11.02.2014

since the last post...

 ... so, so very much has happened! We are settled in to our amazing new old house, with just a few little things left to be done. (Does everyone wait for so long for carpenters to finish up the last details? It seems to be a common experience.) I can't wait to share boatloads of before and after pictures... but the 'after' isn't quite ready yet. Moving is so. much. work. I had forgotten how much I loathe it, since we'd been in our last house for nine years. Ugh. My heart goes out to you if you're in the process! But we're here now, with the chickens and bees, and a new kitty, and life is pretty darn amazing - I thought I'd share a quick update.

I haven't touched the 'real' camera in awhile, and I'm missing it. I do love having my phone with me, though, for capturing all of those sweet moments that might otherwise be missed. Like P learning to pick up chickens properly, and the boys having some summer fun. T has very specific ideas about having his picture taken, and they usually involve him avoiding the camera in some way.
 On my drive to work, if I take a tiny detour after dropping the boys off at school, there's a causeway over a lake. And on some mornings, I get to see the most beautiful sunrises. The extra 3 minutes is totally worth it. Especially if other cars don't come along and I can take as many pictures as I want to. (My artistic process involves stopping in the middle of the road, since it's a causeway and you can't really pull over.)
And from the back door at the new old house, I've been enjoying sunsets like this, over the back field. There are deer at the edge of the woods many evenings, quietly going about their business. It's so quiet.
Quiet except for two hooligans, that is. The boys are ridiculously cute, as usual. They love it here, too, and are usually very willing to help with chicken chores, stacking wood (our wood furnace is kind of awesome!) and P even helped me to clean the floors throughout the entire house today. We're in the midst of a really nice phase right now with much less bickering than we were dealing with. Moving is such a huge thing - I think we're all settling in and feeling more like ourselves.
The neglected garden that we started before moving in has given us plenty of potatoes, some hefty squash, and the tomatillos were bountiful. I'm dreaming of next year's herb garden and what I'm going to grow for the chickens.
And speaking of the chickens, I've been learning lots! Turns out that bathing one after work isn't too terrible a way to pass the time, even when she stinks and has vent gleet. It also turns out that mites are a thing. We lost one of the ladies to a mink. The mink was promptly dispatched with a bit of assistance from my Dad, with much drama and fuss amongst the other ladies. They've been molting, and I am proud to report that most of the formerly-bare bottoms are now beautifully fluffy. Sherrie's Chicken Rehab is working! I am completely in my element when I'm down at the barn getting them all sorted out and collecting eggs. They're good company, too - so gentle and quiet and funny.
And now it's November. We started lighting the candles at supper tonight, as we usually do on the first night after the time change. The hardest part of this time of year is definitely the darkness. But there are so many things I love about it - being cozy inside with wild weather outside (this weekend was perfect for staying in), ginger and cinnamon, cold, crisp air, apples, daydreams about potential Christmas decor in this new house, scarves and sweaters. I love this season!

8.11.2014

bock, bock, bock

Folks, this post has been a long time in the making. And when I saw 'long time', I mean several years. I have seriously wanted to keep chickens for at least seven years, for a variety of reasons. I wanted the boys to be able to know the joy and responsibility of caring for animals that provide food that we eat every day. I wanted the funny companionship of these lovely creatures. I wanted to be able to feed them kitchen scraps and compost their poop to use it in the garden, making a nice tidy loop. And the eggs! We eat a lot of eggs, and fresh eggs are just the very best. We've been living in town, so I first decided to approach town council about amending the by-law prohibiting backyard hens back in 2010. That didn't go through, and since the spring of 2011, I've been patiently waiting. Reading every book I can get my hands on, visiting friends' hens, and daydreaming about collecting warm eggs. Waiting to find our forever home and property and have space to care for my very own hens and share the whole experience with the boys.

And so, I am so very pleased to report that I am now the proud owner of a flock of a dozen ISA Brown Layers. Allow me to introduce them, won't you?
First, the hens are a year old and already laying. I wanted some instant success and to avoid some of the chick intensity, and these ladies came up at just the right time. The previous owner was having some trouble with pecking in her flock (these twelve were in with many other chickens) and so they arrived here missing lots of feathers "on their butts", as Phillip likes to say. I lovingly refer to my tiny chicken operation as Sherrie's Chicken Rehab, as they appear to be a bit of a motley bunch. Apparently their feathers will take five or six weeks to grow back in, and I'm hoping that since they have some more space and lots of attention, they'll grow back beautifully. I don't know much about their past life, and I've only had them for a week, so I'm always observing them carefully for anything untoward, and I'm hoping that there aren't any underlying health issues with any of them.

