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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: G

This weekend's prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with G, Green, and Favourite.

Starts with G
Goldfinch starts with G.  This is a picture of an American Goldfinch at the feeder last week.  It is, obviously, wearing its winter plumage, not its bright yellow summer outfit!

I don't see them every day, but I do see them with some regularity.  In 2017, the finch populations of Atlantic  Canada were decimated by a very contagious infection called trichomoniasis, caused by a parasite.  People were advised to take down their feeders all summer because the parasite is spread easily between birds.  With the onset of winter, feeding could occur again because the parasite doesn't live very long in the cold, so it seems to have abated now.  I hope that the finch populations will rebound this coming spring and summer.

Favourite
Early this week we had a first egg from my cream legbar hen, Lady Charlotta.  She lays pale blue-green eggs.  The very first one was very thin-shelled and it broke when it was gently cleaning a bit of dirt from it.  She laid her second egg today and it seems to be a more solid shell.  I am sure you can see which egg is hers.  The blue-green coloured eggs are my favourites!  They taste the same but they are just so pretty.  I love all the different colours of eggs we get from our flock.  Today was also our first 6-egg day since having chickens here at our current home.  How eggciting!

Here's a "bonus" favourite shot.  Yesterday was a lovely day - much warmer than normal for February at 6 Celsius, or about 43 Fahrenheit.  I could not help but go for a quick walk in the middle of my day so I went to the local waterfowl park.  I didn't see many birds - just a few chickadees and a crow, but I did see beautiful blue sky and the lovely trunks of the birch trees.  This particular point on the boardwalk is one of my favourite spots with all the trees making a kind of living tunnel to walk through. It will be a while before anything begins to turn green, but it was still nice to be out on such a sunny day that was, comparatively speaking, warm(ish).

Green
Things remain mostly white (or brown) around here, but of course, the evergreens are still green, although a less vibrant green than they are in summer.  Here's a cone on one of the trees in our yard, with lots of green needles.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: F

This weekend's prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with F, Flower, and Favourite.

Starts with F
Fish starts with F.  We recently joined a weekly delivery program for a sustainable seafood company called Afishionado (yes, the spelling is correct!)  Each week, we receive a pound of a sustainably-fished species of fish from Canada, most often locally fished.  We get information on the name of the fishing boat, the method of catch (mostly line caught for sustainability), and the captain of the vessel.  I like supporting local businesses and environmentally sound fishing practices, so it's a win-win for us!  This week's fish is albacore tuna, and right now it is marinating in an orange ginger soy marinade.  

It will make a lovely supper.  Other fish we've had recently from this program include smoked mackerel, cod, and steelhead trout.  

Flower
Tom sure was posing a challenge for northerners with this prompt!  There aren't any flowers to bee seen in my snowy landscape.  The best I could come up with is this little flower on my indoor rosemary plant that sits on my windowsill.  Not very big but still, it is a flower.

Until at least May, that's all the flowers I'll be seeing around here except for this lovely print on my kitchen wall, a gift some years ago from my parents.

Favourite
I recently finished knitting this cute little mouse - definitely one of my favourite knitted items so far!  It was good practice for me on the colourwork part of his sweater.  Here he is inspecting some of this week's eggs.  A number of people commented last week that they hadn't seen an egg skelter before.  I think that is probably because in North America, for the most part, people keep their eggs in the fridge, whereas in other parts of the world, they are kept at room temperature.  North American eggs are washed, which removes the protective surface coating, therefore requiring them to be refrigated.  In some countries, it is illegal to commercially sell washed eggs because the coating protects from bacteria and they are considered safer when unwashed.  In any event, it's a useful item if you keep your eggs on the counter, as I do!  Here's some more information on the history of egg washing and chilling:  https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/09/11/336330502/why-the-u-s-chills-its-eggs-and-most-of-the-world-doesnt

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: E

This weekend's prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with E, Evening, and Favourite.

