28 May 2006

The Lamb Rescue Team

The Boy spent Saturday with the Cousin Neighbour kids, who leave for the Yukon on Tuesday morning. The kids were all at a friends' farm for the day, and when I dropped off The Boy's sleepover gear, I was called to assist with a lamb emergency.
One of their sheep had given birth to twins the night before, but one of the lambs was too small and weak and hadn't been able to get up to nurse. The oldest girl found him lying there in the ditch looking nearly dead - when I arrived, they had him indoors, wrapped in a blanket, and were coaxing him to drink calf milk replacer (conveniently on hand) from a bottle. The girls really did have everything well in hand, I was most impressed.
The lamb was a bit chilled, so we found some wheat bags and heated them up for him, then went out to see if we could get real momma's milk. Fortunately, his momma was friendly and cooperative, so the girls were able to milk her (all I did was hold her still!) and the lamb was ready for another bottle by the time we got back in the house. He guzzled that second bottle down and went right back to sleep. This is a picture of the Lamb Rescue Team, and SweetiePie (known generally as "Pie", since that sounds more masculine, I'm informed).

Now, with my newly acquired UFA membership, rubber boots permanently coated in muck, a flock of chickens of my own, and personal experience assisting a Lamb Rescue, I am thinking that I'm a few steps further along to officially qualifying as a Country Girl.

23 May 2006

Lovely long weekend

We had a lovely long weekend. Saturday morning we took all the kids (Union Guy's kids and The Boy) and went to a big water park / swimming pool place for a couple of hours. It was great fun and I discovered that I am very much out of practice: I can only do one length of front crawl before my lungs give out and I am obliged to flip over and scull my way back to where I started from. Whew, that kind of aerobic exercise is a sure indicator of one's lack of oomph!

Inside the house there was some progress this weekend - we got the wall up in the stairwell, and trim around a couple of the windows. The Boy and I have curtains in our bedrooms now, too - Ikea had nice dark blue tab top drapes on sale for $14! Woohoo!

I did manage to get the chickens penned in properly: they now have a fence that is reasonably coyote resistant and they seem utterly uninterested in making any sort of escape. The kittens are quite fascinated by the chickens but have been keeping their distance - you can see one of the cats staring at the birds from his spot beside the piece of driftwood (a gift from a friend of mine who visited the coast and brought it back for me!). I had no idea chickens could be this enteratining - watching them dig and scratch around in the dirt is really quite fun ... even for a human.

The rooster crows in the mornings and we can hear him from the house, but as long as the window is closed it isn't enough to keep me awake (nothing wakes The Boy!). I hear the rooster announcing the arrival of the day, it vaguely registers in my brain, and then I just drift back to sleep. We did get eggs right away - the hens figured out the whole nest box thing without any real trouble, and we have been getting at least seven eggs a day. They are absolutely delicious, and the yolks are so yellow compared to store eggs!

Time to go tidy up the kitchen - I made lasagne for tomorrow's dinner tonight, and baked a few muffins while the oven was hot.

18 May 2006

The chickens are here!

The chickens arrived today!

We had a busy day - we had to go load flowers for the 4-H flower sale, then we came home, kicked the dog out of his kennel and hustled over to Cousin Neighbours to pick up the chickens. Three grownups and two kids climbed into their coop and chased and captured birds. Nine chickens were then stuffed unceremoniously into a beagle sized dog kennel! The dog is going to really wonder why it smells so weird in there...

We unloaded the chickens back home in the new coop and they started wandering around exploring their new digs. They came with a feeder that hangs from the ceiling, and water jugs and golf balls to "suggest" to the hens that they lay their eggs in the nest boxes and not wherever they find a patch of straw, so we got everything set up, took a bunch of pictures, and got out of their way.

Of course, city raised girl that I am, I have no clue what breed any of these are. I'm going to have to look at a chicken book and see if I can figure it out. Cousin Neighbour just said they are black chickens, and red chickens, and a white chicken. Helpful! :)

The rooster sure is gorgeous though, eh? He looks like all the pictures of roosters in story books. Now if THAT doesn't sound like something a city chick would say....

