Tag Archives: animal husbandry

Sleep and the lack thereof

Once upon a time, about 5 years ago actually, sleep deprivation was all about a mink eating our chickens in the middle of the night.  To be honest, eating isn’t a fair representation of what was happening, as the mink in question (and pretty much every other mink) mostly drain their prey’s blood and then move on to the next prey.  This way, they can massacre a whole flock pretty fast.  Now, I digress… 5 years ago, we weren’t sleeping because our chickens were being massacred.  Now, our chickens are still being massacred, but mostly because we’re not sleeping enough to remember to close them up at night religiously, and a raccoon has figured out where there’s food.

And why, you ask, are we not sleeping?

Well, because of her.  See, last year we grew more than vegetables (and flowers.  We grow a lot of flowers these days).  Last year, we grew a human.  She decided to start hanging out on the outside of my body on February 15th, and since then, we sleep less than we did before.  More some nights, less right now because she has a cold and snorfles when she breathes, and then the snorfles don’t get her enough air, and then she cries, and then we don’t sleep.  It’s pretty hard to sleep through some of the snorfles too.  So we don’t sleep.  I’m learning to cope on less sleep, but the coping sure is pretty meager sometimes.  I certainly don’t feel very intelligent, and I struggle regularly with finding words.  Like always.  Words are tricky monsters.

So we grew a human.  Now, we’re back to growing vegetables and flowers, and I’m still growing a human.  The vegetables and flowers were taking a bit of a back seat, which was okay because the spring was horrid (as was the winter and the fall… remember October when it rained every single day?), but now it’s hot, and the vegetables and the flowers need to become more of a priority, but that’s hard without the sleep.

Anyways, I hope that I’ll be back to hanging out on the blog more now that I’m not growing a human inside my body and not starting (and finishing!) my Masters every moment of spare time I had.  I also, of course, am hoping for some sleep.

The garden at the beginning of April

April 1st – First day with dirty fingernails

I think I’ve come to accept that the kitchen, in spring, will always be used to start seeds…

Seeds are growing

Oh, the stories that chickens could tell…

The chickens around this place are a little more ridiculous than normal these days.  You see, I hatched out a batch of chicks with my students this year, and after all of that was said and done, we’ve got 10 birds that have survived.  They’re the teenagers of this pack, and, for the most part, they’re a gang of teenagers.

The teenagers

The teenagers

They hang out, get bullied by some of the adults (maybe their parents), but there’s a total hierarchy amongst them.  Two of them (we call them the Egyptians, due to their colouring), have started roosting in the house at night, on the TOP most roosting bar, pooping on all of the adult birds below them, all night long.  But, as teenagers are wont to do, and to be, there’s one that just doesn’t fit in.  Normally, in human situations, I would blame this on the big group, and accuse them of being conformist and traditional and rude and mean.  This, however, is not a human situation, and the bird who doesn’t fit in is by no means normal. Not in the cool, non-conformist way of not being normal either.

She’s just stupid.

The not-as-clever chicken

She gets lost in the forest.  When we call her, she wanders further afield.  Last night she didn’t even make it back to the house, and so very easily could have been eaten by any one of the predators in our creek… but she didn’t, so she was out there this morning, cheep peeping along, trying to find her way home.  Seriously.  In the wild, this chicken would be dead long ago.  The way it stands now, I don’t know how long she’ll survive.

Plus, on top of the teenagers, we have a baby.

Disheveled mom and babe

Disheveled mom and babe

Although, the baby is growing up fast (don’t they always?).  She was hatched out by a pair of moms (a lesbian love story in the chicken house), and the moms have swapped their momly duties in the past month or so that she’s been around.  The baby’s gone back to the barred rock mom, who is looking as disheveled as any new mom I know.  The other mom, a red rock, has gone back to the land of Ferdinand, our rooster.  The saga in the chicken yard is mighty ridiculous these days.

Stories on the farm are as to be expected.  The cooler crops (peas, salad, lettuce, broccoli, etc.) are really enjoying the cool weather.  Imagine that, huh?  The warmer (and the hot ones especially) like corn and tomatoes and cucumbers and some of my flowers would like it a little… warmer?  So would I.  Then I would spend more time at the beach and the lake and in the water and that would make me happy.  Either way, warm or cool, the garden is growing.  I took a few pictures at our market table this morning (I ALWAYS forget until the end of the market, when the table looks sad and depleted), but my camera was on a funny setting, so excuse the general non-focusness of the pictures.  Then, when I went onto the farm to take some pictures, all I took shots of was flowers.  And broccoli.  I like broccoli.  I’m clearly biased in regards to the crops we grow, but I think you all already knew that.







