Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Christmas card to you, 2009

Wishing all the best to all of you out there for 2010! Love, peace and happy hens to all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freeze proof chicken waterer

Today's post might be useful to other chicken keepers in cold winter climates. I've been pondering how to keep the hens water from freezing overnight. Some people use an outdoor heated dog dish with the waterer placed inside but that's quite costly with shipping to Canada.

I made this contraption with some leftover floor tiles and I think it will work splendidly. My friend with the right drills cut a hole in one of the side pieces, a snug fit for a trouble light fixture. Then I cemented the pieces together with mortar, holding them in place while they set with a picture frame clamp. So the bottom and sides are one unit. Then another whole tile sits on top and the waterer on top of that.

Here's Fancy , the rooster checking it out. ...goooo fancy....go towards the light...!

The finished product. Theres quite a bit of heat coming through the top tile and I'm using a 40 watt bulb. I'm thinking a 25 watt might do. I'll only need this on the coldest nights anyway. The chicken house is very well insulated and in the daytime if its sunny out, they get lots of warmth with the window open from the  adjoining greenhouse. Speaking of which, we are still enjoying salads daily from the bounty in there. So far, just covering the greens at night with 4 layers of polyetheline and 2 quilts has kept everything going and growing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just ducky

Another in the acrylic bird series. This compact little guy is a Ruddy Duck painted on a 6x8 canvas board.

In winter, Ruddy Ducks inhabit shallow, protected, saltwater bays and estuaries along the coast or ice-free, inland lakes and ponds. Breeding habitat is freshwater marshes and ponds with marshy borders mixed with open water.
Ruddy Ducks are often found in tight flocks. They forage by diving under water and straining mud through their bills to find food. Like many small-winged ducks, Ruddy Ducks must get a running start across the water to become airborne. I've only seen them in photos but I think they're just  downright cute.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Readying for Christmas

This time of year Jim and I are tossing about ideas for the homemade Christmas card. This year's creation is still in the fine tuning stages, it's always fun and each year we tend to either collaborate or take turns as the inspiration strikes. This one with our mini stallion Prince Charming was the card of several years back. At the time there was constant controversy about stifling political correctness stealing our Chrismas traditions, and with the majority of the letters to the editor steaming with indignation, we thought it would be topical  and fun to compose a poem on the inside of the card to add our own protest to the mix. It was our most popular card ever judging by the feedback, but try as we might, we can't find a surviving copy anywhere. And because we're old and forgetful neither of us today can remember a single line of that inspired Christmas  rhyme. Merry Christmas everyone! Happy Hannukah, happy wintertime, happy Everything! Let the public squares be resplendent in Christmas trees, manger scenes and menorahs. Just let everyone be happy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chickadee-dee-dee, 4"x6" acrylic

Four days of rain ahead so I should be able to get on with some painting without outdoor distractions. I'd really like to get back to watercolors, but I have these blobs of acrylic on my sta-wet palette that I dont want to waste so I hope to do a few more favorite birds, and learn some more about the acrylic process.
From this reference photo I painted this little chickadee imagining him in the light from the front window, as they flutter about our bird feeder near the end of the day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Painting again

Feeling better today! The antibiotics started to take effect on Friday and I've been working on this acrylic off and on since then. It's a real mood lifter to be able to do something constructive after laying about for so long.
Gisela and Peter, our B&B guests from Germany, if you are checking in with this blog you'll recognise the photo you took that I used as a reference for this painting.
Today its pouring down rain, the tail end of some southern storm, but I'm not bothered a bit. I'm thankful for a pile of books by a nice warm fire, for feeling more chipper, and for modern medecine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I've been a negligent blogger of late, with really nothing to say since being laid up after another surgery, Oct 28th. Feeling worse and worse, today I came back from my Fredericton Dr with 2 different antibiotics to treat infection. He says I should be feeling better by friday, so I am hopeful. My husband and I went to the Saint John emergency 3 days ago, me to see what all this increasing pain was about and him for an infected foot wound . We were shocked to be treated with unwashed hands by numerous nurses and doctors, with the place crawling with H1N1 sufferers. I feel a rant coming on, maybe a letter to the editor. Thousands of Canadians and Americans die needlessly every year from hospital aquired infections including staph, e coli, mrsa etc, due to the sloppy hygiene of their professional care givers....