Starts with E
Eggs start with E.  We had a scarcity of eggs over December and January, despite having nearly 20 hens of laying age.  I choose not to provide supplemental lighting in the coop, believing that my hens' bodies deserve a rest that nature orchestrated for them.  The past week or so has seen a small uptick in egg production though, as the winter day length slowly starts to increase.  This week, we actually had a 4-egg day, which is quite egg-citing!  

I am charmed by the daily experience of going to the coop to collect eggs.  The range of egg colours provided by the hens is quite lovely.  At the moment, we have a very dark brown egg coming from one of the maran breed hens (not sure which one).  You can see one of them on my counter-top "egg skelter" below, which keeps my eggs in order of collection so we always use the oldest ones first.
The small pale cream coloured eggs are from a silkie hen, and then there are eggs in various shades of brown ranging from pale tan to an almost pinkish-brown.  The silkie eggs are about 1.4 oz, whereas the larger pinkish-brown eggs are 2.7 oz.  

Favourite
Well, sticking with the egg theme, I'm always particularly fond of the speckled eggs.  I do have a couple of hens that may be blue-egg layers, and those are a competitor for favourite egg.

Evening
I don't often take pictures in the evening....I suppose because most of my pictures are of birds and other things in nature, which aren't easily photographed in low light.  In addition, at this time of year, it's far too cold (in my opinion) to spend time outdoors photographing in the evening.  At the moment, for example, it's -24 Celsius with the wind chill...that's -12 Fahrenheit.  I just don't enjoy being out in those temperatures.  I thought about using a photograph from an evening at another time of year, but looking at them just made me grumpy because it's such a contrast to now, and spring is so far away...at least another 2.5 to 3 months.  At least the day is getting a little longer, as the chickens can attest, and so here is a picture from my living room window, at 5:18 pm, today.  I'd call that early evening.  It's just bleak and cold and everything is white or grey.  I don't even get pretty sky views because the house is surrounded by trees.  I look forward to the weather change when I can once again sit out in the screened porch in the evening.  Until then, I'm stuck with this.  Winter evenings are for knitting on the couch instead of taking photographs!


Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: D

This weekend's prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with D, Details, and Favourite.

Starts with D
I recently acquired a new desk.  Until that point, I had been using the same Ikea desk that I received from my parents in 1982 as a new junior high school student.  It was a very well used and sturdy desk, but it was time for an upgrade.  Mostly, I wanted to upgrade because I wanted a sit-stand desk, which would help me introduce more movement into my day.  I did a lot of research on sit-stand desks and learned that the most frequent problem is with the motors that do the raising and lowering of the desk.  Thus, I decided to invest more significantly into a higher-priced desk with a strong warranty.  The basic warranty on the motors in the legs is 5 years, but I extended that to 7 years.  I figured it might be worth it, given that I will be raising and lowering the desk multiple times a day, pretty much every day of the week.  Here's my new desk shortly after it was delivered, with Pippin doing his usual auditing task to make sure all the parts are present.

There are quite a lot of sit-stand desk vendors in the USA, but most of those charge astronomical shipping rates to get their product to Canada, not to mention there would be the border duties as well, which can also be ridiculous.  I didn't want all those added costs, so I searched for a Canadian supplier.  Fortunately, I found Ergonofis of Montreal, Canada.  They make a range of sit-stand desks that are made with locally-harvested hardwood timber.  They're also a small business who stand by their product, and I liked their association with a tree-growing organization that replants trees on their behalf as they sell desks.  The desk ended up becoming a Christmas gift from my parents, which was a wonderful gift indeed, and will be useful for many, many years to come.

So, now I have the Ergonofis "Sway" model of sit-stand desk and I just love it.  I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and I think it's great!  I still have the cupboard and drawer units from my old desk underneath because I haven't quite figured out where to put all the things from those units.  I'm trying to make some room on shelves in the home office. As you can see, it fits my many desktop items and accommodates my monitor arm with ease.

