Tag Archives: woodland creatures


And that, my friends, is a wrap

This gallery contains 34 photos.

That, my dear friends, was a doozie of a farming season.  The last farmer’s market was yesterday; our last CSA box went out on Tuesday.  We just harvested the last of the corn and tomatoes to process for winter, and … Continue reading

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!

Options if I’m unable to find a teaching job next year

1) Knitting

Broken seed stitch socks

Broken seed stitch socks

Featherweight cardigan

Benefits include the fact that I do this anyways and that I can literally (not figuratively, I promise) do it with my eyes closed.  Drawbacks include the fact that I refuse to knit with crap yarn, so would spend all of my earnings on more yarn (this is what I do already with all of my earnings from knitting).  Additionally, even if I knit 24 hours a day, I don’t think I could even make enough money to buy dog and chicken food.  Maybe I should go to the Equator and run on a beach ball at 1000 miles an hour, because then the sun would stop moving in the sky.  Maybe then I could knit fast enough.  (I was listening to a Radiolab podcast on the way to work today… did you know that every day is 54 billionths of a second longer than the day before?  This is officially the shortest day of the rest of your life.  Huh…)

2) Flower farmerGaillardia - not another word for a yucky stomach illness

Iris, but not the grape kool-aid kind

Tree peonyThere’s lots of benefits here too… like the fact that I own a farm, that I like to get my hands (and feet for that matter) dirty, that I love flowers and all things colourful, that our bees are all dying and could use all the help they can get… the list can go on.  I’m trying my hand at this too, but with one farmer in the family who needs a farm enabler, I’m not sure that farming flowers is really going to help this situation.  We live on a small island and we’re not really equipped, especially the way that BC Ferries is going, to expand our sales off island.  And some people here like to buy our vegetables, and I’m sure some will love to buy our flowers… but lots of other people here like to grow their own, so I’m really not sure that this is the way to financially support us.  It sure does make me happy though.  Maybe less so when it’s raining out.  Or the deer broke through the fence.  Or when there’s too many thistles and blackberries and prickly things.  Or when thrips eat all of my gladiolas.  I don’t know if I’m emotionally tough enough to be a full-time farmer, come to think of it…

3) A herpetologist

Snake eyeballs Inside-out snake skin 35" longI don’t actually want to go back to school to study snakes, even though I think they’re incredibly cool and I love that they eat critters in my garden.  Mostly I just wanted to figure out what the word was for a person who studies reptiles, use that word, teach it to you and show you these pictures of a snake skin that I found in our garden, full with peeled-off eyeballs and everything.  It was still moist when we found it, and the snake was nearby and super shiny.  Plus, I don’t know if the government, or anyone really, funds herpetologists any more than they’re funding education…

Any other clever ideas out there?

The benefits of peer pressure

It rained on Saturday.  All day long.  It was pretty sucky.  It was the first weekend that Jer and I had both been home in weeks, and we were looking forward to getting stuff done around the farm, and then it rained and rained and rained.  Instead, we had lovely tea and lunch with some of our neighbours, and discussed the merits of peer pressure.  Peer pressure can encourage folks to do awesome things.  Some of my students are learning how to read, because all of their friends are reading awesome books, and they want to as well.  I can think of lots of times when I had the inclination to do something supremely un-smart, and my friends, some of whom had much greater smart meters than I did, convinced me to do otherwise.  Seeing as my grandmother reads this blog, I will not delve into my un-smartnesses, only to thank any and all of you whose reason surpasses my own, or at least surpassed it at one point.

