Sunday 5 November 2023

Lots of updates

Hugslut got a new job!
It's a work from home programming job and she starts tomorrow. :-)
Also, A LOT has happened. This is not all in order, they're grouped by category.

We have a family doctor now! Her office is about an hour away which was expected. We went for our intake assessments and got sent for bloodwork. The blood taking office only 10 min away didn't have any appointments available for a few weeks so we decided to go into Yarmouth for it because I wanted to hit Canadian Tire for canning jars anyway. We got to see the trees starting to change colour and stopped off at Anchors Away for lunch on the way back. The wildfire damage is of course still visible, but the speed of re-greening makes me smile.

What I found REALLY interesting is that as soon as I booked our bloodwork in Yarmouth, I called our Doctor's office to book the follow up appointment and they booked us two days later. That's right, no waiting two weeks and calling to be told "no news is good news". Instead, they automatically get the blood work results in the system and will talk to you about the results! (results = we could stand to loose weight but neither of us are dying yet)

This month we also had our home energy assessment which means we're all set for getting the solar panels and other updates/improvements we want to get done.

Realizing that we were having a hard enough time getting people to come to games night(there's some folks who come regularly and we're very happy to see them but I was hoping for a larger group by now) Hugslut and I decided to run RPGs for each other. It's uncommon to have one player and one DM but Hugslut had a hanging thread of a character from the last D&D campaign I was running in Ontario, so I agreed to create a campaign for her in Cypher System and she was going to run a Traveller System scifi game for me. After I ran a calibration/prelude session in Cypher and we made up some characters for me to choose from in Traveller.... We had game night and our usuals expressed interest in playing a TTRPG with us! Hugslut's going to run a D&D fantasy style game in Cypher system starting Nov.11th and I am so hyped for it. :-)

I've been running a freshness/longevity experiment almost since we got the chickens. Every once in a while I'd tuck 4 nice fresh clean eggs in a dated carton and put them in the downstairs fridge. These are from May 15th so they were in the fridge for 5 MONTHS and are still perfectly good!

I did a BUNCH of canning including discounted Thanksgiving turkey(chicken prices have been ridiculous lately) red relish, 3 kinds of pickled beets, some beet chunks, some carrot slices, and about 3 dozen jars of carrot bits. I also shredded a bunch of carrots for future carrot cakes and cleaned up a whole bunch of carrots that are now in the refrigerator for fresh use.

We got our first snowfall Nov 1st. Waking up after Halloween to a winter wonderland was not something I expected at all. The forecast said rain all day but instead it snowed all day even though it was about 4C. I had to shovel a space to open the shed door. The new girls had never seen snow before and the main flock know the local weather patterns because they were raised on the same island, so the chickens all decided that they were going to stay inside and wait it out.

All the snow was GONE within 36 hours of it falling which is what I was expecting, but I was really surprised how early in the year the first snow arrived.

InjuryAll healed up.

The chickens have been fighting again. Kelly just has a hate of Marsha that she will NOT drop. One day I went out to check on them and found Marsha looking like she dunked her head in koolade.(thankfully it looked worse than it was). She didn't seem to be bleeding anymore so I let her be for the day and that night I tried to clean her up a bit. I didn't want to reopen the injury so I didn't wind up doing much and she looked kinda bad for a few days. I kept an eye on them and it seems that I have to keep everything topped up to prevent squabbles. Even if there's at least a day's worth left, if the chickens decide the food or water or whatever is "running low" they get very cranky with each other. She's all healed up now and just has a lil black scar on her comb.

On the topic of Marsha's comb, I'm even more convinced now that Lily is simply much younger because I've discovered Marsha's hidden nest. She's laid SEVENTEEN eggs that I didn't know about! They were hidden between a strawbale and the wall and I only looked there because I spotted her coming out of the small space.

They're blue shelled like I expected and they are so tiny they're adorable! As I mentioned before, most of our eggs are officially "extra large" size so after weighing these I looked it up and they all fall in the "small" size which means it takes two of them to make one of our normal ones. :-)


That's all for now I think. Thanks for reading and I hope you're all doing well.

Saturday 14 October 2023

So, It's Been A While...

What to say about the past 3 weeks..... I have been busy. I made some apple sauce, and then apple pies for games night, I've made about 3L of dried apple slices(with more to come), and I'm in the process of making apple scrap vinegar.

After fighting tooth and nail with the apple sauce trying to puzzle out why some jar seals failed to seal, I'm happy to announce that I'm pretty sure I was just being to delicate with them and the following 6 jars of stew pork, 6 jars of beets, 5 jars of "red relish" and 19 jars of various pickled beets ALL sealed with no issues!