Details
Here's a little detail I added to my new desk arrangement.  I purchased a cute little bear-shaped mug warmer to keep my coffee mug warm in the mornings.  It is powered by a USB plug into my computer.

Favourite
Here's my mug warmer, on my desk, keeping the coffee warm in one of my favourite mugs.  It is designed to look like knitting on the surface. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: C

Today's Weekend Roundup from Tom the Backroads Traveller has the following prompts:  Starts with C, Week's Favourite, and Clouds.

Starts with C
We had a snowfall earlier this week and it accumulated quite a bit, so there was a lot of clean-up required.  This was my car:

Here's the chicken coop (double C!), with the path that I dug to it so I could easily get out there to fill the feeder and waterer!  The chickens don't like to come out of the coop at all in this weather.

I found some crab-apples still on the branch, wearing snowy hats:

Week's Favourite
I had a slightly less crazy work schedule this week, which allowed me to take a few minutes to work on a craft project - I wanted something small and easy that I could complete quickly.  Thus, I knitted this cute little hedgehog.  That was my favourite part of the week!  (Bonus letter c:  The back of the hedgehog is knitted with chenille yarn).

Clouds
After the snow, there was some blue sky, but as usual at this time of year, there were also clouds, and within about 20 minutes of this photograph being taken, there was no blue sky to be seen at all. 
At this time of year, I get rather tired of grey, dismal, cloudy days.  Today is actually sunny, although very cold, but that's better than gloomy.  The long term forecast for the coming months suggests that by mid-February, we are going to head into a period of lower-than-normal temperatures which will persist throughout the month of March.  I'm not looking forward to that.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

SuperRoo



I had to do some creative thinking this week for dear Wellington, my much beleaguered rooster.  You see, since he arrived, he suffered from a distinct lack of tail feathers.  This was OK, for the most part, because he didn't really need them to have a fulfilling life as a rooster.  He could still happily eat, drink, patrol, dance for the ladies, and pass on his wild oats. 


As you can see from this picture (not mine) of a cream legbar rooster below, he does not have that rather majestic fountain of tail feathers one might expect in a fully grown rooster.
legbar Google Image Result for https://www.omlet.de/images/cache/800/600/cream_legbar_chickens_cream_legbar_cockerel
Indeed, there was something about his little pink rooster tail that was very enticing to some of the hens.  That picture above shows one lone feather sticking outward, and you can see some pinkness of the skin at his tail.  Chickens have a tendency to peck at things that are pink or red.  The other day I found him in some distress.  Not for the faint of heart....this was his back end AFTER I had cleaned most of the blood away, which took some time.
The hens had pulled out many feathers and broken some at the base resulting in a raw, bloody mess.  It was clear that I needed to do something immediately to address the problem, because otherwise the red blood would simply keep attracting more pecking.  I thought to use the little shirt that Izzy had to wear when she had her abdominal injury, which stopped her licking herself.  I put it on him and it worked fairly well to cover that tail area, but it ended up also covering his "back door" so to speak, and the poop was getting stuck inside the shirt.  Not so good, especially when I'm trying to keep the area clean.

As a result, I had the idea to make him a sort of a cape.  I'm not a proponent of dressing chickens in sweaters as a rule.  Their feathers provide plenty of insulation and a sweater can prevent them from fluffing up their feathers, which could actually make them cold.  However, in the past, I've used fleece sweaters on rescue hens who have very few feathers when they've arrived and they are very effective in such cases.  I decided that a modified sweater in the form of a cape would help Wellington.

He and I went looking at my stash of polar fleece to find a nice manly colour, and we settled on this Green Bay Packers football team print, which I had purchased for next-to-nothing as a fabric for making plant protectors for my winter garden.  The leftovers were still on the shelf.  I fitted him up and quickly sewed a little "cape" of sorts.  The cape is sewn closed at the neck (but not too tightly) and it has wing holes so it stays in place due to his wings being through the holes. 


Most importantly, the lower end of the cape covers his nether regions without impeding the poop production pathway, but while keeping his red rump out of view of the ladies. 