They are so sweet and personable already! After a couple of days adjusting, they come trotting over when I arrive, looking for treats. Especially this beady-eyed beauty. She has been dubbed Jessica Fletcher. She's very much a busybody, and comes running as soon as I arrive. Unlike the others, she won't leave my side while I'm cleaning the coop, collecting eggs, and just having a little visit with the hens. She tilts her head from side to side to look me over, pecks at my toes, hands, pant legs, fingers, and waits patiently for me to feed her an extra little treat or two. She also solves murders in her spare time and is a wickedly accurate typist.


 You can see the bare butts above. I'm watching carefully for any signs of broken skin or any other complications.

 The coop was all set up by the previous owner. We gave it a very thorough cleaning, some fresh bedding, and these ladies settled right in. They really are a joy to hang out with, and they're good layers - we collect 8-10 eggs each day.
 This poor hen above seems to have lost the most feathers, and as she was grooming herself a bit, I caught this picture where you can see how bald her back end is.



 Thanks to my sister, who bought me these boots for Christmas last year. Jessica Fletcher really likes to peck at the left one in particular.
Back in 2010, I bought this ceramic egg holder, in full faith that I would have my very own hens' eggs to fill it with someday. I didn't think at the time that it would be four years down the road, but here we are, and it is so satisfying.
If you have chicken experience, please feel free to leave any comments with tips, hints, suggestions, etc. - I'm completely open to any and all advice!

8.02.2014

midsummer



Hello, friends! I collected a few sprigs of lavender that I've been enjoying by the kitchen sink over the past few days, so I thought I would share it with you along with a little update of what's been taking place in my little corner of the world.

First, the bees are doing very, very well. Both hives are settling in nicely. We've been checking on them regularly, and have found both queens each time, saw eggs and larvae at different stages, scraped off a bit of extra comb and even had a few tiny tastes of honey! I am smitten. Adam really is in charge of the bee department, though - he has his beekeeper notebooks and makes the plans and does the research; I'm a more-than-willing participant.



I knew that it would be cool to have bees. I knew that I would be completely enthralled with them and have a sense of responsibility to my tens of thousands of fuzzy little wards. But what I didn't expect was how mindful I'm forced to be when doing the inspections. I can't be holding a frame of brood covered in hundreds of moving bees and looking for nearly-invisible eggs while checking texts or making a grocery list. The mindfulness is its own reward; the experience is such a fulfilling and pleasurable sensory experience that it would be a shame to be distracted. The hum of the bees working away at their tasks, the beauty of light reflecting on a nectar-filled cell, the stickiness of honey and wax covering fingertips, and of course the taste of honey are as rewarding as collecting a harvest from the vegetable garden. But my favourite is the scent - something elusive about the combination of warm moving bee bodies, smoke, honey, and wax is completely intoxicating. 

House news: we're still in our same lovely house, but just for a couple more weeks! We will be renting it out, have tenants lined up, and I'm optimistic that things will work out beautifully with this long and drawn out situation after all. We will be moving to our forever home and farm (farm! I feel like an imposter just typing the word) very, very soon. There are boxes and piles and lists everywhere, and we have some wonderful family who will be helping to look after the boys over the next few crazy weeks as we move. I am doing my best to relax into the whole situation and trust that everything will indeed get done, but the part of me that craves complete order before attempting a task is trying to resist a meltdown since the nature of moving house is such that it... well, it's chaotic and messy and everything that I don't do well with when I'm feeling stressed. Wish me luck and all of the patience, love, and kindness I can muster! It will all get done, and I will do my best to handle it gracefully.

Instead of thinking ahead, though, I want to savour the lovely times that I've already enjoyed over the past month. I've had several great visits with friends old and new, and that really is my favourite part of the summer. I really need that connection with people unrelated to my school-year work-life to make me feel like myself again. And there's nothing quite like a lovely chat with an old friend on a lazy summer afternoon. I've been lucky enough to enjoy several of those over the past few weeks, and I've tried my best to soak in every minute and save it somewhere in my mind for late November or mid-February when I miss it most.


6.22.2014

pinch me - the bees have arrived!

The bees have arrived! It hardly seems real. I've been dreaming of this for years. And now it's really happening!

We installed them on Friday at the new old house, and they appear to be happy and healthy. Above is the nuc box that each hive came in. Each has four frames and many, many sweet little honeybees. The drive home was lovely - a gentle humming in the back of the car that smelled amazing. (And yes, I drove a little bit extra carefully.) Somehow, honeybees manage to make the combined scent of honey and beeswax into something even more rich and lovely than either thing individually. I wish I could describe it accurately. On Friday, we moved them into the boxes that we had ready, where they will settle in, spread out, and keep building. The boys were fascinated, especially Thomas, who pressed his face in as close as he could get for a good look. They're just the most beautiful little creatures. We're planning our move for July, so after that, if you need me, you'll find me sitting and watching their comings and goings.

I am over the moon - so excited to add another layer of life to our new old house!