So there’s this “thing” going around west coast facebook pages these days, called the Winter Challenge.  Basically, someone gets nominated, jumps into really cold water, and then nominates some other folk.  I got nominated.  Essentially, I was being dared to go jump into frigid water.  Normally, I’d be all on board.  But normally, these are things you do WITH your peers (and then you’d drink beers with them and possibly go hang out in the hot tub of some person that you kind of met once, at a party, who said you could use their hot tub, but maybe not at 4 in the morning…), not do because of a dare by your peers over social media.  The whole peer pressure over social media thing strikes me as strange and uncomfortable on a whole lot of levels, but I did it anyways, because jumping into the water is fun, and encouraging others to do the same is fun.  I just hope that we’re thinking about why we do these things.

Spring arrived yesterday.  That also may be why I jumped in the water.  Rain sideways on Saturday, then warmth and sunshine on Sunday.  Thanks goodness.  I don’t know how much more winter I could take.

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

Nighttime noises

I’ve been away from the farm overnight twice recently (once, to Pickathon, which was magical in a way I can’t describe and which gave me insight into the me I used to be, a me that I realized I miss a lot sometimes.  It was exactly what I needed when I had no idea I needed it and I am a lucky lucky girl to have the opportunity, the wealth, the time and the friends who enable me to let loose and be extravagant with my life.  The other time was to Saltspring, for the lovely, beautiful wedding of a dear friend of Jeremy’s), and while both times I slept in my tent for the most part, each time I also spent at least a night in one of two cities – Portland and Victoria.  Both times I was absolutely astonished by the level of noise that a city emits during the dark hours.  Sirens, beep beeps, honk honks, screeches, and once, a man struggling with a mental disability was having a really shitty night and was angry and confused and aggressive and very very loud outside of the building I was sleeping in.  I was amazed.  I didn’t remember cities being so loud.  I couldn’t figure out how people could SLEEP while there was so much going on.  Then I got to my tent, in the forest, and I slept (although not very much during the dark hours at Pickathon, and that was okay too), and all was good.

2 nights ago, back at home, I almost wished to be living in a city.  There were noises here, many of which I couldn’t place, and I almost longed for sirens and beep beeps and honk honks, but never for people having (likely) schizophrenic episodes outside of my window, which made me feel guilty and confused about my feelings of safety and security and wonder about where people should have these moments, but that’s not the point.  My house was noisy.  My dog had a bad dream, or something, and started howling like mad.  Then there was a very strange noise, that I thought sounded like a babbling brook in my living room and Jeremy thought sounded like a ghost, although he wouldn’t say that in the middle of the night, just in case saying it made it true (we have since decided it was probably something falling onto our tin roof).  Then, at around 4 am, there was screeching.  Kind of like shrill rat-sized mice, screeching in our walls.  It sucked.  It was awful.  Jer was convinced it was mice after he got out of bed and figured out where it was coming from – the kitchen wall outside our window.  He came back to bed, we tried to go to sleep and failed.  The screeching didn’t stop.  We got back up, found the noise, and I got a hammer to pull off one of the battens from our siding.  It wasn’t a rat-sized mouse, or even 10 of them, battling it out in the night.  It was a little bat.  Stuck in the siding, screaming and screaming it’s distress call.  No other bats were coming to the rescue, for this bat must have been saying “Stay away!  The hole never ends!  I’m stuck and scared and I can’t get out and I’m going to die here and I don’t want to, please don’t make me!”

So we let the bat out, and it climbed up the wall of our house and flew away (and we both ducked and covered, because while bats are totally cool, it was 5 am and we were tired, and bats are still kind of creepy).

Last night there were no noises, other than rain on the roof, and now I’m happy I don’t live in the city.  No surprises there.

A treatise on being gnarly

A parent gave me a card yesterday.  She told me to open it after school, so I did.  It explained that she had found out that I didn’t have a job a couple of weeks ago and that she was really sorry.  She wrote that she hoped I didn’t lose faith in myself as a teacher, because she knows how far her son has come and how much he enjoys coming to school.  She said that she thinks I’m a fantastic teacher, and that her son would say the same thing, although he would probably use the word “gnarly”.

