I'm a Canadian woman living in an off-grid tiny house on a small organic orchard farm in Nova Scotia, always aspiring to a "better"- more conscious, ecological, and organic- life.
I blog to keep my family and friends up to date; to share things I've learned and discovered with difficulty so that hopefully, it will help others who internet research to proceed with less difficulty; to maintain a practice of writing; and to create an illustrated journal of the arc of my life. I try to post every second day.
I write about my garden, my travels, Iceland, my chickens, dog, bees and other pets, books I read, and stuff that I build and make.
My husband is passionate about bicycling and he sometimes pipes up with stories about bikes and bicycling.
Sometimes I swear.
You can follow on Facebook too, but all I ever do there is put up my blog posts.
A quick catch-up – the birds are all sleeping in the greenhouse now, so if I need to leave I can secure them in there and take off with my mind at ease. I’m drunk on the new freedom and am doing that quite a bit.
When I’m home, they are released and I watch over them (there have been no losses since I went full sentinel), but they gravitate back into the warm greenhouse. They LOOOOVE the greenhouse for about two months, or half of winter. Then they start to get bored and demanding.
Egg production is suddenly and precipitously down, after an egg boom in October, even though the weather is lovely. They don’t seem to like disruption. Cheeks and Ketchup are both offline and molting, just when everyone else has finally leafed out again for wintertime. Velvet is gorgeous and Cleopatra is feathered again.
Only one set of chicks is still being parented, and I’ve got some good stories about them. About seven Silkies are still trying to sit on eggs, even though most of them never have an egg to sit on, it just looks like the thing to do, I guess.
I harvested a small amount of honey, and the bees are mopping up the drawn frames in the warm afternoons. I haven’t got my garlic in or the garden put to bed (ha!).
I’m cleaning and gathering, doing some of the fall things, although still flat out working. This Christmas will be lean!
As much as I enjoy Fall Back, Daylight Savings Time is dumb! Just leave it one time all year like sensible regions do!
I had no intentions of taking a week+ off blogging, but I had a real week from hell. A book deadline, two books released, other time-sensitive obligations, and a side serving of serious stress which led to far too many nights working past midnight, so I’m just coming up for air now and seeing what else really needs to be done.
The bees got reduced on time, they’re happy. The chickens, though, are under siege. A predator grabbed a chick. A chick!!! How dare they!? Right out of the inner chicken zone. “Luckily” it was one of Velvet’s, so they both have two left – each still has a sibling. Only chicks are so sad. All the birds were so upset by this nearly all of them decided to sleep somewhere else, which is a story for another day.
So I changed my habits. I have to do a substantial amount of work daily on my computer, and this cat/fox/mink isn’t bold enough to attack while I’m outside with them, so now I bring my internet with me and work outside in the afternoon:
It’s cold, the wind blows my papers around, my fingers freeze, but it works. No casualties since I started playing sentinel. The smallest coop is a perfect size on the perimeter of Chickenland.
It is a wonder Nosey hasn’t hopped up there with me yet. What’s really nice is being furniture in the midst of the chicken society, and watching them operate once they forget about me. Serene, relaxed scratching, grooming, resting, and a constant murmur of communication. It’s very quiet. They have a nice casual circuit of exploration. Looking for new bugs, I suppose. Even the Brahmas drift by together.
Usually I’m the disturbance they’re responding to, squawking, running to, running away, announcing, but it’s a very slow pace of life in chicken world when I’m not doing anything noteworthy.
It’s that time, time to reduce the size of the beehive stacks in preparation for winter, and steal their honey.
I hate it.
I don’t like taking their honey, and I don’t like the degree of disruption it causes, nor the death. In the process of taking the hives all apart, robber bees come from the other hives and there are disputes and battles to the death. Bees are very good at killing each other and the bee bodies pile up. I don’t know how to mitigate this yet.
It has to be done, though. The hives need to be in a compact space packed with full frames of honey for the winter. It’s not heat efficient to be in a silo.
Pansy:Late afternoon, not finished sorting frames, and a bridge for the bees to get back to their door.They aren’t interested in going home though, they are in a frenzy of emergency cleanup operation, trying to save the honey that is suddenly outside their house. It’s mayhem.
After taking the frames I’m keeping and sweeping them free of bees (time consuming, multi-stage process), they had three partials to clean up and move the honey back inside. They will probably be at that most of today.
Pansy has the most vitality of the hives. Despite swarming twice (and I lost one), she has been reproducing like crazy and building fast. Marigold and Sunflower, this year’s swarm/split hives, all done. They adjusted well, minimal death. Marigold is maybe a little frustrated, bearding on the front like they don’t have enough space (they do), and they aren’t letting go of that completely empty frame yet, even at night.
Three down, one to go:I saved the doozy for last.
Today I get into the skyscraper. This is Violet, my oldest hive, who has never swarmed (I split her to Sunflower this year). Pansy is swarmy, Violet refuses, no matter how big she gets. She’s also a bit crankier than the other three hives, less patience. I expect she’ll winter in three supers, but I guess I’ll find out today.