Sunflower and honey bee

Sunflower and honey bee







Market table

Market table

Market table

Market table

Market table

Market table

The things that are awesome and the things that aren’t

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s rained a lot over here on the west coast as of late.  We got over 300 mm of rain in 36 hoursMaple tree coming down last week, and another rain warning came in yesterday.  300 mm of rain is enough to make a big mess. Our neighbours’ driveway washed out, a bunch of trees came down because the ground was just too saturated with water, and the town of Courtenay declared a state of emergency.  Thank goodness we had just had the big maple that kept dropping branches on our driveway taken down, because I wonder whether it woThen the whole thing came downuld have fallen (on our house) in the storm.  I kept waiting for school to be cancelled, but it wasn’t.  Anyways, after all of that rain, a day of sunshine seemed like an incredible miracle.  That was today.  It was sunny.  It was miraculous.  We went for a walk.  In the sunshine.  With our friends.  Being on vacation is awesome.

The branches came off first

A very full pond

Things that aren’t awesome are dick roosters who attack people who are here visiting, and then attack me on the bottom of my foot so I step on them and then feel trapped with this angry rooster under my foot until Jeremy comes to save me.  I don’t know who won that fight.  I think most spectators would say that the rooster won, even though I was the one stepping on him.  When we’re eating him for dinner, maybe then I’ll have won.

Tree down on the fence

Another thing that isn’t awesome is a hawk eating our chickens.  After the dick rooster incident we found a pile of feathers.  Then we found a half-eaten chicken.  Damn.

Driveway disappeared

The seasonal ditch became a river

Other things that are awesome include everything.  Jeremy let me get the Christmas tree I wantedWet woods this year, and it’s so tall that, after we cut a foot off the bottom, it extends into our skylight.  It’s amazing.  Plus,          I have an amazing job, an amazing partner, an amazing dog (she did NOT eat this chicken.  This isn’t one of those “we think it’s a hawk but really it’s our dog” chicken deaths), an amazing family, amazing friends, and am just pretty darn lucky all the time.  And then the sun came out

The chicken that would not die

You’ve all heard me talk about our neighbours.  They’re all kinds of awesome.  All kinds, I swear.  A couple of weeks ago they had a chicken who was going through a rough time.  She was blind in one eye from some kind of infection, and the other chickens were giving her a run for her money (the term “henpecked” comes from somewhere and it sure isn’t pretty).  She’d lost half of her comb, and her skull was visible in parts.  Our lovely neighbours asked if we’d take her for a bit, to give her a reprieve from their birds who knew her place in line and were relentless in their attacks.  Of course we agreed, and for a couple of days “Scabby” lived in our house.  When our neighbours found out that “Scabby” wasn’t well enough to live outside with our other birds, they took her back and built her a lovely pen.  They brought her over a dog house and made her feel special.  Her comb healed over, her skin closed up and her feathers started growing back.  We even decided that maybe we shouldn’t call her Scabby, so kind of renamed her Sorrel, but I don’t know if that’s really going to stick.  A nickname’s a nickname, even if it’s not a nice one, right?

*Yes.  All of this mimics schoolyard politics, nicknames and all.  Yes, I feel emotional about it.  Yes, she’s a chicken and I eat chicken.  What’s your point?

Anyways, we ended up taking Scabby/Sorrel back last week.  Chickens shouldn’t be all alone and our birds didn’t see her as the recluse nerd who deserved to be locked into her own locker.  We were still trying to figure out how to encourage her to be social with the other birds, but she was a bit of a recluse.  She may just have been smarter than them.  She is a Houdini, and never ever seems to be in the pen, but is out wandering the garlic or the potatoes or the kale.  We’ve never actually seen her escape, and none of the other birds get out.  She’s just kinda like that.

Until today, when she wasn’t wandering and wasn’t clucking around with the other ladies either.  Until today, when the remains of a white chicken was dropped, unceremoniously, onto our neighbours’ yard by an eagle.  Until Scabby/Sorrel couldn’t be found and was determined to have died as she had lived – free.

Until she was found, hours later, wandering the garlic.  Free.  Alive.

I don’t know where this chicken got her lives, but she’s certainly got lots of them.  And I’m sorry for whichever bird’s life ran out today… maybe that bird lived happily with it’s compatriots and was ready to go.  Who knows.

Here’s a picture of a flower and our 2nd CSA box of the year (it has garlic scapes in it!).Gaillardia

Box #2!

The post that wasn’t posted

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago.  I thought I posted it.  Ended up I saved it and didn’t post it.  Oops.  It said that

“It was our dog.  Maybe that’s why the really pretty bunting didn’t seem to work.  Maybe that’s why it happened on weekends, when Jer happens to spend more time indoors.  He caught her with a chicken in her mouth.  She ran.  He chased her.  The chickens had the eggs scared out of them and we haven’t had an egg in over a week.  The dog seems better now (I don’t even want to remember how angry and hurt and sad I was), and the chickens are, I think, sorting themselves back out.  They must be kind of lonely, as our flock went from 11 to 5 in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Today was Family Day in BC.  That means I didn’t have to go to work.  So I spent the day marking papers, hanging with some of Jer’s fam, and playing in the snow.  I like the snow.

