Moving House

The wretched old farmhouse is getting moved across the field to a new home.

Surprisingly on schedule (our third year here), we’re getting the old building moved off of its very sketchy “foundation” (six cinder blocks) and off of the eroded wet hole that it stands over, in favour of level ground.

If we let it go any longer, it’s going to fall over or rot.

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Before. Jacked up and set on skids, but still on the eroded hole.

Let me just say at the outset:  I know, I know, it would be cheaper and easier to knock this thing down and build a new one.   (It’s the first thing everybody says).

It would. I know.

I think I’m saving the house for purely sentimental reasons.  It’s over 100 years old, it’s the only remaining structure from the once flourishing and now completely non-existent turn-of-the-century gold mining community that once populated this corner of Nova Scotia, and I don’t want to be the one to tear it down, although that would make more sense in many ways.

We don’t even have a plan for it, just that we’re going to start with a basic rescue.

Before moving time, HW took out the central brick chimney, before the chimney fell through the floor and took some of the house with it.  The chimney wasn’t salvageable, because it took a couple of jogs, so could never have a liner inserted.

A neighbour of ours is contracted to move it.

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Tractor glamour shot

Initially he jacked it up, put two 8x8s under it, and under those, 4x10s, supported by cribbing set up in the muddy hole.

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Before initial move

That gave enough support to roll the house off of the hole and onto the planks set in the solid ground.

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Off the hole

Some problems arose at that point.  One gable wall is in serious trouble, having had structural members cut out for windows (?) and not having been reframed properly, so the whole wall decided to “burst” outward, threatening the roof.

We more or less tied it back together with come-alongs and a winch and bracing, to hold the rafters from spreading, and take this broken wall along for the ride.  It’s going to need to be completely reframed.  There turned out to be no header over either window.  This wall was never going to make it.

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Since the house has now proved too fragile to move like “normal”, by dragging across the ground on skids, he’s continuing to roll it on 1.5″ pipe rollers, under the skids on heavy planks.img_4487img_4484

This is time consuming, as every few feet you have to collect the pipes that spit out the back and move them to the front, and also move the (v heavy) planks to the front.  The house wants to drift sideways off of its planks, so he has to jack it up to adjust its heading periodically, plus the intended direction is not quite a straight line, so he’s slowly turning it.

Although it’s slow, the house just glides along when it rolls.

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It’s now past the leaning woodshed (we aren’t going to save that)

new hens

I’ve got new hens!  Four new-to-me deliveries, two reds and two leghorns (people often get rid of hens this time of year- most of my layers are handmedowns).  What a novelty, to have white eggs!  They got right on it too, one leghorn laying in the coop on her first morning.  She’s the fast learner.  Came walking down the ramp on her first day.img_4682

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We picked them up after dark, and I carried them home in a box on my lap, petting them through the cardboard flaps.

I didn’t have much of a choice, I put them into the coop with the others, and had to hope the rooster would handle welcoming committee duties, as he has before.  I pushed his usual concubines aside and tucked the new hens right in next to him, to bond.

Well, Day One dawned, and I let down the ramp.  Leghorn One trotted down the ramp with the others, and joined them at the trough.

I waited.

I lifted the lid on the coop.  The remaining three were huddled there in panic, just until they all burst flapping out of the open lid and ran away squawking.  So I left.  That’s no good.  That means they will not no where to return to at night, and they didn’t.

I tiptoed back later, and the new hens were all milling around the coop, eating.  And so was the rooster!  He was hanging out with the new girls!  Most of the old girlfriends had decamped to the house after breakfast like they always do.img_4502

I like the way leghorns look, with their ultra-stiff erect tails.

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I know what to do with a nest box

And their floppy combs, often flapped over one eye, like an ill-fitting beret.

HW says they remind him of Beatniks, and if he creeps up real quiet, maybe he’ll hear some chicken jazz, or a poetry slam going down.

At night, as predicted, they hunkered down in the brush a few feet from the coop.  It took several days of nightly scooping for them to get the idea, one at a time, that they live in the coop.

They’re sweet little things. They’re very tame.  They come right up to me, and let me touch them.  The rooster spends all his time with them now, staying with them as they ever so slowly expand their scope outward from the vicinity of the coop.

The new girls don’t know that the greenhouse is off-limits, and blithely trot in behind me.  Don’t mind if I do!  Hm, good stuff in here.img_4499

Then I get to shoo them out.img_4501

One is very low on the chicken totem pole.  Cringe-ingly subservient, as pictured top-of-post.  She had a chance to make a new start, but missed it.  I should call her Violet, as in “shrinking”.  She’s always got her head low, ducking and genuflecting.