Unfortunately I did NOT get to the carrots before they went off. Somehow, they were the cleanest and nicest of the three (apples, beets, carrots but by the time I finished with the apples, they were just straight up nasty even though the beets right nest to them were fine. Now the compost pile contains $30 of rotten carrots. :-/ (Don't worry, no pics of this one.) I did learn my lesson though. DO NOT get $60 worth of seconds at a time. It least until I nail down my process.

I will be getting more carrots but I'll have the jars and everything ready to go and I won't have apples begging for attention first. In happier news, my crocus and garlic pre-orders have arrived and I'm looking forward to seeing them again next year. :-)

Photo by Joe Green on Unsplash

The chickens have started to get along better now that I've been making them stay in the shed whenever the weather is bad. Exposure to each other without the possibility of being 50-100 feet away from each other has helped them talk through their issues. There have been TWO tropical storm things gone by now and a few days where the heavy rain and winds just made it easier on my nerves to keep the chickens indoors.

Isabella(black) is the new lead hen after Henrietta's death, and she happily ignores the new girls as they calmly get out of her way. Jennifer(Barred) seems to be in the middle of the main pack, with Kelly(white) still pulling up the rear,... which is of course why she's constantly chasing and nipping at the new girls. Can't let these whipper snappers overtake her.

Lily and Marsha are maturing and starting to get closer to their full size and proper colouration. The grey feathers are coming in more and darker as their moult progresses but they are still mostly white. I am a bit confused about why Marsha's comb and wattles have got dramatically redder and larger than Lilly's. Seems Marsha may be a Marshal which would be bad for her... but it's also possible she's just a few weeks older than Lilly. We'll have to wait and see. Neither of the new girls are laying yet but all of the chickens seem to have a nice gentle autumn moult happening. No naked chickens here.

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Storm and Storage

First view
Expected path(s)

Hurricane Lee started pointing at us the week of Sept 11th. By the 14th we were certain that it was gonna come close enough that the chickens needed to be locked up and the random stuff in the yard needed to be tidied. I also made up a big dish of cottage pie/shepherds pie made with ground pork that we took to calling "piggy pie".

Chickens and their coop safe in the shed

A big casserole dish of "Piggy Pie"

The storm went by on the 16th and went right up the Bay of Fundy. This meant our island, and especially our side of our island, didn't get the full force of the storm... but we did get a bunch of it.

Sept.16 at noon
61km/h with 114 km/h gusts
Sept.16 at 4pm
60km/h with 107km/h gusts
The next morning

After the storm we took stock and really the only damage was the final 3 panels of the old greenhouse flying into the bushes(we've been meaning to take it down and re-purpose the struts but haven't yet because the re-purposing plan isn't clear yet), and a handful of roof shingles that came off. We're gonna have a roofer go up and patch things before winter but it probably won't even hit our $1k deductible so it could be a lot worse.

After the storm we went to the shore to see what got washed up on the beach. It turns out, THE BEACH got washed up! The whole left of that photo is someones dirt driveway(or at least it was) and the boulder wall was shifted and the pebble beach washed up over the boulder wall to cover a good portion of the road! Yeah, glad we didn't go near the water during the storm. That would have been insane!

The chickens are moulting(as is normal in the fall) and thankfully it's been a mild/easy moult where they only loose a few feathers at a time as the new ones grow in. I do get to see the lost feathers around the yard and in the coop but the biggest sign on the chickens themselves is poor Romeo's tail. He's lost all of his big fancy feathers and just has a normal hen looking tail.

A pic from AprilA pic from September

This past week I've been trying to get a bunch of canning done. We got a bunch of carrots, apples, and some beets. I've processed all the apples and a few other things like baked beans and veggie broth and bone broth. I'll be getting to the beets and carrots soon but they were less urgent. (Hard to make Hugslut an English breakfast with no baked beans) ;-) I'm also making some apple scrap vinegar with the apple peels and cores, That should be ready in a couple months.

All sorted and rinsed off before being stored in the basement. The yellow bucket of apples were surprisingly "grocery store quality" and only the grey tub needed to be processed right away.
Corncob broth and baked beans cooling on the counter.
My apple peeling and coring setup. That bucket took all day
but I had plenty of videos watch while I worked..

We are safe and sound and still waiting for the interviewers to notice how awesome Hugslut is. So now that you're pretty much caught up, I'll leave you with this DuoLingo quote that hurt my feelings. :-)

Monday 11 September 2023

Welcome Lily and Marsha.