Here they are, all up on the roosts for the night. I hope they have a good rest and Rooster Man doesn't decide to start crowing at 4 am!

17 May 2006


Most of the time these days I am focused on getting the interior of the house done. However, there are some outdoor jobs that need doing as well, and this week one of those took top priority.

I am adopting a small flock of chickens from the Cousin Neighbours (who, sadly for us, are moving to the Yukon ... although they are first taking an entire year to travel with their whole family across Canada and to Bolivia and the Honduras, which is amazingly cool). Anyway, the chickens are slated to arrive tomorrow, and their housing was not ready! The coyotes would be more than happy to have them for dinner, I am sure, so it was important to get a house built.

Remember the blue shed that we lived in when we first came to Apple Jack Creek? Well, half of this little place will now be home to the chickens, and the other half will be storage for any number of odds and ends.

The chicken end of the shed has been walled off with chicken wire, assorted scraps of lumber, and a screen door (also a gift from Cousin Neighbour). The chicken house features a nesting box that is accessible from outside the pen (meaning the humans can go into the shed, lift the lid of the nestbox, and collect the eggs without going all the way into the chicken zone), a droppings pit (meaning that the roosts are over a 'box' that contains lots of straw and can easily be cleaned out via a trap door at one end of the box). I've insulated the walls and the ceiling: the whole shed isn't done yet, just the end by the chickens - I'll probably have to insulate the rest of it before winter, but it can wait.

(Yes, I am aware that I needed the insulation last December when it was minus thirty and we were living in there and freezing our toes ... hey, I figure the birds might as well benefit from my lessons learned in life. Besides, I am not running the kerosene heater for them.)

Outside the shed, fence posts are in the ground to make a chicken pen, and we started attaching wire to the posts. My goodness, t-posts are wonderful inventions. They can be lifted and carried and installed by someone as small as me - with help from The Boy to keep things vertical and properly lined up. Of course, I managed to drop the heavy steel post-banger onto my kneecap and have a bit of a bruise, but hey, isn't it some sort of badge of honour to get a bruise while installing fences that will keep your poultry safe from predators?

Speaking of keeping the poultry safe, I found this idea on the web:

The Chicken Moat

Basically, you put up a predator resistant fence around your garden, then six feet inside of that fence, you put up a poultry resistant fence, making a moat around your garden. The chickens get to run around inside the moat, eating bugs (which then won't eat your garden plants). Deer won't jump over two fences that close together, so your garden is safe from them. As an added bonus, hawks and eagles won't swoop down between two fences that close together for fear of getting entangled, so your chickens are protected from aerial predators as well.

This layout will actually work quite well with the way the shed and garden are situated ... well, the garden in my imagination. It won't go in until next year, I think. I can multitask, but there's a limit.

So if my chickens will eventually have the run of a Chicken Moat around my garden ... does that make the chicken coop a Chicken Castle? Maybe a Chicken Keep?

I think we need a good name for the coop. Suggestions welcome. :)

10 May 2006

Successful trim experiment

My Cousin Neighbour's house is all done with plain trim - just 2, 3 or 4 inch flat pine, stained and finished. I did have 'normal baseboards' that came with the house package, but with the 6 inch pine boards on the walls, the 2 inch standard trim looked a little ... well ... I suppose "weak" might be an appropriate descriptor. It just didn't seem to have the solidity to accent the big boards, so I thought I'd try out some flat 3" pine trim.

This is the result of the preliminary experiment in my room: it actually doesn't blend in quite as much as it seems to in this picture, but with the flash and the backlighting things kind of wash out a bit. Regardless, I think that in the rest of the house I may want to try a darker stain so that the trim stands out a little more and doesn't blend right into the wall. These windows will be covered in drapes for the most part anyway, and besides, I didn't have any other stain handy. ;) One more small job, tackled and done!

