I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Friday, 27 June 2008

peep peep

First off, since I didn't blog yesterday, I must note that R is now a twelve-year-old. My little girl is in her last preteen year. The day was spent pretty quietly as she will celebrate tonight with D home for birthday supper (R's choice: crab cakes, corn on the cob, and salad) and next week with friends. She's reached the point of legally babysitting (YESSSSS! D and I can go out without so much sitter arranging!!!) and is growing up to be quite a young lady. Easygoing, thoughtful, and funny. Love her.

The chicks (aka chicken nuggets) seem to be happy in their little brooding area, which is decidedly low-tech but does the job well. We put plywood on the floor, covered it with shavings and then paper towel for the first few days, and made four walls using hay bales. This serves to keep the chicks in, keep the heat in, and give them some entertainment as they pick at the strands of hay. The heat is courtesy the heat lamp that we use to keep the layers warm through the winter, the feed in a little trough with a guard on the top so they don't sit in their food, and the water in a waterer that uses a little mason jar.

They also listen to CBC radio, since we read that classical music helps them stay calmer and grow better (that, and the noise discourages predators from coming in). Either that, or it's to expand their culture. They've gotten classical, Gregorian chant, and some nice jazz so far.

They're pretty funny little babies. They tottered around for the first day but now are more sure of their footing and will suddenly run across the space flapping their little wings. Others will sit quietly on the floor and just put their heads down and fall asleep, looking the picture of peace and quiet until another one runs right over top and wakes them up. Their little peeping seems happy and calm and they all seem to be alert and healthy.

The pullets (laying hens), meanwhile, are also settling in and have figured out that they can in fact sleep on the roost and go outside, though Biddy continues to be quite a bully. I've given her to the end of the weekend to play nicely and get along with the others, or there will be dire consequences.

Some of the new girls have been named, including Miss Havisham 2 (named after the first Havvie, lost to predators last summer, who was named after a Charles Dickens character), Pickie (she was picking at some of the other hens), Lickie (she has this strange habit of sticking her tongue out as if she's licking the air), and the one I've called Other Chicken (wonder if that name will stick?).

Today is caring for the birdies, visiting with a friend, baking biscuits and a couple more batches of jelly for the farmer's market tomorrow, making R's dinner. Quite domestic, really. Maybe I'll do something rebellious.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


We drove to CP today, to the Wool Growers' Co-operative, to pick up our new birds. We saw the ready-to-lay hens in their crates outside the door (picture yellow crates that cluck, and occasionally a head peeking out the top), then went inside to hear a chorus of peeping.

Half an hour later, we were headed home with a crate of a dozen hens and a little cardboard box that peeped as it rode in the car for us. They are adorable: yellow balls of fluff with little beaks, bright dark eyes, and cute little feet. When we got home we set up a brooding area with water (had to show them where it was, otherwise they won't find it), litter covered with paper towel (otherwise they'll eat the litter) and a heat lamp (otherwise they'll freeze to death) set not too low (otherwise they'll cook to death). But they are cute. Hard to picture eating them right now, but in 3 months they will be providing us with home-raised, range-fed chicken. Right now they are peeping as they move around, occasionally climbing into the feeder, and generally eliciting many "awww"s from the girls.

The hens, meanwhile, screamed bloody murder at me as I fished them out of the crate. Most just tried to squirm and flap away while shrieking, but a couple were more aggressive and took to pecking at my hands, but after some work they were all in the coop and now they seem to have settled down. Biddy is being quite the bully though, so I'm not sure she has much of a future there. I finally kicked her out of the coop to freerange so the new ones could settle in undisturbed. While I know that may eliminate any chance of her getting used to the newcomers, the good of the twelve hens comes before that of the one. I wonder if she was ticked at me, since she set of straight for the veggie garden and proceeded to dust bathe in my herb plot. Hmph.

But on a positive note: already we have four little bitty pullet eggs! I'd forgotten how small those first eggs are. After the recent drought of fresh eggs it's a welcome surprise.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

it made me laugh

We've gone to the next level in the rat saga. Poison. While D wants to see a dead rat as sure proof, none of the more mechanical type traps are working. So, while at the co-op yesterday to buy new shavings and chick starter, I picked up some.

This is nasty stuff, Rattak. Don't eat it. Don't let kids near it. Wash your hands. The poison control info takes up the entire side panel. Don't look at it the wrong way. Big 'poison' symbol and warning on the front in both languages.

And then underneath: "contains the allergen wheat".

