Out on the range.

The birds are all out free-ranging again.  They’re so excited!! Mostly out. They are free to come and go, for the last week or two since the snow has been going.

They are so happy!  All the young ones (1-2 yrs) and the guineas spend all day out, pouring out of the greenhouse when I open the doors, popping back in when they get cold or thirsty, then back out for another shift of foraging.

Inside, the older chickens are less adventurous and content to have the dust baths to themselves.  I can’t wait to move out the Silkies, but it will be cold for another week or so.

Friends

These two were out and about alone, one cold day, without a rooster escort, and were all jumpy and guilty, like they knew they were on the lam.

The birds outside are partly PARTY! Excitement and adventure!   And partly attacking their days like they have a job, and they’re showing up to it late.  Serious.  So much to do!There’s something really good over there! They’re vigorously scritching around in the woods everywhere.  Now that they have the space, I can see the little cliques that have formed around each rooster.  Three good ones.

tap tap tap

The sap is running!  Last year we were largely robbed of the sugar season when winter ended a month early (just kidding!  Catastrophic frost in June!).

I completely failed to get taps in the trees on time last year.

This year, the sugar season is right on time, precisely timing the sugar moon.  I’ve got one tree tapped, the sap is flowing, and I’m even boiling it down!In the past I’ve tapped several trees and collected an awe-inspiring quantity of sap, and failed to boil any because in general I don’t even try to resist chugging it, cold, standing next to the tree (WOW!).

I made kombucha from it (wow), I boiled it to make tea, and soup, but not syrup.

Also I believed the horror stories of dripping walls and sauna reenactments from boiling sap indoors and vaporizing 39 out 40 parts water.  Doing it anyways.  I discovered something, maybe.  I was in and out of the house today turning the stove on when I was in and off when I left (window open), and whenever I returned to the cooled pot, there was a remarkable drop in the high water mark.  It seemed quite a bit was evaporating every time while it cooled, without the burner on.  So perhaps that’s a tiny bit more efficient?

But this time, I have a modest amount collected, (still chugging it from the bucket but with a little restraint), and I’m hoping for a quarter cup of syrup :D.  Maybe a half a cup:)

sprouts!

The year’s first shoots are always exciting.

Reliable, pedestrian kale races out of the gate, germinating in three days and fully unfolding cotyledons in <24 hours (pictured at two days old).

More exciting is licorice:

Hello!

Before too long every windowsill will be full of seedling flats, and I’ll be grumbling at how fast the tyrannical little shoots are pressuring me to pot them up.

I flaked all of February, the early planting, but I’m back on track now with my planting schedule (easier every year as most things are just a straight copy of last year’s schedule).  This week, lettuce and ground cherries.

miracle on banana box st.

Cheeks has been doing very well.  She still lives in the house, as she has for months, continuing to be low maintenance (except for a predilection for beak-sweeping her food); and self regulating, staying in her banana box or on her Rubbermaid (her proscribed territory) and moving between the two on her own.

She has been doing better than ever, although the swelling on the top of her foot continues to grow.  It’s a bubble that looks about to drain every day.  For weeks.

I soak her afflicted foot every day, and sometimes get a little drainage, but in spite of this impediment (literally), she’s in good spirits, relatively active, interested, and talkative.

Exceedingly talkative.  The last few days, she’s become a talking machine, standing up on her box, going on and on.  BrrBRbrbrBRbrBRR, sometimes in a complaining tone, but mostly just a gossipy/lecturing tone.  We’re like, What has gotten into you?  You’ve got things to say!

And then:

What have you got in there?

OMG, is that an egg?!  You laid an egg!

Yep, that’s an egg.

You’d have thought she’d levitated, I was so excited about this egg.

It’s a perfect, pale blue egg.  Unfortunately not fertile, because she hasn’t been on a date for a long time.  I’d love to hatch some of her offspring.

But what it really means is that she’s healthy!  She’s healthy and comfortable enough to resume egg laying, in spite of her foot she can barely use.

Healthy enough that she felt like contributing to the household:)

*She laid another the next day, and the talking decreases dramatically

Hello?

