Archive for the ‘dear diary’ Category

How doth the little busy bee…

Trying to catch up a little on many things, blogging included:

  • t! finished his contract working in Montreal, and started a new one working from home. Schedules & stuff are a little up-in-the-air as a result. Having someone else walk the dog most afternoons is awesome.
  • My dad had surgery to implant a feeding tube because he could no longer reliably swallow his food. The surgery went really well, and he’s doing OK.
  • t! and I are both jogging regularly. t! does 10k almost every day, and I’m currently doing 4k on a 4-days-on, 1-day-off schedule. My plan is to gradually increase until I can reliably do a 5k run most days.
  • The chickens are doing well. One died unexpectedly, but it was one of the smallest ones, so we’re thinking it might have had some kind of congenital defect that caught up with it. All the others are healthy and active and really enjoying spending lots of time out in their outdoor run. We will start butchering the extra roosters quite soon.
  • I’ve started Karate classes again, after a long (4 years?) hiatus. The local club trains Thursday nights in a high school gym that’s a 10-minute drive from here. It’s an informal class with a fun atmosphere. There are 4 black-belt instructors who rotate teaching.
  • Carter is pretty much recovered from his broken leg, he still favours it a little late at night when he’s tired, but he comes jogging with me fairly regularly, and that doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
  • t!’s band Invisible rocked Clyde’s on Saturday night
  • I went to the Akwesasne International Pow Wow on Sunday and had a wonderful time.

There will be more posts about the chickens, and quilting, and other things, forthcoming.

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An edited version of the four-part series of posts I wrote about my spiritual path has been published in

My contributor’s copy arrived in the mail today. Wheeee!

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This morning, for the first time, I woke up to one of my roosters crowing! It was yet another check mark on my list of “Now I feel like a real homesteader” moments.

Also, last night’s headcount was 25 chickens. So either I’m counting wrong, or our escapee has found her way back home.

The chickens still refuse to spend any time outdoors. I’m going to try to build them a better ramp this weekend, in hopes that that will encourage them out into the run.


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Hi, I’m back. Back from our trip to the UK and back to (hopefully) regular posting. Catch-up from a week away and starting a new part-time job as a copy-editor put posting on the back burner for a bit, but now I have a bunch of catch-up to do, so here goes…

The trip to the UK was to attend my sister Cynthia’s wedding. We went for a week and had a lovely time. The wedding was gorgeous, everything went perfectly. As my sister said the next morning “I wouldn’t change a single thing – except maybe the time I nearly tripped over my dress.” And that was a very minor trip, too.

For a wedding gift I made them a throw-sized quilt:


The pattern is called “Disappearing 9-Patch” because you make a bunch of regular 9-Patch blocks and then you slice & dice them, re-arrange them, and sew them back together again. I did my first pieced back for this quilt (and learned how hard it is to get a pieced back to line up straight).


I even had time to put a label on this one:


I chose the fabrics (from the “Bistro” line by Moda) based on what I know of my sister’s tastes, and hopping I guessed right on the colour scheme – I had no idea if it would match any of their decor, so I was very, very pleased when I walked into their house and saw the sofa and curtains in their living room, which the quilt matches quite well. They will be able to curl up under it to watch TV, which is exactly what I made it for.


We gave it to them on the evening before their wedding day and they really liked it.

Now I’m working on a whole bunch of other quilting projects, including blocks for a couple of on-line swap groups. I’m also starting to learn some new techniques including English paper-piecing and foundation paper-piecing. More about those when I have something to show!

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Feeding time

My mornings are starting to settle into a new routine: drink tea (t! leaves a cup of tea for me on the bedside table every morning when he leaves for work), get up & get dressed,  take the dog out to do his business, feed the dog (t! feeds the cats before he leaves), feed & water the chicks, then have my own breakfast. I’m well aware that this winter, the morning routine is going to include putting on my snow boots and jacket to take a gallon of warm water out to the chicken coop!