I immediately pictured an elegant dinner party, the hostess saying, "rat poison canapes?" and the guest replying "oh, darling, I'd love to, but I'm allergic to wheat, you see."

And I laughed.

busy, busy

The weekend flew by with much activity and a fair bit of fun thrown into the mix. It was just me and the girls from Friday on, with D away paddling down the Petawawa River with the guys.

Friday, the tractor got fixed (hooray!) so I mowed the lawn. Problem was a slipping fan belt which, since it worked sometimes and wasn't broken, didn't catch D's attention. Our hayfield has once again morphed into a respectable lawn. I alternated that work with the beginning of the coop cleanup, sweeping shavings and dirt out of one stall area.

Having shifted A's birthday party plans indoors because of the rain, it was of course a lovely, sunny day. Oh well. The kids had fun with all the indoor stuff, and the highlight of the evening was running around in the dark catching fireflies before moms came to pick up the guests. A late night all around.

Up early Saturday for the Farmer's Market, the official opening and a very successful day for our jelly business. Repeat customers, first-timers, and even a chef from a local restaurant tasted and bought. R and M were quite the sales ladies, and A was the CFO, getting change for her sisters. We also noticed something very important: the strawberries are out.

After the market, it was off to Seren's house and a water park by the river with Seren, the gaffer, and another friend and her two daughters. The kids had a ball and I started realizing how tired I was. Home again to a quiet evening before church Sunday.

After church we took advantage of the lovely sunshine to go to the local field and pick berries for about an hour. Oh, that first taste of a sun-warmed berry! Divine. Of course the girls had second, and third, and fourth tastes. D got home that night quite late but having had a great time.

Monday saw much more coop cleanup. Much, much more. The stall that will house the meat birds was done first, then the big job of the coop itself. I lost count after 10 wheelbarrows of shavings and spilled feed and manure made its way out of the barn. My shoulders are sore, my hands blistered, but the coop is clean. Biddy wasn't quite sure what's going on. Wait 'til she gets 12 new friends. It may go very well or very not-well. We'll see.

The girls were a huge help by washing and hulling the berries while I did that, and last night R and I made one batch for the market, then they went to bed and I made a batch for us.

Chicks come tomorrow, more jam and jelly to make, R's party to figure out.

Oh, and there's laundry and ironing.

Friday, 20 June 2008

and then there was one redux

All that about returning hens was for naught as Ninjy, the hen who spent five days out of the coop while we were away, had been fading (literally - her eyes had a dull look and her comb not the bright red that it had been) and lethargic. When I went into the coop yesterday late in the morning, Biddy was happily strutting around the coop and eager to go outside, while Ninjy sat in a nesting box where she'd been the night before and looked at me through sleepy eyes. Hm. I moved her a bit and she opened her eyes, then seemed to drift off to sleep again - very atypical.

I wasn't too surprised when I checked in on our return from errands to find she'd simply died right there. She'd been looking faded since we'd been home and I'm wondering if she ate something nasty while she was out. There were no other symptoms, just - fading. Looks like she just went to sleep.

It's almost two years to the day since we got the hens. Query: do they have an expiration date stamped on them that I didn't find?

Once again Biddy is the confirmed winner for Survivor:Poultry.

Five days until the new recruits arrive, and much coop cleaning to do in the meantime. Meanwhile I think I've figured out some of the coop design issues for the new crew. The rat remains at large (and very large at that), so the chicks will take up residence in the summer kitchen.

Tonight is A's redesigned indoor party. Instead of swimming, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, catching fireflies and running around with glow sticks, we'll be in the house, eating fruit dipped in chocolate, decorating cupcakes, and watching Enchanted.

Forecast for tomorrow (Farmer's Market) not looking good, but then again, for last week the forecast was also for thunderstorms, with nary a flash in the sky to show for it. We'll have our tent and jelly ready to go. After that, a nice visit time with Seren and other friends.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

i'm thinking... ark is looking pretty good right about now.

Today A is 10 years old. We had her birthday family dinner last night (Her request: tortellini tossed with marinara/ricotta and herbs, then baked with mozzarella over top. Brownies made by R over ice cream for dessert) as tonight is busy with tennis lessons and band rehearsal. Her party was scheduled for tomorrow night with an outdoor after-dark plan of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, swimming, catching fireflies, and tag with glow sticks on. Given the forecast, we're shifting to an indoor party with a Webkinz theme. We'll see how that all plays out. She is excited either way to spend the evening with her friends and celebrate her special day. Today's question: How on earth do I make a Webkinz cake?