I think I’m back?

I can’t explain what happened.  After an unbroken year of daily blog posting and many more of intermittency, I fully intended to keep going, more steam than ever, and then – I just stopped.

I was going through some health stuff that sapped my energy.  I was taking some winter time for “emotional restructuring” (aka, being lazy and self-indulgent).  I really, really didn’t feel like there was anything to say.  What “content” really needs to be added to the vastness of the internet now?  I thought I would make the switch away from WordPress, but there’s work involved in that.

Cute, cool things keep happening.  I have ideas.  I’ve been taking pictures.  Just…not posting.

But perhaps…I’m back.  I missed you guys:)

Escape escapades

Little Nosey, being herself. I’m teasing her with a litter grabber. She’s like Why. Why are you pointing a robot arm at me?

The guineas had a big adventure, escaping in the morning. Good day for it. They came yelling down the trail, went grazing in the woods, but around lunchtime they were wanting back in. It’s cold. We would like to be back with the food.

They found this challenging.
I propped the fence open, away from the corner of the greenhouse. One of them got stuck unable to comprehend going around the end of the fence. The white one appears to be on the way in, but no!
She managed to be looking the wrong way when the other one figured it out, and so dithered around Where’d everybody go? Oh look, there’s a door!

Shortly after the guineas ran back in, a flock of chickens escaped somehow. I arrived later with lunch, and a visiting dog (because, all the chickens are put away, dogs are cool), and ten chickens and a rooster are sauntering around on the edge of the woods. What the!

I tried to get them back in. The dog didn’t help. They fled into the woods and reconvened around the rooster.

Thus they got to stay out until nearly bedtime, when they were all waiting by the door. On the bright side one rooster earned his keep. The leghorn rooster was out with them, and they were all glued to him; he was herding and leading them. It’s good to know who a quality rooster is.

He probably talked them all out the gap in the fence in the first place, but he was taking good care.

Party on the new bird feeder

I was very surprised. It took *hours* for the chickadees to discover the new bird feeder. And then, it was only one, who hogged that knowledge and had exclusive access for days.

Finally the grosbeaks made the discovery, and brought their drama to the squirrel-proof swivel bird feeder. There was a great deal of open beaking at each other, hustling the prime perch on the arms, and squatting inside in the feed pile. Grosbeaks have their population numbers threatened, I hear. At home, between 7 and 10am (they keep a schedule), there is a substantial flock, but there are fewer than last year.

Jacket chicken visit

It was a COLD morning, and husband noticed this little hen shivering up on a perch, so he grabbed her (Get your hands off me! Put me down, you big brute!) and stuck her in his coat (Oh. OH. Ok. This is good.)

Then he took her for a walk. When they went outside in the cold cold air she sucked her head all the way inside the jacket like a turtle.

They came and visited the house chicken, and she and Cheeks had a remarkable conversation, a back and forth with a whole series of sounds that you don’t hear every day out of a chicken. We were both just quieted, listening. What are they saying?!

– You’re alive! We had no idea. Benny’s been worried sick.
– Let me tell you, the snacks in this place are unbelievable. They just do weird things to my feet sometimes.
– I’m in a jacket right now, I can imagine.
– How is everything in the greenhouse? You must tell Wilma that the right side of the perch is mine.  If she thinks otherwise she’s got another peck coming.

When returned to the greenhouse, the traveling hen resisted being extracted from the coat, burrowing in and struggling to stay. No, no, don’t make me get out!

When all the snow melts and you’re the wrong colour

I feel conspicuous.

Low profile, low profile
I’ll just make a run for it

The weasel has on his snow white suit and is caught out in the melt. The house chicken was the first to spot him through the window.   Laser focused.  High alert!

He’s very prominent, dashing around, but is as perky and bouncy as ever. It’s hard to keep a weasel down. He was bounding between piles of sticks, under the house, into the woodshed.

