Category Archives: Life: lived

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.

Greenhouse goings-on

Earlier this year in the greenhouse.

Now it’s a little wilder.  Even at this point, though, the guineas were getting lost.  The “aisles” have kind of disappeared.  I went  to open the far doors, and there was a white guinea in the melons.  Chirp chirp.  Her boyfriend came back in for her, bushwhacking towards her to lead her out.

I have a theory that the guineas have kept down the beetles this year.  I don’t have a problem this year, although I saw eggs on the leaves earlier.  I also saw the guineas pecking the leaves on their evening browse.  I think they might have been doing a daily cleanup.

The guineas are adorable.  They gather at the door at night, and when I open the door, they file right in.  This is where we sleep. They go for a browse and then perch on their swing.  If I’m too late, the seventh gives up on me and sleeps somewhere else.

I have late blight, bummer, but still plenty of tomatoes coming.  I canned 17 quarts yesterday.

Also yesterday, I turned the water on in the greenhouse, forgetting that the two new chicks and their Silkie mama are housed in there.  Some of the joints and holes in the tape spray water in jets, so it might have been an exciting moment, when the sprinklers came on.

These lucky chicks are so late in the year, and with a Silkie mom that is not nearly as destructive as a big chicken,  that they get to have the GH all to themselves to grow up in.  I get lazy late  in the year, and they are happy and safe in the jungle.

chicken drill bit

The Silkies have picked a spot to dig a hole, and are digging the hole with their bodies, removing the dirt in their feathers and shaking it out elsewhere.  Slow and steady.

They take turns, and now they have the hole twice as deep as this, so that they are fully below ground level. Odd little birds.Sidewinder unwinding in the pool. I haven’t bought them a bag of pro-mix outside of the greenhouse before because in the greenhouse, they are doing the work of distributing it for me to amend the soil I will grow in, but hey.  They need a bath in the summer too, what’s one bag of mix?   They enjoy it so much. 

Done with the dentist

I think my summer of dental hell is finally over.  Root canal part 2 yesterday (hallelujah, dental staff was at work with the power on Monday!), and the sudden end of “mild” dental “discomfort” in my mouth was like the lights coming on, or discovering you’ve been wearing sunglasses without noticing – energy re-surged into my life!  I think the mouth stuff has been contributing to why I’ve been sick so much, and headaches, lately the past weeks.  It just saps you, enduring it.  Hello future!  Moral of the story – don’t “tough out” a toothache.

On the ceiling tv at the dentist I got to watch B-roll of a Canadian army guy (army comes to the rescue in cleanup effort) getting his saw pinched in a tree on his first cut, catastrophic footage of what’s happened to the Bahamas, and this of a crane coming down in Halifax.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s incredible.  I can’t watch it too often.  That’s a steady filming hand, Fatima Ali.

No one was hurt, unlike the Bahamas.  In Nova Scotia, trees and freezer food have been lost as 100K some are still out of power, but this is inconvenience compared to the Bahamas, where they have terrible need.

Here, it’s another lovely temperate day and it’s glorious to have the mosquitoes reduced or maybe finished.  Fall is the best.  Comfortable T-shirt work weather, reduced risk of heat exhaustion.  The best time of year:)

All over

Dorian has passed.  The chickens are all fine, the pig house did not flip over, one beehive had an outer lid blown off, no cars or structures were damaged.

Casualties:  clothesline, woodshed roof has another rip, the big hazelnut tree outside my window is tipped over:(  It may live, but it’s at 45° with the roots torn and heaved up.  I don’t know how well nut trees adapt.

Seeing as it didn’t feel any worse than many house-rattling rain and wind storms we’ve had, there were an astonishing number of trees down this morning.  Mostly big poplars, so no big whoop – I’ve got no business keeping mature poplars around.  All of them are heaved out of the ground, not broken off.  This seems to be happening more – when the ground is soaked the roots pull right out.  I can’t believe no hives tipped.

I started the day with the saw, cutting out the driveway and paths, meeting the neighbour coming the other way, checking his fences for trees down on them.  375 000 homes in NS were out of power this morning (how many homes can there be with a population of 940 000?) and I hear roads are badly damaged by washouts.