Feeding the chicks involves going out to the lawn with a pair of scissors and harvesting a couple of generous handfuls of grass, clover, and dandelion greens, which I then snip small. This gets mixed in with the chick starter in the feed trough. I really can’t tell how much of the green stuff they are actually eating, but hopefully they are learning that the green stuff is also food. 

Here is today’s cute chick pic, ‘all lined up at the feed trough’:


The chicks are two weeks old today!

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12 days old

I moved the chicks from their cardboard box into larger quarters today. When I picked them up at the hatchery, I bought a roll of something called “Brooder guard” which is essentially a roll of corrugated cardboard that is designed to stand up on its own. So now that have a larger, corral-like structure in the garage, which both gives them more space and better accommodates their new feeder. They kept kicking the pine shavings into the round baby-chick feeders and packing them full, so I bought them a ‘reel’ feeder, which comes with a rotating top rail attachment that prevents them a) standing in the feeder (theoretically, some of them are still small enough to fit), and b) perching over the feeder. Both of these to try to keep the feeder chick poop-free.

Here is a picture of the new set-up:


And here is a picture of the chicks:


Here is the picture from when they were 4 days old for comparison:


Quite a difference! They haven’t grown much bigger, but they are growing feathers like mad. This is probably partly genetics (as an old-fashioned breed, they haven’t been bred to put on body weight as fast as possible) and partly the fact that even with the heat lamp, the brooder in the garage is a little bit cooler than it really should be.

They are growing feathers at vastly different rates though, still. Here’s a picture showing off the long wing feathers on one of the chicks:


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Rowan Tree Farm

On Saturday, in the pouring rain, a bunch of our pagan friends came out to our homestead and planted and blessed our fruit orchard with us. In the field to the east of the house, we planted 6 heritage apple trees, 2 cherry trees, 2 plum trees, and 2 rowan trees in a spiral. I planted the first tree, a rowan, and named our homestead: Rowan Tree Farm. Then everyone else took a turn planting a tree and blessing or dedicating it in whatever way they wanted to. I was incredibly touched by how very personal some of the dedications were.

Despite the rain it was a lovely ritual and a wonderful day. Thank you, all.

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I suspect there will be many posts in which I rhapsodize about the chickens…

Today the chicks are one week old, so I got to switch their bedding from paper towel to wood chips. This is because in their first week they are still learning to recognize food, if they had wood chips for bedding, they might eat them, which would make them sick. 

This is nice for a number of reasons:

  • The paper towel got very mucky very fast. The thick layer of wood chips is much more absorbent, and therefore stays cleaner, which is much better for the chicks. 
  • Cleaning the bedding is easier because I can stir the dirty bedding then add a layer of clean on top for a few days, before needing to clean the whole thing out.
  • The chicks scratch in the bedding (think of a cat in a litter box) and so do some of the ‘stirring’ themselves, again keeping the whole thing cleaner, more pleasant, and healthier.

However (you knew there had to be a catch). They scratch very enthousiastically. One of them was trying to dig to China, I’m sure. Which is incredibly cute, but sends the wood chips flying everywhere – including into the water font:


Within two minutes, the font was full of wet wood pulp. Not good. So my ingenious solution was to raise the water font up on a block of wood. Hopefully this will minimize the amount of bedding that ends up in the water. I’ll go and check on them in a few minutes to see.


They are growing feathers! At vastly different rates! Some of them have long wing feathers already, some still have only tiny little stubs. Some are starting to grow tail feathers (I wonder if those are the roosters?) in tiny little straggly tufts.

They are all well. There’s one I’m a little worried about, it’s smaller than the rest and seems weaker. At least one runt in 25 chicks is to be expected, however, so I’m just hoping it’s healthy and will develop normally, even if it ends up smaller than the rest.

And in Carter news: The result of last night’s vet trip is that he is out of the cast and back in the same type of splint he had when this whole debacle started. The vet is very confidant that his leg has healed enough to be safe in the splint. He is not allowed off leash outdoors, nor is he allowed to play with other dogs for another few weeks, but we’re getting there. As we were leaving the vet just after 8pm (we had the last evening appointment), they got a call saying a fellow was on his way in with two dogs, each with a face full of porcupine quills. For one of the dogs, apparently this would make the third time they have pulled quills out of his face!