On a lighter note, on the way home today, my drug befuddled brain was contemplating the strangeness of the English language and its perplexing inconsistancies. We put on a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, a pair of glasses, a pair of gloves, why not a pair of bras?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scrambling to catch up...

Gardeners are such an optimistic matter how discouraging the passing season has been, next year will "always be better". Here are next summer's garlic cloves going into their new raised bed, amended with 2 buckets of super wonderful compost. My visions of tall green garlic plants with their artfully curling scapes are basking in sunshine, unlike this past summer's monsoon season... well at least with the raised bed they cant wash away.
A little more work on the greenhouse/chicken house. I've really got to figure out the eaves before I can go much further with the cedar shingles. The last few days I've been cutting glass to double the small windows between the doors, and caulking every draft I can find.

These are the plywood doors high up on the inside partition wall that will stay open during the summer to let out the excess heat in the greenhouse. Below them is the window through to the chicken house which can be opened on sunny winter days to let the heat through to the hens which hopefully will make them happy enough to lay.
My max/min thermometer is indicating that the greenhouse is about 4 degrees warmer inside than outside in the dead of night.
The lettuces, parsley and leeks are all thriving and I'm deeper into winter denial with each passing day....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Still sawing and hammering...

Too busy building to keep up with the blog... I've made good progress the last few days and by dark tonite got all the holes closed in. I've been blanketing and plastic covering a row of lettuces in the garden, seeded in mid august, to protect them from some killer frosts and at last I was able to move them to the new greenhouse bed.(Wow, I should have cleaned that last window before I started taking pictures!) It'll be interesting to see how warm it gets with the sunshine forcast for tomorrow.

Unfortunately the frost went right through my old leaky single pane greenhouse last week and killed off my sweet million tomato plants with a couple hundred beautiful tomatos hanging on them, sigh.

The chickies have moved in to the adjoining winter coop and are all getting along well. The have figured out how to find the roost and they put themselves to bed each evening at 6. All I have to do is close the door. Clever birds!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Building progress

A week post surgery and I'm beginning to get some strength back, thank heavens. I can just putter at little things, but with some help the greenhouse, chicken/garden shed is coming along nicely. All the plywood scraps we accumulated over the summer from yard sales and freecycle have gone into the shed walls. Today I hired an energetic teenager who transferred 2 truckloads of compost from the bin, and a few wheelbarrow loads of soil from the garden into the greenhouse planting bed. It is 4 feet x 13 feet and will give me lots of room for spring and fall gardening.

As soon as the roof is finished I will transplant some lettuces started mid august , from the garden to the new bed. I'm hoping they will be ok in there til near Christmas.

The sweet million tomatoes in the old greenhouse are coming on faster than I can eat them, and I eat them like candy, so sweet and delicious. They are doing much better than my poor beaten up outdoor tomatoes.

The little chicks seem to have turned into miniature chickens the week I was gone.

Its like they doubled in size when I wasn't looking.

I think the one eyeing the camera with its head sideways is a little rooster. He seems more assertive than the other two and is quite the little character. He is strong enough now to grab an entire piece of bread and run with it, with the other two in hot pursuit. We call it Chicken TV.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Out of commision..