It’s nice today is sunny.  The chickens were soggy yesterday despite shelters, and I’ve never before seen the guineas looking like they went for a swim.  Everyone went to bed early, and there was no one trying to sleep in the tree, or perch on the coop roof for the night.

I let V and G and the chicks go to bed in the greenhouse after their best day ever!, until I had the galvanizing thought “What about weasels?!” So I had to go and collect them, stuffing one family at a time into my coat and transferring them to their lock box, moms clucking at the weather.  They are so cute.  They were snuggled down for bed side by side in the tomatoes; they do everything together now and the five chicks will be friends forever, I’m sure.


What’s left of Dorian is about to hit us here.  I don’t think the forecast is very catastrophic at all, but everything is cancelled and dire warnings abound. Quite a lot of rain for one day, but we’ve had it before.  I definitely expect that power will be knocked out everywhere; that happens with any stiff breeze.   Perhaps the internet will go.


Velvet and Ghost and the chicks are all in the greenhouse, where I’m sure they’ll have the time of their lives today eating the first foot of tomatoes and pruning the pepper plants.  I put them in for the last rain too, to save their moms from having to be living rain shelters.

Last time was a godawful rodeo when one of the chicks escaped capture and it was too  loud with the pounding rain for them to hear each other, and that one chick was an unbelievable escape artist sprite.  Today I caught the moms and stuck them inside, where they clucked and clucked,  then herded the cheeping panicked chicks in the right direction until they made contact and the chicks all just popped through the snow fence door.  All is well in there.

The retirees have a tarp tent, as do the Silkies, and the general hens and guineas will all be crowded into the pig house.  They rack up on the laundry rack, as it’s driest on the top tiers near the peak.  As long as the wind doesn’t get strong enough to flip over the house.  That happened once, with the pigs inside (pigs scrammed into woods stat).

We shall see.  I’m not too worried.

I’ve always wondered where all the helium balloons go

What goes up must come down.

Turns out they do come down in the woods.  I found this shredded remnant of a balloon hanging in a tree, randomly.  Still tied with the gift ribbon.  Actually, I’ve been told (by a marine biologist who’s seen them) that they much more often come down in the ocean.  They rise, catch an air current, and are carried out over the ocean before the helium degrades and they come down.  There’s not much on the surface of the sea that can pop a balloon, so they drift, for a long time.  Another source of ocean pollution, yay.

It was very unpleasant

I got poison ivy on my face.  As my friend asked, “Did you fall [face first] in it?”

Well, nearly.  We had a  lost person search happen locally that eventually lasted days and involved teams from all over the province, but the first night, it was just a half dozen of us in the dark, and we built a fire, in the dark, while waiting for the go-ahead to launch our canoes.  I had just rubbed my eyes, because of the smoke, when one of the guys noticed in the beam of his flashlight that all of us, and the fire we’d just built on hands and knees, were at ease in a giant patch of flourishing poison ivy.

Knowing this, and that I tend to get raging inflammations from a  sideways glance at poison ivy, I did full decontamination and containment protocols nine hours later when we got out of the woods. Too late.

Three days later, three suspicious red bumps on my cheek erupted into the full conflagration, my eyelids swelling alarmingly.

Gross.Poison ivy sucks.  Open, oozing wounds and blisters, and my whole body was fevered and nauseous for a couple days, and I was extra sensitive to bug bites. It was also on my hands, and back.  It’s almost over now, two weeks after exposure, and it doesn’t appear  that it will scar.   The very good news is that I avoided secondary infection!  I give the credit to tea tree oil.  I thought it would burn like stink, but it didn’t really, it was a little bit drying, which stalled the super-gross constant oozing, and I’m sure that’s what kept bacterial infection at bay.   I have not been so lucky before, and I’m glad I know now.

I got hydro-cortizone cream after my eyes swelled, but that just…took the itch off a bit.  It was too painful to scratch, so that wasn’t too tempting.Ew.

Glad it’s over!  But I had a good excuse, not blogging;)