The weather is perfect this week, warm enough at night for bees caught outside on salvage missions to survive. The long term forecast says this is my last chance. Now the bees will be contracting, working closer to home on final stockpiling, and producing their last brood for their winter population. I hope there’s a warm spell in October too, but you never know anymore.
I’ve lost track of all the sets of chicks. There are around five that are almost indistinguishable from grownup chickens, the “big chicks”.Overnight, they are all legs and big bodies. If I don’t look twice, they look full grown. These have all graduated to living in the “big coop”, although I’m still plucking at least one out of the tree every night. No, not the coop! They aren’t nice to me in there!Hello, I’m a Cheeks junior! The “middle chicks” are still distinct – they are the five that Ghost and Velvet are raising. They are perching pros, but still attached to their mamas, who have a nice bond with each other. Once they ditch their moms, they’re easier to lose track of.
Then there are the “little chicks”. They had a good week living in the greenhouse undisturbed, but naturally, they grew discontented with the daily manual transfer to and from in a box, and one morning, there was an escape.
You can’t put the chickens back in the box, so at that point, they were out in the crowd. What is adorable, is that she led them through the fence into Silkie land, where she stays with them in the taller brush. She remembers where she lived.Although the Silkies and big chickens generally don’t mix, the fence is permeable. When the “big chicks” were tiny, they learned how to go under it in one spot there’s a three inch gap. They remembered, even as they got bigger, and still go to the spot, poke their heads under, and slither through. So they come and go, very nosy, have to see everything for themselves. I think this Silkie mom is using the same spot. Sometimes she seems to get stuck inside. These little ones just started perching practice too!
The Brahmas are joining the chicken clique that hangs out around the house, which is really nice. It’s the safest place for the chickens, and the most social.
Naturally the most vulnerable chickens, moms, chicks and adolescents, range the farthest, giving me palpitations, while the old girls homestick.They’re always together. The Brahmas are so sweet, they’re the big feather pillows of the chicken world. One of them is in a half-molt state. Feathers falling out everywhere but also new ones growing back- a whole new set on her feet; she’s got whole patches growing in, but is still dropping feathers. She’s not going for that whole naked stage. Too cold.
Now they’ve joined the House Moochers, that leaves only two retirees that still linger close to the retiree coop (coop nearest house).
Dozing, here with Cheeks.
After the frost we’ve had a warm spell, and the bees are going so hard. It’s their last charge to get their stores in. I feel bad now taking their honey, but they have more than enough, at least the big hives Pansy and Violet do.The other pollinators in the giant wasp nest have made their home bigger than ever. I’m terrified of them, although they’ve only stung me once, for banging on the wall, and I am looking forward to a long wasp-free future.
Athena is back at home. She was loaned out this summer to raise some babies.
Athena and her sister were hatched last year and raised by a Silkie hen (they were the White Chocolates). They turned out to be not quite leghorns- white, quite differently shaped from leghorns, but a little jumpy and high-strung like leghorns are. Early this summer, both of them went broody, but not at the same time. Athena’s sister (Aphrodite?) raised a mixed set of five. She abandoned them early, leaving the nursery coop to go sleep in the main coop a little before they were ready for her to do that, but they had each other, and were fine.
I had a friend ask for chicks, and the only way I could see to do that was to deliver them in the egg, with a chicken attached. Athena was the only one setting at the time, so she was the only option.
This poor family got their first broody hen and hatch experience with the worst-tempered, most bloody minded broody hen I have ever had. She terrorized them all, glaring balefully in a good mood, attacking viciously if anyone had the nerve to feed her. They wore leather gloves to interact with her, and that was appropriate. They named her Athena (I think they meant Artemis). She was horrible!
She spent her entire time, even after the chicks were all hatched, puffed out in aggression. On one hand, this meant she’d be a good mother, fiercely protective, but it wasn’t exactly a cozy and sweet introduction to chickens.
She raised seven chicks, and when they were done with her (and the people were really done with Athena), I picked her up in the night. I was driving by after chicken bedtime, so I just grabbed her out of the coop and set her on my lap, and she rode home like a pet. I popped her into the main coop where she’d always slept in before.The next night, I found her nervously prancing around the retiree’s coop, which I had already closed. Do you want to go sleep in that coop?! I opened it, she ran right up the ramp. Ok then. The chicken knows what she wants.
I noticed her all over after her return. For one thing, she was as slim and sleek as anything, every feather in place. She had one grease mark from being under one of their cars before leaving, but it didn’t take long to be able to tell her apart from her sister.
She runs everywhere she goes. There is no stroll, lope, or walk. Dart here, dart there. She’s the last to bed, but unlike the “normal” hens who mosey to bed, already half in a dream trance, Athena would suddenly look up from active pecking in the feed tray, turn and run up the ramp to bed. She’s a heavy walker. She’s small, but I can hear her running me down on the trail. Thumpthumpthumpthumpthump!
She’s working on being a troublemaker, too. She’s started taking a copycat interest in the house, she’s figured out how I open the GH door for the guineas and gets in there for a quick scratch before bed, and when I discovered a chicken had been up in my window box scratching it up, I thought it could only be Nosey. Because.
Then I caught Athena in the act last night. I don’t even know how she jumps up there.