09 May 2006

Overdue update

It's been too long since I posted, but I have been quite worn out and the thought of sitting at the computer in the evening simply more than I could take. :) Here I am now, at least!
On the weekend, I got some of the walls coated with verathane, which actually makes the wood look quite warm and a bit shiny. I've used a satin finish water based verathane over the Watco Danish Oil finish and it seems to work out well. Once the verathane is on the walls, I can do some of the final 'finishing' work: in the kitchen I put up some additional shelves by the fridge, and found a wooden peg rack I'd picked up on one of my many Ikea trips, so that got stained and mounted as a place to display my prettiest and most frequently used kitchen implements. I have a lovely copper and cast iron ladle that Union Guy found for me, and a hand operated egg beater that my mother owned since I was a little girl ... I like being able to see them all the time, and I actually use them, too.

Sitting at the kitchen table and looking out the window at the pile of lumber that used to be the 'barn' (or livestock shed, or whatever it was before my parents knocked it down in the interests of public safety), I thought to myself "that looks like a free supply of lovely aged wood". I wandered across the field and found several nice looking boards, beautifully weathered, which I decided to use as trim around a couple of the windows. The bathroom and The Boy's room now have barn board window trim ... I am not entirely sure that I like the look, but I think I do. When I consider the price, I generally decide that I like it a whole lot.

Union Guy came out this weekend and helped immensely with all the work that had to be done. We did a lot of the 'high work' in the living room, so the front wall is about 3/4 covered now. We also finished the north loft wall (the wall in The Boy's room that goes all the way up to the peak of the house): all the boards are up and stained, and the trim is mounted around the window. Union Guy also did a bunch of electrical work and got lights mounted on the south wall (the big living room wall with all the windows). They look quite warm, and I really like them.

We've been having some fireplace troubles (it pours out smoke into the house, even with the door shut and the fire buring low), the air exchange controller has stopped listening to instructions (it runs all the time whether you want it to or not), and the shower still has hot and cold set up backwards. Plumber Man is coming this week to see if we can sort out these details. I sure hope so, I miss having a fire. :)

04 May 2006

Roses for no reason make a girl smile

I got a half dozen roses delivered to my office today: a gift from Union Guy for no particular reason at all, other than that he loves me. How cool is that, eh?

You can see them sitting on the table in the new and improved kitchen: note that the microwave is no longer supported by a 2x4 and the stove is actually pushed back against the wall! The microwave needed a shelf above it to support it, and I managed to pick one up on the weekend. Tonight, while Union Guy fixed electrical outlets in the kitchen, I stained the shelf, drilled holes in it, and mounted it to the top of the microwave and to the wall. It's all nice and sturdy now and the air filters may actually do some good when I'm frying things on the cooktop! I did notice that the lightbulbs that shine on the stove top are 20 watts each ... two of them are in there, that's 40 watts! Extravagance! I took one out so now it's half as bad ... but most of my lights (actually, all the other lights in the house) are compact fluorescents that use no more than 13 watts. I don't think I'll be turning that one on very often. :)

01 May 2006

Yes, I'm still here!

It was a really crazy weekend - I had totally forgotten about the 4H farm tour on Friday night, so we had a bit of a scheduling nightmare getting to where we had to be for six o'clock. The tour was great fun though, we got to see everyone's acreage and their critters: we met sheep and goats and turkeys and chickens and horses and enjoyed ourselves tremendously despite the stress of getting there.

Saturday was my friend's wedding, so when we finished the farm tour, we came home, packed up our stuff and headed to the city. Union Guy was fast asleep by the time we arrived, but we snuck in quietly and managed not to wake anyone. The wedding was at twelve thirty, so we were able to sleep in a bit before it was time to go. The service was beautiful, and it was held in the basilica downtown with gorgeous stained glass windows and very old fashioned architecture. We ran errands in the afternoon, then headed to the reception where we enjoyed good food and helped to celebrate.

Once all that was done, we had Sunday to catch up on all the things we'd actually meant to do Friday ... and then it was time to start a new week.

Not much got done at home, although we did stop at Ikea on Saturday and pick up the mirror and shelf that match the bathroom fixtures, and Union Guy installed them on Sunday. Today was grocery day after work, so it was late by the time I reached home and nothing's getting done around here this evening.

However, today was yoga day and I feel wonderful after that sort of work out!