Today, having been 2 days since I created this fashion statement for him, I checked on his progress.  The redness is much reduced and there are no signs of further pecking.  It should allow for feather development to proceed and once the feathers grow in sufficiently, his skin won't be visible and it can be removed without the concern of more plucking.

I told him, following his fitting, that he was now SuperRoo.  He said he thought that was a type of car, or SUV.  "No," I said, "that's a Subaru. Quite different indeed."  He was suitably pleased and is considering watching a football game in future when he has a tail to wave around. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Weekend Roundup (B)

Today's weekend roundup, brought to you by Tom the Backroads Traveller, has given us the following prompts: Starts with B, Week's Favourite, and New Beginning.

Starts with B
Baby starts with B, and we currently have a baby chick in the house.

This baby chick is from an egg that Whisp was sitting on - I showed Whisp in my blog a couple of weeks ago.  As I mentioned in that post, this wasn't planned - it was a result of my being away for a week and Marc not collecting the eggs on a daily basis.  I wasn't sure if Whisp's eggs were developing, but candling suggested they might be, so I kept her with her eggs but brought her inside because of the extreme cold we were having here, which was affecting temperatures in the chicken coop.  This little one came into the world on Monday, which was earlier than I'd expected.


Whisp seems to have taken motherhood in stride (even though these are not her eggs - they were eggs from one of our brown layers).


Week's Favourite
I know this category is supposed to be a week's favourite picture, but I'm never good at week's favourite picture, so for my own twist on this topic, I'm going to start including a brief discussion of my favourite thing about the past week, whether I have a picture or not.  And I might add a picture that is unrelated.  So this week, my favourite thing was the fact that I completed some major projects, and all the BIG project deadlines have been met.  This week (after Wednesday) was my first week in many months that I was able to look at my work "to do" list and say "Wow, I am all caught up!"  This was a tremendously good feeling for me.  I still have ongoing projects, but they are not enough to require me to work late nights and I might not even have to work this weekend, which would be amazing. 

Here's a picture from a couple of weeks ago that I rather like.  It is moss and lichen growing on a tree in our yard. I enjoy the variation in textures and colours.

New Beginning
There is a new beginning occurring in my home office at this very moment. As I said up in the "starts with B" section, earlier this week, Whisp's first egg (of 4) hatched. With no further signs of hatching, I thought the rest were not going to hatch, since they usually hatch at about the same time.  This morning I was cleaning the cage and I decided it was time to get rid of the other eggs since she was not sitting on them reliably any more, being more focused on her new chick.  As I picked up the bag of cage waste material to take to the garbage, I heard a noise from in the bag.  I rushed to get the eggs back out of the bag and realized that one of them had a tiny hole (a "pip") and that there was a chick that was in the process of starting to hatch.  I'm so glad it made that tiny noise when it did!

Here is the current new beginning at the moment (around 3 pm this afternoon).

I set up the incubator and put all 3 of the eggs in there because Whisp was too focused on her little one and she was not sitting on these eggs very consistently.  This is actually normal because, as I said, the eggs tend to hatch at the same time, and the mother hen typically only waits a day or two after the first one hatches and then abandons any remaining eggs.  What I think happened here was that Whisp started sitting on one or two eggs the day that I left, but other hens kept laying their eggs in the same nest box while I was gone.  Thus, the first egg was ahead in its development.  The one that is now pipped is carrying on in its hatching process. 

Around 4:30 pm, the chick began the "unzipping" process in which they begin to open the eggshell completely by creating a break that goes all the way around.  Here was that process underway:


The other two are not yet pipped and may not ever hatch, but I need to give them a day or two more just in case. 

I then went out to pick up our sustainable local fish delivery for the week, and by the time I got home, about 20 minutes later, the chick was out.  I have put it in with Whisp and her first little one.  I had to get it out from underneath her for the photo.  It is still drying off and fluffing up.


Tomorrow it will look like its sibling!