They’re getting the hang of having the world to roam in though:img_4471

As these hens went tentatively trotting down the path after the others, I thought They’re gonna fit right in!

A couple nights later, I come home and go to feed them chicken supper, and there are no leghorns.  Oh no, did they get eaten because they’re white?  All the other hens show up for dinner, but the leghorns.  I look all over.  As a last resort, I check inside the coop.  They’ve already gone to bed!  They are the early birds.  Early to bed, early to rise, first down the ramp in the morning, with an egg already laid.

Dispatches from Silkieland

from Oct 17

Look at those feet!

Look at those little wings!img_4515 img_4514

Look at mama looking back.  What’s taking so long?

img_4506This mama has ideas.  At night I put them all in the box for the night.  In the morning she lets herself out to graze.  The chicks know where she is, but all frustrated.

Seven chicks survive.  She hatched an amazing, record setting nine, but two didn’t make it.  It’s almost normal for one chick to die every setting.

Chick death by hanging from the mother’s underfluff is a very real risk, as bizarre as I thought it was the first time.   I saved three chicks from this hatch from hanging.  I found two at once being dragged around by the neck.  What a fate.  Her underfeathers were glued together at the ends, poop no doubt, and chicks had their heads stuck in the loop, probably from burrowing under her.  I saved them, phew!, pulling the feathers apart, and feeling for other knots.     I suppose the solution would be combing their bellies shortly after hatching.  You first.

It’s a bit like 101 Dalmatians around here now.  Chicks everywhere.  In the greenhouse, in the chickeries – I’ve lost track of how many sets there were this summer.  Some hens went broody twice.  There are a lot of chicks scampering around.

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The last remaining greenhouse setter is good as gold in her broody box, but she loves breakfast.  She eats nearly her whole bowl of food every day, and she goes at it enthusiastically the moment it’s given (as opposed to other broodies, who eat a bowl of food every week or two, and pretend they don’t care about food when you put it in with them).

Outside, it’s cooling off.  The birds come tumbling down the ramp every morning, and then, ugggh!, halt on the ramp to hunch their shoulders and fluff out.  Sometimes they just go back inside. Not ready to greet this day. 

There are two ways to identify roosters.  1) Even very small, they start beefing with the other baby cocks.  They lower their heads and stick their necks out, then stand up really tall on their toes, beak to beak.  If that doesn’t settle it, there’s some chest bumping.   2) Baby cocks hero-worship the rooster.  I’m gonna be just like you someday!  They are first to arrive when he does his food clucks, and they tag along with him, everywhere.

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I came home to Snowball out of the Silkie paddock, who knows how or why, and whaddya know, Wannabe Jr. is out there with him.  Note unflappable (harharhar) white hen looking on.

 

Orchard Essentials

Two things from Lee Valley Tools have made all the difference to orchard interaction this year. VERY worthwhile orcharding tools.

  1. The pole pruner.  It has interchangeable heads – a saw and a snip pruner, and a telescoping pole.  HW used that in the spring to prune some of our five dozen apple trees.

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2. The apple picker bag.  Here it is shown being used in combination with the telescoping pole of the pruner, although they are not designed to work together.  The bag unclips from the two part frame.

You scoop an apple and twist and push or pull, and the apple detaches into the bag.  The bag will hold about 5 apples, but that gets heavy to swing around in the air.

I won’t go so far as to say it is enjoyable to pick apples with a basket on a pole – one gets a headache and a squint from looking up so long and manipulating a tool on the end of a long stick – but if you have old, tall trees, and the apples grow high, this makes it possible to pick them.

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2016 was a terrible apple year.  No trees distinguished themselves as heavy bearers, and the apples that made it were high on the trees and held tight on their stems.

With the picker, I was able to get about 5 buckets full of apples for cider.  Without the picker, I’d have about 5 apples.

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There are a couple clips unhooked in these pictures

Like I said, this pruner pole and the basket aren’t made to work together, and sometimes they don’t.  After cooperating like a charm for several days, one evening they suddenly refused to work together and the basket parts came sproinging apart and getting hung up high in the trees.  Fun!

Chicken treats – cucumbers!

Few things incite as much excitement as giving cucumbers to the Silkies.

The rooster loses his mind chirping, and all the little furballs go scurrying around, grab and going with a cucumber round, crying if they can’t find one (especially the chicks – they know something excellent is happening and they’re missing out), trying to find someplace private to eat their cucumber if they have one….

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I have to distribute enough slices so that everyone has at least one.

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Then it gets real quiet.

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Until they start to get Cucumber is Greener on the Other Side ideas.

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They hollow out the centers first, sometimes leaving the outer rings until the next day.img_4407