All posts by Selka

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.

An Only chick

Only one baby hatched:(  I think it’s just too early for chicks; too tough for them to survive and egg cooling happens too rapidly this early in the spring.

I thought only chicks were super sad, growing up alone, but they do get intense one-on-one attention.  Little Mama gave the other eggs a couple days, then strutted out all Alright kiddo, time to learn to scratch! 

I moved her abandoned eggs down the line, to the six Silkies currently broody in the Silkie coop.  The eggs are all mixed up now but some were started a few days after the others.  There’s some hope for more.

Of course, Little Mama’s vicious.   She hasn’t drawn my blood yet, but she’s ready to kill everyone, including herself and her chick, in the face of the threat of being picked up!  I’m considering wearing gloves just to move her outside and to put her box in the coop at night.

She’s so cute from a distance though.  She was busy dust bathing, and I could see the chick was getting a little tired, the head was starting to sink, and she popped up and clucked her way into the box and curled up.  Ok, now it’s time for a nap!  and the chick followed her in and burrowed in.

First day on the grass!  And today, freedom.  She’s intent on digging holes, everywhere.

 

A chick!

The first chick of 2020 has hatched!  These eggs had a rough go.  I had a barred rock hen broody, which was exciting – those two are the sweetest birds.  But she got off of them!  She’s done it before; it’s like she’s got a calendar in her head and when she’s sat too long, it’s over, instead of being connected to the life in the egg.

So I put the abandoned eggs under this little lady, who I’m between calling Little Mama, and Polly, my only Silkie cross, who was thankfully also broody, et voila, one baby.

She’s in the broody-usual, a cardboard box in a chickery, in the greenhouse for now.

Here she is hunkered down in broody mama mode.

Do I even have to point out who the the looky-loo is?  It’s Nosey.  Of course, it’s Nosey.

 

The tulips are up!

So exciting to have tulips again!  I haven’t had since I lived in B.C, and my mom sent me a big box of bulbs last fall.

Yesterday they appeared and now they are poking their spear-like rolled leaves above the ground.  Different tulips, different coloured leaves.  I planted them by colour scheme, but I don”t remember which colours where, so it will be a surprise.
I did wonder if the chickens would cause problems.  The first spears look like they were sampled, but it seems the taste doesn’t agree with them.

Well that’s a vast improvement

What a relief for the eyes to have the beehives undressed for the year.  This is the view out my front window.

Such a visual improvement!The before picture.  Good God,  what a trash heap.  Extraneous stuff wrapped around the bottom is to deter the chickens from pecking at the styrofoam.

Nosey’s a big styrofoam-eating culprit, and me running outside at her shouting does nothing.  What?  Crunchy! I like Nosey.  I don’t want her to die by extruded polystyrene.

In progress.  Foam on the brush pile out of chicken reach.  There’s Nosey.

Sunflower hive is dead.  I noticed a couple weeks ago.  I didn’t open it up yet but peering down into it, it seems empty, not so much starved.  Bee mysteries.

Violet, far right, is as always, the hive with the chip on the shoulder.   I ALmost got stung while unwrapping.  One bee zooming out and clung to my cheek next to my lip, buzzing furiously while I breathed, calmed myself, and chanted Don’t sting, don’t sting.  I talk for a living, I need the full use of my mouth!  It worked, the bee left after giving me a good scare.

Sow it begins

(Feb 8)Tray #1.

February.  This is the beginning of the growing year.  Then there will be two trays, then five, and eight…

Soon every windowsill be be filled, and the shelves will come out, until all the available glass real estate in the house is occupied by trays in early April.

I have calculated  the current maximum seed tray load of the house is 14, unless I evict the aloes from the other picture window, and then I could bump it up again.  I hope it doesn’t come to that.  I need some limits.Outside, winter.

The bird breakfast buffet

It’s the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend, this weekend.  Right now.   You can watch the map pinging with bird checklists being submitted.

I had something cool happen.  I was using the eBird lists to see if I could identify this one bird that’s around almost every day, only ever one by itself, and I glanced out and it was here!  I feel like it can only be a pine warbler, although he looks much more orangey than yellow.  Not a pine grosbeak, though, bc he has the delicate beak.   I’ve taken lots of bad pictures, but they’re never v helpful.

pine warbler?

Then two purple finches showed up, and two sparrows, that must be song sparrows.  I see them far less often, so then I had to stay on the job for the minimum 15 minutes to make another GBBC report.

I failed to count birds in ’19, but against my 2018 notes, the change is clear.  Sparrows and Juncos and Purple finches and even Nuthatches are now rare for me to see, while goldfinches and grosbeaks have tripled in numbers.  I get about 150 Grosbeaks and 80 goldfinches every day, like clockwork after dawn.

Every morning they come and clutter up the treetops shrieking for a while deciding if it’s safe.  Made it real easy to count them this morning, all waiting, watching me watch them.  Then they descend in a squabble of bird drama, carpeting the snow and crowding the lids of the beehives, which double as bird tables.  I assume the bees aren’t bothered by the tap-dancing on their roof all winter.  I can’t get over how the winter goldfinches look like identical miniatures of the Grosbeaks, and they all mix up. 

Highest winds ever, worse than Dorian

Friday night we had a heck of a storm.  It was strange that it was all over so fast, from onset to back to complete calm in 12 hours, with the storm blast lasting about four hours long.  However, it was the highest winds we’ve ever experienced here, stronger gusts than Hurricane Dorian brought not too long ago.  I know, because it blew over a beehive, and that’s never happened before.

The wind was the kind you don’t sleep though, jostling me on the bed and making the lamps swing as it shook the house.  I was concerned about the “new greenhouse” that hadn’t yet been tested.  After the big gusts that sounded disturbing, I’d walk out to see if the plastic was tearing off of either hoop house.  It wasn’t.  There was a lot of strain on the ends, and the door on the small house ripped off.

I came back in and happened to glance outside… horror!  A beehive was missing!  I rushed back out, and Violet was thrown over, lid off.  The bees were slowly oozing out and permeating the fallen-out hay that had been insulating their eke.  I tucked the hay back in, stood the hive back up, and hugged it to shift it into place.  That was a mistake.  There were plenty of bees pooling around their door on the outside that transferred to me, and started crawling up my sleeves and stinging me though my pajamas.  “I’m helping you!”  I shouted at them over the wind.  About a handful of bees were lost, spilled out and dead of exposure.  Another half dozen had to be plucked off me and flicked back inside.

Retrieving Violet’s lid is when I noticed that the lids had blown off all the other hives, also never happened before.  It wouldn’t have affected the bees more than causing a draft.  When I got everything reassembled, weighted down, and  propped up, the peak of the storm had passed, and I could sleep.    Good to know everything can hold up.

Autumn

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!

Chicken sitting, and an accidental week off.

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:

sitting on chicken coop with laptop
My new office.

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.

Except for the chicks.  They still zoom around.