I've been on an unplanned vacation this last week, my building projects, garden harvest, dozens of things interrupted. It seems my gall bladder went into some kind of hissy fit last monday night, didn't like the lovely steamed cabbage I had chowed down on. So off to the hospital by ambulance with my insides in an uproar, intense pain, and a diagnosis of "It's gotta come out".
Free health care is a wonderful thing, and I hate to think what this would have cost us without medicare, but...timely delivery would be wonderful also. I got hooked up to an iv and put on a standby list for surgery and waited and waited and waited whilst people kept having car accidents and clogging up the operating rooms. In the photo its friday night and I just got the news I was on my way.
So now I'm home and kinda shocked to see on the bathroom scale I lost 14 pounds from not eating for nearly a week, holy cow that iv fluid must be light on calories... Now I have a free pass when I get my appetite back, for cake and cookies and ice cream!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Building up and tearing down

My little greenhouse I built 12 years ago is rotting and will never make it thru another season so here comes it's replacement. I was given a pile of sliding patio doors, thermopanes, so the building is designed around them. This time I'm using pressure treated lumber so by the time it wears out I'll be too old to lift a hammer anyway.
Today I'll work on the right side which will be the winter chicken house/garden tool shed. The window in between is to let the warmth of the winter sun in the greenhouse through to the chickens.

On the raccoon war front...I am losing badly as evidenced by the devastation in the nearly ripe corn. It seems another family has moved into the vacumn created by the removal of the last five. They are driving me crazy, I'm finding the trap sprung every morning with nothing in it.

The little chicks are 3 weeks old now and entering their gangly teenage stage. Momma keeps them close to the house or in the shade of the big trees away from danger from the skies. They are so entertaining to watch them learning their chicken things.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Finally after trying for over a week to catch the mama of this family of five, here she is. What an intelligent and wily critter!
Every morning I would find the bait gone and the trap sprung, and upended as her signature. I tried tying the peanut butter sandwich in place with multiple wraps of baler twine, only to be foiled repeatedly. She got every last crumb without ever stepping on the incline plate that would drop the door. Finally she was caught with a McGyver contraption consisting of a plastic container of peanut butter tied to a string that went up through a pulley and connected to the door dropping device. I dont feel all that smart since I was outwitted by a rodent for 10 days.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baby chicks!

What an anxious, engrossing time waiting for three eggs to hatch...We could hear peep-peeping from inside the shells and little tapping sounds like trapped miners signalling for help. At last a tiny hole in each egg and a small beak partly visible.

Mama hen was patient with us, letting us check the progress and then tucking the egg back under her feathers to keep it warm.

It took about 10 hours until all three were hatched. Amazing how active and adventurous they are already, on their second day. Hard to get any work done today, they are such fun to watch.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bye -bye bandits

What a cute little face! But not so cute when they are ransacking my corn patch. This is captive number three from a family of four (that I know of) Three raccoons in five nights, they will go anywhere for peanut butter sandwiches. From here they go for a trip to an uninhabited wooded area with a stream, so I hope they are re-uniting and happy in their new surroundings. One more adult to catch, the push is on, with the corn a week or two from mature. Really hoping another family doesnt move in til the season is over.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chicken Little aims to be a mother hen

Chicken Little has gone SOOOOO broody. For two weeks she wouldnt get off the nest, she would hop onto any new laid egg and claim it as her own, chirruping and complaining when I would put her out of the henhouse.

Along with this new behavior was a lot of feather fluffing, strange exotic dances and sudden leaping into the air with frantic wing flapping.She kept up a continual scolding "book, book book" sound. She refused to be a part of the hen social scene. No scratching and digging, no lolling about in her dust bath. The compost pile lost all its attraction and she could not even be tempted with wiggly worms held in front of her beak

So we relented and took a day trip along with Little in a carrier box, to find her some fertilised eggs. The farm where I had bought some of the other hens just had three eggs that hadn't made it to the fridge yet. So we slipped them under our little obsessive-compulsive and she was a very happy hen.

Little is very devoted to her adopted eggs. They are from a flock of white rock hens, like our Serena, but I'm sure Little wont mind. Hatching day is the 25th or 26th of august.

Each morning I make her get off the nest, covering the eggs with a warmed towel, so she can stretch her legs and have a gigantic poop. She wont mess in the nest at all. When I put her back in after a few minutes of her strange rituals, she is SO attentive to those eggs, hooking her beak around them to push them in under herself. Then she fluffs out her feathers and settles down until the next interruption.
This is all amazing to me, how animals and birds know just what to do with no instructions or experience to go by.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Yes, we have water...