They've been very slowly getting to know the main flock. After an entire 2 days in their crate moving closer to the main flock in the fenced in coop area, they spent about a week with the new girls fenced in and the main flock allowed to roam so they could see and talk to each other but the main flock couldn't do anything worse then yell at them. After everyone seemed to be calm about eachother's existence, they got to share the same fenced area and a pile of treats.

It's been a couple days now and although they sleep in the same coop now and don't fight, they don't hangout together either. The new girls tend to hang out at the coop while the main flock go on their noon nap under the deck, afternoon walk along the bushes, and evening scratch in the long grass. Hopefully they will eventually become all the same flock, but I'm okay with them being polite roommates for now.

Lily and Marsha were sold to me as "ready to lay" which means they're the right age to start laying any day now, but as with most biology, there is a margin of leeway. They're Amerucana Blues which means that even in a few months when they are their full size, they'll still be slimmer than the rest of the flock. They're going to lay blue shelled eggs and the first one will likely be so tiny that they're useless... but I'll try to remember to get a photo for you. :-)

I know it's been a while but with everything involved in integrating the new girls including changing crate liners two to three times a day, as well as a few escapes when the scrawny new girls decided to brave squeezing through the electric fence instead of waiting the 5 more minutes for me to come get them and bring the crate in for the night.... well I've just been tired.

I've also been getting back to learning french and programming as well as journalling regularly. I used to think that journalling was just for getting out big feelings, but I've gotta say, having a place  to plop all my random thoughts and plans and things I wanna do and books I wanna read and thoughts on a video I watched and all that stuff. I have been leaning into trusting my systems because honestly, there is NO way I am going to remember everything I want to remember, but I don't have to as long as I record it somewhere I can find it.  

Yesterday morning I opened the freezer to a sad sight. Four litres of duck broth that I had carefully made, skimmed, and filled to what I THOUGHT was a reasonable level to allow for expansion.... decided that they were going to smash open their jars despite the generous headroom available. All that effort, wasted. Ugh. This is part of the reason why I do canning. I just didn't have the spoons this week.

There's warnings coming now that Hurricane Lee will likely hit here on Friday or Saturday. but don't worry for us. We have food and water and a battery powered radio and a safe place to tuck the chickens indoors while the worst goes by. Stay safe and know we will too. :-)

Monday 21 August 2023

Not-So-Happy House-iversary

Lately Hugslut and I have been doing a thing we call "Tea at Ten" where we actually put down our screens and just have a tea and chat before bed. It's really helped our sleep but I tell you, new patterns/routines are HARD so we're going to have to actively work on this for a while before it becomes the new normal. I've also been taking time in to carve out a lil me-morning routine. It's been great, because otherwise little things like journaling or practicing french get swept under the rug of the day-to-day bustle.

Yesterday Hugslut and I went out to a local restaurant called The Salt Banker to celebrate our "house-iversary" which was technically on the 16th. We had a lovely meal and then sat on the dock for a bit to watch the birds and waves as we talked. I was a really nice way to celebrate our first year here.

When we came home, Henrietta(our brown hen) was looking sorry for herself. She was moving around, but she was walking slowly and wasn't joining in the lawn scratching with the rest. I gave her a look-over and she didn't have any obvious injuries/swelling or anything in her crop and her vent didn't look too bad with just a bit of poop on the feathers, but she was lethargic and seemed a bit warm so I made sure there was plenty of food and clean water nearby and tried to get her to drink a bit before setting her down to rest in the shade. I figured if she hadn't perked up be bedtime I'd bring her inside for more direct care.

I went inside for just two hours, and since we were going grocery shopping, I decided to check on Henrietta again, only to find her stone cold dead. I took her away from the others to bury her right away... And after a brief cry and thorough hand washing, we went to the grocery store. The rest of the flock still seem bright and healthy today so it's unlikely it was a catching disease, and more likely a long term issue from her previous illness that she hid from us, or flat out old age. We really have no way of knowing how old she was. The hens all laid eggs today as well so the rest of them aren't stressed/upset by her death. I wish I had known something was wrong sooner, but that's birds for you.

Today the gravel guy came to do the pad for the new greenhouse and patch up the driveway, so that's ready for later. I want to get excited for the greenhouse but I don't think I'm done being sad about Henrietta and it's kinda weighing down everything else.

Sorry this update is such a bummer, but that's farm life for you.

