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.

Guinea grazing

We have snow, everywhere but in these pictures where the sun shone.  A light crunchy layer of snow.  It was very nippy today and I thought the guineas weren’t going to even come out for their graze.They’ve taken to climbing up the pile of sticks during their recess.  No grass up there.  Maybe they just want to look around. This little one is the most successful greenhouse escapee.  She darts out right in the middle of the guinea pack so I cant’ turn her back.  Cheeks’ old stunt.  I can preempt most of the chickens, but never this one.  It’s a pain when chickens get out with the guineas, because they’re not on the same schedule.  Chickens will stay out until the bitter end of light, so after the guineas run back in after a graze, I get to herd chickens.  This one’s not too bad at going back in, and makes the cutest little noises, but tonight she was so intent on digging a hole, she kept running around me and back to the spot, and was very displeased to finally have to go in.  Peep peep PEEPpeeppeep!I’ll just have a bit of rest here.

Suet woodpecker

The woodpecker was so absorbed in the new dish at the buffet that he let me get quite close to him/her.  Then, GAH! Didn’t see you there.The suet looks like I’m about to camp-toast some bread.

The new floor chips caused consternation this morning.  I dropped the Silkie ramp and all the hens came pouring out as always, then erkk!  Put the brakes on partway down the ramp, staring down at the chips I’d liberally sprinkled around before opening them.  Traffic stoppage on the Silkieland downramp.  Some of them were just fine with it, but some of them looked like I’d just filled their world with water, and they stuck out their necks, unwilling to jump down.  Funny.  And some of them stayed on the familiar hay, mincing around avoiding the shavings, again like it was water and they didn’t want to get wet.

Let the chips fly where they may

We brought in a quantity of wood shavings today (free for the pickup at a local sawmill).  The chips arrive:  What is it?  Oh, we’re watching.We’re watching intently.Here they come.  A cautious approach. Here comes everyone.First, the investigatory pecks – Is it edible?  They were underwhelmed that it was not. 

Then the whole crowd sort of circled around the mound.  Later, they were up on top of it.  Since I have more birds this winter than last, even if they do have a big yard, I have to make sure to get enough carbon in there to neutralize their nitrogen rich poop.  No poop smells, thank you!  Now it smells like a hamster cage.

Bees Snugged I

The bees are almost wrapped.  They have their foam on, and I think I’ve really sorted out my wrapping method this year.

The hives each get foam on three sides plus tar paper, that wraps the front of the hive too and absorbs heat.  The foam I’ve figured out how to get it on quick and easy.  First, the three sided “box” is made.Look at my fancy two step carving- a nice seal.  Foam is so easy to carve. Then I tape that together with Tuck tape, including a strip up the whole seam.

All that crap needs to come off the hive first- the strap holding the supers together (in case of wind), and the scabs on the eke, and the arms that hold the lighting board.  Nothing screwed into the hive parts any more.  Then the foam hugs the hive, right up to the bottom of the outer cover, and two straps of Tuck tape right across the face of the hive hold it on – avoid the handles and openings so nothing sticky is accessible.  Done.  The tar paper will be next stage, but in the meantime, they just got a big R-factor upgrade.Naturally, I did this one after dark,  with a headlamp, because temps were falling, and I forgot the critical step: sealing the bees inside the hive, temporarily.  I was hugging the hive, jostling the foam into snug place, and then bzzzzz!  What’s going on out here?  My sleeve came away from the upper entrance with eight cranky bees on it, and more came out the bottom door.  Then I had to be very patient (I was in no mood to be patient- in the dark with a headlamp in falling temps), while each bee decided there was nothing to be concerned about and wandered back inside, one after also exploring the inside of my sleeve.  I did not get stung.  After they went in, I sealed them in and finished up.  They all have absurd and excessive extra “coverings” at the moment because of the forecast rain and snowstorm (right now hammering down).  It’s important to not get any water down between that foam and the hive, soaking into the wood, before I get the tar paper wrap, and I want to wrap them dry.  It’s very wet right now.  My lids all need a rebuild before they’re winter ready too, so in the meantime- draping.

My big idea this time is to wrap the tar paper in such a way that I can still get the lid off.  Then I can feed them through the winter, and monitor the moisture in the straw.  If we get wild episodes of warmth like we did last year, I’ll be able to take those lids off without unwrapping them.  We’ll see if I can do it.

Puffcheeks’ genes are showing

The Pufflings are getting their venerable cheeks and beards now they are almost completely mature.  Oh, this was funny.  Chickens like caves and tunnels, to hide or escape from other chickens, if only temporarily.  This is Chris and C.P’s coop, elevated to make a tunnel, and the (teenage) chicks love hiding under it.

I brought in a bunch of kale for the birds, and one of the chicks grabbed a big clump of leaves and pulled it under here.  Other chicks tugged on it but couldn’t get it away as chick 1 was standing on it.  Planning to break it up some to share the enjoyment more widely, I pulled the frond of  kale away, but the chick didn’t see me do it, and angrily pecked the chick standing next to it, who squealed indignantly It wasn’t me! It was a fresh layer of hay day in Silkieland, and all the birds piled in for a lie-in.  Cleopatra has all but moved in too.  She spends most of a day in with the Silkies, but still sleeps in Bravo coop.  She needs her jacket off, but she’s very hard to grab.  She and Ketchup are the only ones tolerated in Silkieland.  When a teen or a guinea “falls in” by accident, it’s clearly a mistake they’re never going to make again.Usually it’s the five little chicks that snuggle up under the coop ramp, but today it was the place to be.


