Saturday 17 February 2024

It's been a rough few days, but otherwise fine.

 

It snowed on the 10th? and dropped a good foot of snow overnight. We tried to back the truck up to see if we could just drive out of it and the answer was a definite no. 

Normally we would just wait 2-3 days for the snow to melt but this time it's staying under zero for at least a week and we had to get more chicken feed and we wanted to go out for Hugslut's birthday on Saturday so it needed to be plowed. 

On Thursday I checked with the neighbours and one gave me the number of a plow guy and he said he'd send over one of his guys. The guy showed up, plowed, got paid, and left.

Near the house was fine... But two hours later when we went out to pickup chicken feed we found the driveway was not only missing all it's snow.... it was also missing most of it's gravel! 

Our driveway is going to be SO muddy this spring until we can get it regraveled.

How our driveway used to beThe bare sandy earth it is now

I texted the main guy and (politely) told him his boy is shit when it comes to gravel driveways. He seemed concerned and asked for some photos, then . Probably nothing going to come of this because we're not likely to sue for damages but Hugslut said he's lucky we aren't more american. The next day, the wind blew the snow around enough to hide the mud, but not for long.

Friday I noticed out heat pump was flashing strangely. I realized I had no clue when that started and got out the owner's manual. 


Turns out this particular frantic flashing means "turn it off at the breaker and call a certified technician", so I did just that. I went downstairs, turned off the breaker, came back up..... and the heat pump was still on!

I turned it off with the remote and called our solar guys while freaking out. The reason I called them instead of a general electrician was because they were the last ones to touch the breakers. They had an electrician at our house on the 8th to connect the solar panels to the breaker box and install a little "sub-panel" of breakers because our main box was completely full.


After an hour on hold, a few emails back and forth including sending photos and the video as proof of "why I think the heat pump is still getting electricity" totalling to HOURS of stressing out that our house was gonna burn down or something.... Until I got a call at 6pm and it turns out the guy shuffled the breakers harder than I expected and turning off the correct breaker for the heat pump does actually turn it off.

The upstairs heat pump used to be in the lower right of the main panel. The electrician used that location as the breaker for the sub panel and didn't explain what got shuffled so I just assumed the label that says "heat" in the sub panel was that displaced heat pump.

Nope. He moved the heat pump up a couple spots and moved a baseboard heater to the sub panel because he heat pump didn't have enough wire to stretch that far or something. If you zoom in, he DID change the label on 22/24 by adding the word "pump" and he accurately labelled the breaker in the sub-panel as just "heat" like it was previously labelled.... but OMG was that a lot of panic over him just not telling me while he was telling me everything else.

So yeah, I'll call a HVAC compaany Tuesday to come look at the heat pump, but we do have the baseboard and space heaters so we're not going to freeze. It'll just cost more to heat the place for now. 

Oh! and on the 8th I also had a general contractor by to give us some quotes on insulation/renovation projects for the basement. Not sure exactly when the parts will be in for that, but we'll have a much less leaky basement soon. The garage door is just pitiful at keeping in the heat.

The solar project is on track and the next step is for the local power company to come out and install a net-meter and confirm everything else is installed correctly before finally flipping the switch. 

The chickens have been completely uninterested in leaving the shed since the snow came. It seems they're trying to wait it out as well. I am getting an average of 4 eggs a day from the 5 hens and it's only February. :-) There's been so many eggs that we are actually having problems keeping up, but that's perfect. I always wanted to have too much so I can share.

It's still hovering around zero but the snow is starting to melt in some places thanks to the sun... which is hiding today. 



 


Sunday 28 January 2024

Bumpy Start to the Year

A few weeks ago the new light bulbs arrived and I got to work converting our basement lights from fluorescent lights to LEDs. This meant removing the ballasts and rewiring the fixtures to allow the new bulbs. (The ballast is that black box in the middle.)


Fluorescent ballast during removal
 

It took a whole day but now the basement is so very much brighter, the lights come on the first time you flick the switch, and we're using so much less electricity to do it. Unfortunately the very same day, My brain was busy with the lights and I misplaced a jar lid in the dishwasher. It was on the top rack, but near the edge and it got knocked off to melt when the drying cycle came on.


The cap that fell into the dishwater heater
 

That was pretty stinky but it paled in comparison to the next bit of rotten luck. The brakes were acting up on the truck and it wouldn't hold brake fluid so we had to get a neighbour to pick up Meg at the repair shop, and then drive us back there a few days later. It was just a rusted pipe/hose thing so the bill wasn't too bad, but I'm pretty sure that somewhere in that back and forth is when we caught COVID.


 

That swab up the nose test has got to be one of the most uncomfortable things, that didn't cause pain, that I have ever done. SO ticklish/scratchy/weird.

Of course we notified everyone and also filled out the government notification thing. I also made us a big pot of turkey/egg-drop/spinach/bone-broth/etc soup so we had something to reheat & eat for a few days.