M had her first (almost) tennis lesson on Tuesday, when rain (again!) meant the court was slippery and unsafe, so it was cancelled. She was excited though to get her racquet. The writeup had said they would be provided, but I imagined a well-used lender, not the sweet little 'Steffi 21' brand new pink junior-size one she's now happily sporting and gets to keep. We'll see what the rain means for tonight's scheduled lesson.

R has been a huge help in the kitchen as we've made lots of jellies to sell Saturday at the Farmer's Market. Much more stock and variety this week as it's the official opening day. I am wondering why, oh why, did I never make pepper jelly before? It's easy and lovely.

And on the extended family front, I have a new niece! She's 3 years old and has just been adopted in South Africa by the B's. The details are on Bee's blog.

Enough thinking. The day is already full and the party change plans are making it more so. On we go.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

sound and lights


No, not country-and-western. I am not a C&W girl.

Real country-style. Last night the fireflies were out in full force, making the nearby field look like someone had snuck in and strung twinkling Christmas lights all around. There are, no exaggeration, thousands out there. The lights, on and off, move about the field as they blink and we could even track the flight of some of the closer ones. I know they are just bugs, but the light is enough that I will perch by a window sill and watch them every night for a while. Our field is a big, twinkly singles bar for fireflies.

The sound, meanwhile, was provided by the local chorus of frogs. We were able to pick out three different types by their calls. From the low rumblings of bullfrogs to the higher pitched leopard frogs, it was a constant stream of sound - the creek is, apparently, also a place for single animals.

Who knew the farm was so sexy?

Monday, 16 June 2008

where to start

Direction would be a good thing right about now. Lazy days of summer? Ha!

The lawn is still long and will continue so until the tractor is fixed. Unless I mow it with the push mower (and here I fall over laughing slightly hysterically). Uh-huh, a couple of acres of long grass with the push mower. It'd be easier to bring a few cows over and let them graze my lawn, except that my garden would be decimated and there would be a bit of ... um ... cleanup after. And I thought the dogs were something to pick up after!

The farmers' market last Saturday was loads of fun, selling and chatting and feeling very grassroots about life in general. Meeting farmers and beekeepers and such. R did a great job on both the selling and chatting fronts. We are selling preserves - jellies and pickles and jams. The bread & butter pickles sold well and the cranberry-wine jelly was also a big hit. We got to know some of the customer base and saw that there was definitely a market for sugar-free products. The sweetener will coast a lot more than sugar, though. I am contemplating going to every coffee shop in the area and stealing all the little sweetener packets on the tables. But then I'd be blacklisted from Timmy's and we just can't have that, can we?

So this week we have jellies, more pickles and such to make.

The rat is still at large in the coop. There are various trappy things around. I'm considering explosives.

New layers (12) will be arriving next week, as well as this summer's farm experiment: a dozen chicks to raise for our own farm-raised meat. They'll not be in the coop until either the rat is gone (but then, how do you know? Do they leave forwarding addresses?) or the chicks are large enough to not be a snack for it. Of course all this means a coop cleaning before the new birds and redesigning the outdoor run to allow for more birds and keeping the meat birds separate from the layers (since their feed is different - calcium supplemented for the layers' eggshells, higher protein for the meat birds to grow nice & plump).

The garden is growing well except for the chickens' raiding. The one poor broccoli plant that had survived the pre-vacation raids disappeared yesterday. Then hens whistled and looked away when I asked them what had happened. Perhaps a fence is in order. More things to plant (or re-plant, as the case may be).

Annuals in the planters around the house would be nice. So would weeding the flower gardens. Yup.

M starts her four-lesson tennis sessions tomorrow night. Botany/survival/orienteering day planned with other homeschoolers on Thursday. Gotta get R and A registered for some archery lessons. Band rehearsal Thursday night. A's birthday Thursday, her party on Friday.

Oh, and buying a pavilion tent today will also be on the list for the market and other outdoor events. We had one that involved some 1,837 pieces of pipe carefully labelled by the Committee for Completely Screwing up Anyone Trying to Build a Tent and several hundred plastic joints put in by the Sub-Committee for Making Sure One Piece is Missing, but the market organizer saw it when we came and very kindly let us use one of his that comes out of the bag, unfolds like an accordion, and is ready to go.

