we don't.)

In any event, two men arrived to install a pole.  I didn't actually know they were coming that day, so it was a bit of a surprise to me.  I was hanging out the laundry when I saw them come around the corner to announce to me that I had to move the truck out of the way so they could bring their equipment up the driveway to install the pole.  I dutifully made space for them, and decided I might as well follow the proceedings.

First, they unloaded the pole from a trailer.  Those poles are big!

It was deposited on the ground in front of the outbuilding.  Then they had to move the vehicle into position to use the auger to drill the hole.

That wasn't a particularly easy operation because:

  • the space is narrow
  • the pole had to be installed on a slope
  • there is an existing power wire to the outbuilding from the house that operates the light switches and the couple of outlets that are already there, and it was in the way of the boom
So, the whole operation proceeded with a lot of delicate manoeuvring to get things in the right place. First, the boom was moved around (here you can see the light coloured wire between the house and the outbuilding).

The boom had to be positioned under the wire, and then the auger was released.

Positioning the auger over the spot where the hole was to be dug was very tricky.

Mr. Beard had to finagle it into place.

Finally, the drilling proceeded.  Then they discovered there were some large flat rocks supporting the slope that needed to be moved.  Mr. Beard to the rescue.

Normally, they would use a longer attachment above the auger, but because of the confined spot, they had to keep adjusting the position of the auger on the arm as it went.  It went down...

...and down...

...and then back up again, bringing loads of earth with it.

Loads and loads!

Normally, they just wiggle the auger a bit and the dirt comes off, but because of the wire overhead, they couldn't do that, so Mr. Beard had to shovel all the dirt off the auger bit by hand.

They repeated this several times.  Oh, I forgot to mention, the birch tree was also right in the way, presenting yet another obstacle for the workers.

Eventually, the auger bit was down 6 feet into the ground, and they detached it, leaving it in the hole, and then putting on a different bit for putting in a guide line post.  That was a very deep hole.

Here goes the guide post.

At that point, I had to go in and get some work done, so I missed the actual removal of the auger from the hole and the placing of the pole in the hole.  I came back out to find that the post was in place and being tamped down.  On the picture below, you can see the metal rope around the middle of the pole, which was used to lower it (over the wire) into the hole.  In this picture, the metal rope is being lowered by the boom.

Mr. Beard stepped up again and released the loop so the metal rope could be wound back on to the winch on the boom.

They wound it up onto the winch you can see in the picture below, and that was it!  Pole installed.  Now we have to wait for NB Power to come and install the line to the new pole.

Meanwhile, Marc is beginning work on the inside of the building to get it ready for insulation. Eventually, it will be a great workshop!