I got a haircut.  I bought new glasses.  I’ll show you a picture when I get the glasses.  They’re blue.  That’s all you need to know for now.”

My birthday amaryllis, with 4 flowersI have the glasses now.  They’re awesome.  And they allow me to see.  It’s awesome.  I’ll get you a picture asap, promise.    Today I went to watch a play at my school.  It was awesome.  Lots of awesome.  An organization came to our school on Tuesday, had an audition with our kids, cast them, rehearsed with them all week, and today there were 2 shows.  So amazing.  I also went for coffee… I’ve finally found the cafe in Courtenay that makes amazing coffee, and it’s going to change my life.

Spring really started to spring here this week – there were crocuses, the nettles were up and almost at edible height, the owls came back, and an eagle perched in a tree in our yard (that has nothing to do with spring – it was just really cool).  Then it snowed.  I don’t know where that leaves the flowers or the nettles, but spring is starting.  I can feel it.

Just outside the garden

Eagle in a tree

The capacity of knitting and friends to unsuck life

Last Monday wasn’t a lot of fun.  I had a rotten optometrist appointment, and then the chicken that Jer tried so hard to save died in the night.  It died in it’s box, inside the house, and I heard it’s death throes and it made me feel like crap.  Stinky smelly pustular crap.

Because Monday sucked, Tuesday did too.  Until I came home.  Jer was in a really good mood, or at least put on the face for me, and it totally changed my week.  Then our best friends from Bella Coola came for a sleepover on the weekend and it was awesome.  Every time we see them we talk about how awesome they are.  And how lovely their son is.  And how happy we are to be their friends.  So even though we lost another chicken on the weekend (and by lost, I don’t mean we took it out of it’s pen and don’t remember where we put it.  By lost I mean something else took it out of it’s pen and left a pile of it’s feathers for us to mourn over.  We’re pretty sure that someone is a hawk.  I like hawks.  I don’t like this hawk.  I don’t quite dislike it enough to wish stinky smelly pustular death throes on it, but I would love for it to clothesline itself on one of the buntings that we’re hanging in the chicken yard.  Stupid hawk.), we had friends to hang out with, and the weekend was totally not sucky, but pretty awesome.

The other non-sucky part of last week was the knitting.  I received the million and a half yards I ordered for Barb’s sweater, and I blocked my 2 sweaters and socks.  See?  I got to wear 3 new knitting projects last week, and I got to cast on 2 others.  Plus, I just started watching Buffy.  Totally non-sucky.

Pattern - Harvest Dew with Brainless gusset

Pattern – Harvest Dew with Brainless gusset

Pattern - Olive

Pattern – Olive

Pattern - Lewis

Pattern – Lewis

Disasters, of the chicken and wardrobe varieties

When we were in Tofino, a couple of our neighbours did a fantastic job of caring for our chickens.  One of them happens to have chicken-in-danger radar.  I thought it was just for her chickens – she would wake up in the night, knowing that there was a raccoon nearby ready to attack.  Ends up her radar transfers to our chickens as well.  3 days in a row we had a hawk in our chicken yard, trying to pick off the birds.  Somehow, all of our chickens were well and accounted for upon our return.  We didn’t see the hawk.  We still haven’t seen the hawk.  Jeremy saw a hawk today, but it wasn’t attacking anything.  We have, however, lost (as in they’ve disappeared, without a trace, and without losing very many feathers) 3 chickens.  Both of the Boots fellas… Boots, and Boots V 2.0.  Also one of our black laying hens.  And Jer’s favourite bird was attacked.  It’s living in a box in our house right now.  It smells like sick chicken and I don’t like it.  We don’t know if a hawk attacked the bird, or our dog (she’s done it before, but only once), or a raccoon, or something else… I’m pretty convinced that it’s a hawk right now.  Anyways, the rest of the birds are on pretty significant lock-down unless someone’s outside with them.Chicken in a box

My grandfather refurnished a family wardrobe for us last year, and it was supposed to live in our bedroom, but no matter how hard we tried it wouldn’t go up the stairs.  So I filled it with yarn, and it hung out in our kitchen for a while, but the plan was to move it into our spare bedroom and get rid of the ugly particle board wardrobe that was in there.  But in order to get the ugly one out we had to take it apart.  So we did.  It’s in pieces outside.  I didn’t even think about whether the wardrobe would get around the corner.  It did, but barely.  I didn’t think about whether it would make it through the door.  It didn’t.  Not even after we took off the door and the doorframe and put a couple of holes in the walls.  So now the wardrobe, still looking like a yarn store and pretty as can be, is back in the kitchen, and the spare bedroom seems a lot bigger without an ugly, yet somewhat useful, wardrobe.Wardrobe disaster