I love my job and I love it when my students appreciate me.  It makes me kind of teary just to think about it.  Being teary is probably not gnarly, but maybe we can make an exception, just once.

I’ve had a hard time processing farm/wilderness  boundaries this week.  Years ago I had little sympathy for farmers who lost a sheep, or two or three to a lone wolf or bear or other predator.  Certainly I understood that loss of life is sad, devastating, horrible.  I always got that part.  The part I had trouble reconciling was my love for the wild spaces and places.  I have a deep appreciation for wolves or bear or eagles or unicorns.  I know that their lives are deeply affected when we destroy their natural habitat and turn it to pasture.  I know that they have babies they need to feed, and that there simply isn’t much food to feed their young’uns when they’re surrounded by said pasture, so I kind of got taking a sheep so they can make babies, and carry on.  I was naive (I grew up in the suburbs, I don’t know if you can blame me) and I liked big (and cuddly) animals.

When I moved here, my opinion hadn’t changed much.  I got that the wild critters still needed to eat, and Jer and I have always envisioned that at least half of our property will stay “wild” (or as wild as it can be with humans and their dog living next door).  The deer were a different story, because they’re trying to take over the universe and they eat my vegetables and my flowers and I want them to stop.  But while I was sad when a hawk got a bunch of our chickens, or a raccoon (maybe) ate our ducks, or a mink got some of our other chickens… I don’t know… I kind of got it.  I was okay (or maybe I just think I was) because we take a lot from our property.  We’ve taken a good chunk of land and told some of the critters to bugger off, and these animals were the penitence we had to pay.  I know it’s not fair for someone else to pay our penitence.  I’m not trying to say that my thought process was logical.  It just was.

But then last week a mink got into our chicken house (the one with our laying hens in it) and killed a bird.  In the middle of the night.  Jer heard it dying and ran out and the mink ran away.  We found the hole where it had dug through, patched it, and went back to bed.  It came back an hour later and dug in through another hole.  Luckily no chickens died the second time.  3 days later it got another bird.  By this point we were down to 3 hens, from the 6 we had a week earlier (1 had been taken away by a flying bird earlier in the week… something I accepted as one of our dues).  We filled more holes, piled rocks around the edges, and felt like shit.  I read something this week that summed up my sentiments…

“The goal of predator proofing is to balance safety with freedom for the chickens and other domestic fowl we care for. We want to provide them with every opportunity to exercise their free will and natural instincts, but because they are here at our whim we are responsible for keeping them out of harm’s way. We also need to safeguard them in a way that respects and protects the wild animals we live among who are entitled to equal consideration.”

-Mary Britton Clouse, Chicken Run Rescue
So that’s how I felt.  I wasn’t doing my job in regards to my chickens, and I wasn’t doing my job in regards to this mink (who is a stinky, stinky, STINKY creature, by the way), because I was telling him that it was okay to kill my chickens and I was letting him do so and eventually he would get fat and die on chicken blood clogging his arteries because I was so recklessly feeding him.  Or her.
Last night the mink came back again.  It killed another 2 of our hens, and tried for our last one, who lost some blood but is still alive.  We’ve moved our chickens, and are re-fortifying their residence.  And I feel rotten, because we didn’t learn our lesson, and because this wild, stinky critter is confusing my belief system.  I don’t hate the mink, I just hate the fact that it stole hours of sleep away from me, and that it doesn’t have enough food on our property to leave the hens I promised to protect alone.
Bad chicken mom.  I had a bad teacher moment today when I told my students that a positive rotation in a Cartesian plane is clockwise.  It’s not.  That’s a negative rotation.  Points to anyone who can tell me why.
Even if sometimes I’m a bad teacher, and sometimes I’m a bad chicken mom (please don’t judge me on the fried chicken incident either), at least my 13 year-old students think I’m gnarly.
And it only costs $2.21 to fill my scooter/moped/putput named Dot up with gas at the new Denman Island gas pump named Wayne.