Weasels are super cute, until they have the blood of your chickens dripping from their fangs. I haven’t had any chicken deaths due to weasel for four years, because all the chickens get secured in their coops at night. We are co-existing with this known weasel, and possibly another (or maybe the same one) by the greenhouse for almost a year now, and I am grateful for his rodent-reducing services.

Spring break for the bees

It’s just SO weird to put on a bee suit in January. However, it was a warm day, so my bees came out to poop, and I was able to feed them.

By warm I mean that in 24 hours the temp shot up from -10°C to the opposite, plus 10°C, wiping out all the snow, and exposing all the gross wet wood and dirt (now the mercury is rapidly falling again). It’s the February melt look; it can hardly look worse. Everything is hideous.But such warmth meant that the bees were very excited, and all three hives came airborne in big numbers! It’s good for bees to get warmed up a few times in the winter, enough for them to be able to fly, so they can leave their house and poop outside. Yes, bees poop, and they’re housebroken, so they hold it until they can get outside rather than foul their house. It’s not good for them to hold it too long. I was planning to seize the warm day to feed them, but seeing the bees pouring out, bearding on the fronts of the boxes and making a cloud around each box, I figured I had to suit up. They were mild, not testy at all, and seemed excited to shake their wings out, get their buzz on.
 Small hive first- this is my swarm hive of 2018 (my first! eep!)

They have 2″ of styrofoam around three sides, and tarpaper, to promote sun-warming on the face of their box. For the first time, this year I wrapped their hives such that I could still get the outer lids off and replace their jars of syrup in the eke/lounge. I’m so happy with this; I have already been in twice, and the big hives have emptied their jars each time. It’s nice to see if they’re surviving, and feeding them will increase those odds.The cafe (top section) is filled with straw to absorb condensation. It’s doing its job- it’s wet and mouldy around the edges. Hopefully I can replace it once this winter too, because, mould spores. The empty jar lifts out and the full one goes in.
There is a ball of bees in there!
Because of the knot of bees, complaining *Hey, where’d our jar go?!* I have to set the jar back in *verrrrrry* slowly and carefully, so they can get out of the way. I don’t want to crush anyone or trap a leg.
Now dissuading bees to vacate the danger zone to re-lid.
Also verrrry slowly…
Hoo! No bees squished.

Again, January!!! Bees filling the air like it’s August. Crawling all over me, pooping everywhere. Little yellow dots speckling everything – my suit, the roofs, the ground.
Some poops are bigger than others. That’s one pictured low center.
Lastly, the largest hive, wintering in a three super stack.
I worked from a ladder in the summer when this was a skyscraping bee tower.I’m so glad all hives seem well.

There’s a big PS to this.

I wrote this yesterday (originally posted Jan 26 on Steempeak) and had trouble with the uploads, cursing my browser as my bedtime passed and the rain started and the wind picked up and picked up some more, and up, and up…

The wind got a little scary, rattling the house (overnight it ripped two pieces of roofing off the woodshed), and I abandoned blogging and ran out, afraid that a hive would blow over. The two bigger hives are ratchet strapped to the ground, but still. A gust of wind broke an alder off right on top of me, and the big hive shook. I put a few more clicks on the ratchets, and then I noticed the bees.

There were dozens of living bees on the ground in front of each hive, and all around – there are little twig-like plants about 8″ high all over – there were bees in singles or pairs clinging to the top of dozens of these, like life rafts. They didn’t look very alive, motionless with water beaded on their fur, but they were. Also little groups of five or so with their heads together (like a star anise) were clumped together on the flat wood “footings”. They’d been caught out. As it cooled in the afternoon, they’d been stuck outside on the ground, and climbed up as high as they could, and were clinging on in the wind and pelting rain to the tips of the twigs and each other.

The little twigs didn’t break by hand so it was easiest to get scissors and cut them off, and then use the stick it was gripping to poke the frozen bee back into its door and they dragged themselves inside. They were slow to let go, and could hardly walk or hold onto my fingers, but one at a time, I moved dozens of bees back into safety by flashlight, out in my bathrobe in the pelting rain. A few found my legs, clinging to me for warmth. This counts as an exciting night for me, but I did not get stung.

Happy about living naturally