So, a-shopping we will go for tents and produce and sweetener and maybe, just maybe, the nice man from the tractor store will call back from D's message and come to our rescue.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

the whims of machinery

Our yard is still a hayfield. Not because of the weather, not because we haven't had the time, but for the simple reason that the tractor is misbehaving. No, I haven't lost the key again. Before we went away it had started strangely and quickly overheating, so that mowing had to be done in shifts, going until the needle climbed up to the high section, then stopping it and letting it cool down for a bit. D has worked on it, taken the front panels off to see inside and clean it up so that the tractor looks pretty well naked, but it's beyond his expertise and the tractor manual. And the grass laughs and keeps waving in the wind.

Meanwhile, the pool pump didn't want to miss out on the action and so has not been pumping very well. The water does move, but there's not enough pull to use the suction and vacuum the leaves and such from the pool bottom.

I won't make the mistake of saying, "well, at least the (insert item here) is still working." Whatever it is would hear me and promptly break.

Friday, 13 June 2008

and the green grass grew all around


We arrived last night, having enjoyed our cave tour and then been amazed during our walking/rafting tour of Ausable Chasm. We drove home through Lake Placid but as the ski jump towers weren't open to see the view from the top, we continued home.

Man, does grass ever grow a lot in 2 weeks. The poor farm looked neglected and sad and very overgrown. But after some mowing it's looking better. Now the gardens are crying out to be weeded; the veggie garden got some attention today but it will be many days' work before it's all up to where it should be.

Another surprise awaited us in the chicken coop. The surviving hen from the attack 2 weeks ago was not in fact Honey, but Ninjy (named by R after D said her funny noises sounded like a Bruce Lee movie). So she and Biddy were happy today to come out into the run, but with all the mowing and long grass that's where they stayed. Lots of work to do in there over the next two weeks to prep for the newcomers.

The cows are here. I do like looking out and seeing them. Not enough to get my own, mind you, but it is nice to have them back. The calves are cute and I recognize some of the cows. Yes, I know that's sad.

More to do tomorrow, but the impending rain will hold off some work. And tomorrow will be our first day at the Farmer's Market - not sure what the rain will mean for that, but we'll head down and see if it's a go.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

too much to say

So we are most of the way through the 2008 Family Vacation and Adventure Tour With a Wedding and Much Driving and a Big Surprise for the Girls. Needs a catchier title, but there you are. I'm going into point form mode; apparently I can say more. Right?

- drive to Minnesota: fun. The girls do travel awfully well. Some scary weather on the way with insanely heavy rain, hail, and a temp drop of 7C so fast it had us watching for funnel clouds. Spent our night on the road in Grand Rapids, Michigan, reconnecting with two very dear friends and enjoying the sunset over Lake Michigan. I had no idea they had such big sand dunes there.
- week before the wedding: fun. D got in several rounds of golf, I shopped a bit, spent a day at Mall of America, helped out as we could, and I had a muchly-enjoyed coffee time with Bean.
- wedding: fun. Beautiful bride, handsome groom, lovely service, family fun. My song for the couple was loved by them (and others, but the main audience - Bean and J - loved it and that's what mattered). Several quiet tears on my part, wishing (do I ever stop? No.) Josh was there with us.
- weather: wacky. Went from cool Canadian late spring to tornado warnings and scary looking skies over Minnesota, seeing the aftermath of high winds in Wisconsin, and outrunning severe thunder and rain in Illinois. Didn't stick around for the flooding in the midwest but did get into the heat wave of the eastern states.
- big surprise of the first week: email from Seren who has been watching the farm, to say the one remaining chicken was fine, but my garden was dug up by - wait for it - Honey, the presumed-eaten chicken. So the solo chicken is now two again. The question: where did she spend her time from Saturday to Thursday? Once again I wish they could talk.
- big surprise of the second week: springing two nights at Great Wolf Lodge on the girls. Oh, the looks on their faces when we sprung that one on them. We were in the huge lobby "to see what it looks like inside", and they were gawking at the lobby and the waterpark when D told them that we had booked the reservation two months ago. And oh, there's a MagiQuest too. The room was a huge hit with the built-in cabin for the kiddies. Two days of the biggest decisions being what to eat and what to play. Not bad.
- the journey home: driving today through the Poconos, past the Catskills, and into the Adirondacks. Very pretty. Took longer because we decided to ditch the interstates for a while, but led to us discovering a cute little town with a cute vintage diner where we had lunch with real, live, ice-creamy shakes. Mmmm. R wondered after one taste, "why don't they make them like this any more?"
- the field trip: a visit to a cave system in NY state, walking and seeing cave formations we'd learned about in science lessons. Beats a book. Tomorrow, continuing through the Adirondacks to a chasm explored by Champlain. So really, it's all part of the kids' education. Really.

I'll post photos later.