To all our friends, neighbors, B&B and cottage guests, and assorted well-wishers : our 6 week water crisis mystery is solved . Two cottages and the main house on one well. 1,000 feet of underground pipe from the 260 ft deep well at the far cottage to the main house. After trouble free years, suddenly not enough water..."Yer well musta caved in " says the plumber. Ditto say the well drillers. They drill down to 600ft. "Now you gotta get twice the horsepower pump , bigger piping and heavier electrical to get the water up." So we do that and we keep running out of water. "Well she's gotta be leakin unnerground somewhere." The backhoe is called in and digs up 3 locations where joints were made. Plus he digs a 7 foot hole in the garden to find the old well that used to feed the main house. Eventually the plumber comes back and finds the joints are fine. The well guys come back and air pressure test the underground pipes in all directions. They determine we are losing water at the main house. We shut off the incoming valve and sure enuf the well fills up overnite. A week later the plumber is back and discovers that if he shuts off the valve in the basement that leads to the barn the pressure guage holds steady.

SO... the barn is shut off till the next excavation, everyone has water enough, the well guys are $14,000 richer, the backhoe guy nearly a thousand, and several hundred for the plumber , and the whole problem could have been fixed for under a thousand by fixing the leak in the barn line in the first place!!! And my hair would probably be a darker shade of gray without the most stressful summer I can remember.

Thank God the weather has dried up here! We had a record breaking 195 mm of rain thru july and the coolest july on record also. The garden has struggled with lack of sunshine and warmth but its responding wonderfully to the change.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chicken Mural Finished Today

What an on again/ off again project this as been, with SO much rain the last month.
Here are Buffy and Serena checking out their finished portraits.

The girls are having the run of the front lawn lately and they stay within about 100 feet of the henhouse, enjoying themselves with their scratching and pecking and bug hunting chicken pursuits. They seem to get a lot of pleasure from digging bowl shaped depressions in the lawn to take their siestas in.

Here is Serena, looking like some unfortunate road kill, but in reality is in the throes of dirt flinging, feather dirtying , chicken ecstasy.

...which culminates in a quiet nap, if one could just be left alone.

Clover heads, purple or white are popular on the lawn buffet, must be some sweetness in the nectar they are after.
All this entertainment, and 3 or 4 eggs a day now!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Painting again

Its been so long since I picked up a brush...and this big white surface has been beckoning me for weeks, to paint a mural. Its on the chicken house and will be portraits of my five hens as if the viewer is looking into the henhouse. I started by drawing each hen from photos, on separate pieces of paper and moving them about until they all fit into the background.

Then the design was transferred with carbon paper to the coop.

The dark floor will be mostly covered by painting in the straw litter at some point.

I might get this finished tomorrow or the next day if it doesnt rain. Gee, I look at these pictures and wonder if I'm at the "dotty old lady" stage of life.

Its a fun project, and it gives me something to think about besides worrying about the poor Iranians and their horrible government.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hammock making

I've been learning how to weave a hammock and I'm quite pleased with the way they are turning out.
Here's my first one in progress on the weaving frame up in my studio. Not much to it : 2 dowels and a 2x4 and a book of instructions. And a LOT of rope, 600 feet in one hammock!
At first it looks very confusing and I had to unravel a few rows when I caught my mistakes, but now I can weave and talk at the same time without any boo-boos.
This one is finished and hanging in the ceiling of Salty Dog Arts, our shop at the local wharf.
Its made of a soft non-cotton military cord, uv resistant and impervious to moisture. I opted not to use cotton as my research told me the squirrels like to chew it up for bedding.

The stretchers are 5 foot birch cut from the hillside behind our farm. They look beautiful finished with a few coats of linseed oil.

It's a cosy fit, designed for 2 adults.......
(Sigh... if we just had time to lie in it!)