Thankfully COVID didn't hit us too hard. Hugslut was notified by the gov that she could pickup some antivirals at the pharmacy (which she got) and I was notified that if needed I could pick up an inhaler to ease breathing (but I didn't need it). The medical system here is surprisingly good considering how much the folks who grew up here complain.

At one point I realized that I was super sick and not doing much of anything except making sure we both took our meds and got enough fluids/food... and I realized that I was still making it out to the chickens every day and didn't have to call anyone to chicken-sit for me. I did need to have a sit down after and only made it out once a day during the worst (the chickens could technically be fine for a few days at a time), but that fact alone kinda made me laugh at the concern I had a few years ago.

At one point I had worried that being the main caretaker of several animals would mean that I couldn't really "have the luxury" of getting sick. Turns out that although I WANT to check on the chickens two or three times a day, there's no reason to think I have to be more than human.


The chickens are finally one flock

Everyone's laying except Isabella

Now that we're feeling better and only have a bit of lingering cough and fatigue, I've started getting back to the housework (which is understandably behind) and some baking.

My appetite has returned with a vengeance so in addition to normal food, we've been enjoying banana bread and lemon pound cake.


Hopefully soon I can get back on track and if the weather co-operates I may even get back to putting soil in the greenhouse and removing some trees. Until next time, stay safe. :-)


 

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Happy New Year!

After a week off where I actually lazed about for a few days, I am ready to get back at it.

We kind of had a white x-mas in that it was foggy, but only in the last day or so has it reached freezing temps, even over night. I baked some banana bread but it is gone already. It really can't last in this house. Far too delicious.

Isabella has her fluffy feathers back but is still working on regrowing all those guard feathers so she spends a lot of time in the shed to be out of the wind. The hens have been arguing over nest box space, I think partially because Isabella keeps sleeping in there; so, I've set up a second nest box in a dark corner and hopefully that will let them all do their business in peace. Lilly is laying now but was hiding her eggs under the table so I cleared that out and put the new nest box nearby with some fake eggs in. Hopefully she'll get the hint.


With the help of a multi-sensor thermometer and hygrometer system I can now keep an eye on the greenhouse(2) and shed(3). The display doubles as a sensor for indoors(IN), and for now I have the extra sensor in the basement(1). Once we get the basement sealed up properly I'll have it outside for an accurate outdoors temp. (The weather app seems off sometimes.)

Other than the nesting thing, the chickens seem to be getting along and they certainly enjoy scratching around the yard between the shed and the bushes. Hopefully by next winter I'll have some rabbits in the shed to worry about as well. :-)





Sunday 24 December 2023

Happy Holidays!

December has been a tiring month for me. Mostly just chasing down the greenhouse and solar people for updates as well as trying to make sure all the chickens are healthy through being stuck in one spot for the winter.

Jennifer's legs are back to a nice healthy shape and colour.

So very soon after Jennifer got back to full health, I walked into the shed one morning and it looked like a pillow exploded. Just black feathers, everywhere. Isabella had decided that moulting slowly over the course of a month or two just wasn't for her and she was gonna shed a third of her feathers overnight.

Gotta say that the assless chaps is not a good look on her.

Because it's been hitting freezing temps, and not just overnight, and she still had so much more to moult, I brought her inside for a week and a half. She was still loosing an entire dustpan full of feathers pretty much every day for a while and was a very naked chicken.

Eventually her new feathers started to come in and she looked like a hairbrush. She did scare us for a bit by walking funny until I looked it up and watched her again with new eyes. Turns out she was so shockingly naked that she was weirded-out by her own wings or a breeze touching her and she'd walk sideways to try to avoid it. Isabella was a lovely houseguest but was missing her flock. (humans are so boring in comparison)

When her pin-feathers started turning from pins to feathers I put her back out with the rest of the flock because the weather had turned a little warmer and although I knew she wasn't going to be completely comfortable, it had really been too long away socially. 

When I took her back out to the shed it took a couple minutes for them to recognize her, a couple hours to agree she was still top hen, and a couple days before everything completely settled back down through the chain. Poor thing still isn't fully feathered out a week later and is hiding in the shed during the day to avoid the wind. Hopefully just a few more days will clear those feather sheaths and she'll be nice and cozy

About a week ago we found a cool shop nearby called Always Proud that sells everything from vibrators to nick-nacks and uses the proceeds to further LGBT causes in the local government. We also popped into a local community association / mutual aid group to drop off some extra soap and laundry detergent, and pick up some yogourt and gluten-free stuff from the second harvest delivery. It's a really great way for folks to support each other and keep food out of the landfill.