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Chickens: The chicks are doing really well. They’re eating and drinking and gaining weight and getting bigger and louder and trying to learn to fly. And they’re still incredibly cute. Yesterday I started them on green food in addition to the chick starter (which contains corn, roasted soybeans, wheat, flax meal and minerals). I carefully harvested (with scissors) a tempting selection of green grass, clover, and dandelion leaves from my back lawn, chopped it fine, and mixed it in with their regular food. They liked it just fine. No new picture because they still look exactly the same as they did 2 days ago.

Carter: While he was boarded at the vet’s over the weekend, they x-rayed his broken leg to see how it’s doing. Result: he needs to be in the cast for two more weeks. Then last night t! noticed that the cast looked wrong, and saw that it had ‘slipped’ down his leg about an inch. Where his toes used to stick out the bottom, now they are barely visible. And more importantly, the cast now sits below, rather than covering his elbow. So we’re back to the vet’s tonight to get the cast re-padded.

Field: While I was out walking the dog the other day, I noticed something that looked suspiciously like strawberry leaves. I thought that was silly, the back field couldn’t be full of strawberries, could it? Maybe there is some kind of weed that has strawberry-like leaves. Then I spotted some that had flowers:


They’re strawberries all right! And  they’re everywhere. So in a couple of month’s time, we’re going to be overrun with wild strawberries. I expect the birds will get most of them – in fact I’m guessing that’s how they got here in the first place. Maybe I’ll try to find a nice big patch and rig some bird netting up over them in the hopes of getting a few…

and Garden: I haven’t had a chance to do very much digging. Hopefully soon. I have, however been stockpiling perennials in the garage. Blackcurrant bushes. Rhubarb. Blueberry and cranberry bushes. Asparagus crowns. Grape vines. And herbs: lavender and thyme. Now if the rain will just stop so that I can get out there and plant!

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Yesterday I drove to Carrying Place, Prince Edward County, Ontario to pick up my baby chicks. Carrying Place (named for a canoe portage) is just south of Trenton, and so the drive was about 3 hours each way. Since the hatchery was busy putting together shipments all day, Jason (the owner/manager/chicken breeder) asked me to come by at 7pm. So I got home at 11pm last night, with a box full of peeping baby chicks. 

Since I had prepared (mostly) their new home in advance, it didn’t take too long to settle them into their new (temporary) home, a large cardboard box:


They are all healthy and eating and drinking well – as far as I can tell. I peer into the box and see some chicks eating and drinking, but since they’re all pretty much identical, I have to hope that this means they’re all well. I will be checking them several times a day, and making sure that none of them are sitting in a corner looking miserable. Keeping the temperature up in the 30°C – 35°C range that it’s meant to be in for the chick’s first week is proving to be a challenge. When I tested my set-up last Friday the heat lamp was doing a great job, but it now occurs to me that I did the test on a warm afternoon. The heat lamp was struggling to keep the temperature up in the (insulated) garage when it went down to 6°C overnight last night, but the chicks all seem to be doing fine.

They were hatched on Friday, May 1st, so they were three days old when I picked them up, and when these pictures were taken. Yes, they are incredibly cute.


Here is an information page with some good pictures of what the chickens should look like when they’re all grown up. My chicks are the “partridge” coloration, which is a variant of the Chantecler that was developed in Alberta in the 1930s. I chose that variant because I’m hoping to let the chickens free range when they are big enough, and the partridge coloration seems like it would provide the best camouflage.

Jason at the hatchery thoroughly approved of these as a starter flock for a new homesteader. He said the demand for the old-fashioned, dual purpose (eggs and meat), homesteader-friendly heritage breeds was huge this year. He’s sold out of almost everything. 

I feel like we’re “real” homesteaders now. We have Livestock!

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