Havoc in the henhouse.

Ok, it’s officially December now.  It’s not time to be broody.  But I’ve been having a battle of wills with four broody hens, the most determined of which is Ursa Minor, and the peckiest is Fiesty, predictably.

Then I open the coop to this.  This.  And this.Not ok!

That’s seven.  Seven.  Seven broody, growly feather pancakes sitting on eggs.  I didn’t have seven broody at once all summer.  This is bad.  Maybe it’s contagious.

They win.  They are sitting on eggs, and since they’re not going to give up, they can keep them.  Likely, chicks will die right and left, because it’s not the right time or place to reproduce right now!

Jeez.  I can’t put them in nurseries in this weather.  It’s super cozy in the coop full of fur chickens all night, but if I isolated the broodies the way I normally do, for the safety of the chicks, the hens would be at risk of exposure.  They can die trying to heat their eggs in cold temperature.  They’re going to hatch in the coop, and then the moms will go right down the ramp for a meal and a dirt bath, and the chicks will die unattended.  That won’t be fun.  Only the bright, lucky or strong will survive.  (Ursa says: If you’d just let me keep the first eggs, they’d be hatched by now!)

I’ve got quite a number of eggs from them from taking them away, but I can’t sell them, because someone might have started baking them.  Therefore, I resigned to the will of the broodies, and went through and carefully marked every single egg, and now if I go through twice daily and pull out the unmarked eggs, then I can get the freshly laid ones out.  What a bunch.This little guy just hopped up to watch the proceedings.

Now all the hens are on edge when I lift the lid, because they know I’m going to lift them up and rummage through their eggs, and they hate that.  They all bristle and growl, and most peck, and then they indignantly readjust their eggs after I’ve been through.  Grumble grumble.

ruffled feathers

I stopped this little Barred rock hen who’s been wearing a denim jacket for a while, to see if she needed it still, or if her feathers had regrown underneath.  Three of the other jacket hens are out of their coats now.

This one happens to wear her coat like it grew on her, edges neatly tucked under her wings, and a perfect fit at her tail.  I never see her jacket askew.  But when I grabbed her to look under it, I messed everything up.

Boy, was I in trouble!

The indignation!  The resentment!  The phrase “ruffled feathers” really took on embodiment.  She was pissed at me for messing up her outfit, which she mimed very expressively, starting off with a vigorous head shake, of which I got this neat picture.Grrrrr! What have you done?!

Then she proceeded to adjust herself, irritated as all get out that I’d interrupted her day so inconsiderately.  Look at this mess!  Now I have to stop everything to fix it, when I was just about to get the good spot on the coop.  She went all over herself, digging in her wingpits where the elastics hold it on, combing her wing and tail feathers, tugging her coat this way and that – that was the neatest thing, that she actually tugged on and readjusted her jacket, just like she would her feathers.  She wiggled it back into place and flattened it, and put all her feathers back the way she wanted. She’s not over it, though.  Don’t think I’ve forgotten.


Cheeks put herself back in her box after breakfast yesterday.  I’m done.  Either I spent too much time with the other chickens, or she thought if she was settled back in her box when I got back, she might avoid the pill procedure.Today she just settled on her box.       In the greenhouse, all it takes to create a stir is a half dozen hay bale chunks set around.  They disrupt chicken run flow, make something to pick at, and they must all be inspected.  All the muffets have to find a tuffet.Sidewinder and Sidekick are still very much a thing.  They don’t spend every minute together, but close.  Sidekick is an interesting little chicken; I can’t figure it out.  Clearly half Silkie – feathered, five-toed feet, but clearly not all Silkie, with smooth feathers.  Pale feet, not black Silkie skin, but not albino, because he/she has black eyes.  Interesting little thing.Oh, this was funny.  I was taking pics of S&S, and behind them, the Colonel goes poking his head into the covered wagon, and Cream Puff and a brown Silkie rooster come shooting out!As pictured in lower left, making a getaway:)


Cheeks is a cutie

Her foot is still hot and swollen and she’s not keen on using it, so I hope she recovers.She’s dozing after her meal.  Now she asks to go back into her box when she’s done eating and preening.  She knows the routine. Birds’ lids close upwards. There’s the fattest squirrel: We mock this squirrel because he’s so fat, his little hands don’t meet in the middle over his belly.  He’s doing very well.  He’s thriving on sunflower seeds, or something.  He recently made an appearance, after a long time seeing no squirrels.  He seems to be living in the woodshed, pictured on his front vantage porch, but the local weasel also lives in the woodshed, poking a fearless little face out at me sometimes when I remove wood.  The little fat man is expected to lose to the weasel at some point, if his weight makes him too slow.  In the meantime, they seem to coexist in the same habitat (our woodpile).  How do these arrangements work?