I was going to have a cool before-and-after photo set of installing lazy susans into my corner kitchen cupboards to make use of all the space.... but it seems that's not going to work with these cupboards. Any size big enough to make use of the space can't spin properly due to the weird shape... so now I've gotta send them back. :-(

I've also been busy this week with some canning. Seven litres of Habitant style pea soup and another seven litres of chili with meat.

The neighbours that were going to come by for RPGs are too busy due to the holidays so all that is put on hold until January. On the upside, they liked my carrot cake so much we traded a cake for a pie. :-)

Hugslut and I are going to have our usual christmas brunch with cold sausage rolls for her and some sort of gluten free cake for me served with boozy-coffee and mimosas in front of a youtube video promising "Christmas music and fireplace - 10 hours". I'm looking forward to it, but today was just jam packed with finishing off all the little things on my to-do list so I don't have to think for a few days. :-)

In other news, the weather and the crew lined up after two months of waiting, and as of Dec 22nd, we have a brand spanking new greenhouse and it it gorgeous. Now I've just gotta get a bunch of dirt to fill it with. Hopefully I'll have that all taken care of before the end of January in order to have seeds in the soil for February.

Happy holidays to you all and I am wishing you a wonderful 2024.

Thursday 30 November 2023

TTRPG startup and Chicken tending

 

chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter and banana
 

November has been an odd month. It kind of seems like nothing has happened, but every day has it's own ups and downs and they all add up. Let's see, What can I tell you...

I have done a little bit of baking and canning but not much. Just some meat to have on hand instead of frozen and some broth for the canning, and a batch of cookies for game night.

close up photo of polyhedral dice
 Our neighbours that come over for a monthly board/card game night are now coming over weekly to play a table top role play game called Cypher. Since it wouldn't be a proper RPG group without scheduling conflicts, I wasn't really surprised that we had to keep rescheduling for one reason or another but after a couple weeks we all got together last Saturday for session-zero. Hugslut is going to be running the game for us and we spent all Saturday afternoon teaching the neighbours (who have never played any rpg before) how to play, and we got to make our characters. 

There is a human sized fairy who can hover/glide with her wings and does magic with dreams/illusions, a necromantic elf who fights with a bow or a rapier, a human sword&board fighter who focuses on protecting the lil guy, and a human water wizard who's good at healing as well as blasting people with water. This weekend we'll be starting our adventure together.

 


The garden is done for the season and I need to take down the temporary electric fence so it doesn't get blown down/iced to death. The garlic was planted in neat little rows and I hope to inter-plant with some greenery or quick crops like radishes in the spring.

If you can't see what's wrong, I'll feel better that I missed it until it got this bad.
 

Jennifer caught my eye a few weeks ago by staying indoors even when the rest of the chickens went out to scratch. I thought it was just because her moult was going so rough for her and she didn't have enough feathers to stay warm(her backside was nearly naked) but taking a closer look at her that night I found out she had a bad case of scaly leg mites.  (Sorry for the bad photos but she was not interested in standing still while I got close with the phone lol.)

After the first treatment or two her legs looked like this: 

The white scabbing is starting to turn black with healthy pink skin under.
She got to stay inside for a week eating as many high protein treats as she wanted alongside her regular pellets to help her grow new feathers and scales. Every day I gave her a foot bath to make sure she didn't get an infection, and to loosen the scabs. Then I re-coated her legs with vaseline to smother the mites, and since she was very well behaved and I didn't want her to be stuck in the hospital cage all day, she got to wander the living room most afternoons. By the time she went back out to the coop she was looking much more feathered and her feet looked like this:
Lots of new pink skin under just a few scabby bits. It only took a few more days for her to loose the last of the bit black bits, and just two days ago she laid her first egg since she started her moult in Oct! The girls reduce their egg production when growing new feathers but the rest were putting out at least one a week. I just figured it was because her moult wasn't going well. Turns out the moult stressed her enough for the mites to get traction and then the infestation caused even more stress on her system (etc). I'm glad she's recovering so well. Makes me feel like I have a handle on this whole chicken thing.

The rest of the flock are doing well. Kelly still hates Marsha but there haven't been any more injuries. Isabella and Romeo seem to be running interference and trying to keep them away from each other.

We've had our home energy assessment and the solar folks have come to put the braces/rails/frames? up on the roof already but the next steps are a month or two away. The greenhouse will be installed any day now. With the weather and fires and such they're running a bit behind this year.

What else.....

Now that money is coming in again we've ordered some wall mounted nightstands so we can replace the cardboard boxes we've been making do with, and we've been discussing the possibility of meat rabbits in the spring pretty much every time I look at the price of chicken in the grocery store. (It's almost always more than beef!).

The weather's okay for November. We'll get a day or two of -1C where it snows and then it'll melt a day or two later, some heavy rains that only last a day, the usual.

That's probably it. Hope you're all doing well and hopefully next blogpost I'll have some photos that aren't chicken feet to share. :-)

Chickens scratching around near their favourite bushes.


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.