Friday 4 August 2023

Slow & Steady

There hasn't been much going on lately. Just keeping on keeping on. I've been working on the garden but I have to face reality, that sunflower/squash bed just isn't going to get planted because it's already too late, and the wild birds(mostly doves and maybe robins) keep eating the lettuce. I'll be surprised and grateful for whatever comes of this year's harvest but I doubt it will be much. Hopefully I'll be better prepared for next year. 

I have learned quite a bit about our property and the climate/ecosystem we live in this year. 

  1. There are deer around but they are well fed and easy to deter.(unlike ontario deer).
  2. There are rabbits but they are well fed which means they're less likely to fall for a trap, but also less likely to raid the garden. 
  3. There are few if any hawks/eagles in this area and most (if not all) soaring birds are vultures or ravens.
  4. There are no ground predators on the island. No coyotes, racoons, skunks, foxes, weasels, etc to hunt the chickens. Their biggest threat is traffic, and we're not getting much of that down here.
  5. This dry spring was unusual, but the temperatures were not unusual, so I can be fairly safe planting much earlier than I did . 
  6. The sandy soil of our lot doesn't hold water at all which is great during heavy rains, but does mean watering is required if doesn't rain for a week or more. I'm hoping to help retention without compromising drainage by using compost over the next few years.
  7. Our yard is a great diversity of plants, but if the grass isn't cut when it starts to get tall at the end of May, it quickly grows waist high and thick enough to shade out the rest so it becomes the only thing growing in that area.
  8. Areas where the grass is kept at a reasonable height, are flourishing with clover and thyme and many other plants.
It's hard to find the energy to do much with the stress of the job hunt messing with our sleep, but I've been working on some indoor stuff like my coding project(for chicken records), trying out some personal knowledge database tools like Notion and LogSeq(for storing and finding info), and a little bit of baking.

banana bread with chocolate chips

Thursday 20 July 2023

Chickens, programming, and pork

Realizing time was getting away from me, I spend an afternoon in the garden and finished planting the corn block.(the rows on the right) The sunflower block is next.(The big area at the back) 

I've gotten back to working on my programming project. It's a record keeper for my chickens and garden that might later expand to a general external-brain type dealio. Not much to show yet as I'm working mostly on the background connections but it's slowly coming together. 

In the middle of May I put 4 of my best eggs in the basement fridge (more consistent temp) to test longevity. It's been two months so it seemed a good time to test one. I cracked it open and found it to be just as fresh and lovely as if it were yesterday. The yolk was high and the whites still had the thicker portion that usually gets watery quite a while before eggs get close to going off. This told me my original timeline of 4 eggs from May to be opened July thru October will not be enough and I picked another four to go towards science. I mean this one also went towards breakfast but, you get it. 

The girls are currently in summer production mode which means I'm pretty consistently getting 3 eggs a day.(Henrietta hasn't been laying since she got sick so that one egg may have been a fluke.) I noticed this week that Isabella's legs had started to get swollen and flakey and the others were starting to look a bit flakey too so I started treating them all for scaley leg mites. It basically involves slathering their legs in vaseline every so often for a few weeks. They don't like it and I basically have to ambush them at bed time so they're too groggy to complain too much, but their legs are starting to look better already. The extra grease it great for their feathers too but does mean that the dirt clings to them more causing the chickens to look either gorgeously silky smooth... or completely filthy, depending on where in the cycle of treatment they are. 

From the left: Jennifer in her new blue dress, Isabella, Henrietta, Romeo, and Kelly

While treating their legs I noticed how bad Jennifer's rump was getting. She seems to not be able to say no to Romeo and it's putting a strain on her feathers. I got a chicken saddle/apron for her and just put it on yesterday. Hopefully that will give him something to hold to and she won't get injured. Thankfully none of the other chickens seemed to take too much offence to it. I wouldn't want her to get picked on over protective gear.

A vertical freezer FULL of porkMy rough count of quantity and weights.

Last night we picked up our 1/2 hog from Yellow Brick Road Farm. It was a little earlier than expected but our pasture/woodlot raised pig was at size so there was really no point in waiting another two months. I'm so very grateful to be living in a community with these opportunities. We are now very "meat rich" as Jennifer says with OVER 90 LBS of roasts and chops and ground meat and sliced pork belly and more. We decided against any additional processing this time, but next time we may pay the extra for bacon, sausages, or cured hams... or maybe by then I'll be set up enough to give the curing and smoking it a go myself. :-)

That's all for now.... I think. :-)  Until next time I'll just leave you with this: