Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is this a STARLING I see before me?

So there I was this afternoon, sitting at my desk, eyes glazing over as I stared at the computer screen, when a bird flew by. No, not "flew by my window": FLEW BY! It came down from upstairs with Naomi-kitty in excited pursuit. Now, I know how that bird got in the house, but I do NOT know how the hell it got upstairs without me noticing, nor how long it was up there! Clearly I was in a computer stupor.

This is not a great house for a bird to visit. We have three cats and two somewhat prey-hungry dogs. Twice last summer, we had young starlings in the house. They fell down the chimney and landed in the firebox of the (unlit!) furnace. Fortunately I was home the first time an uncoordinated starling tumbled down the chimney, because the door to the firebox was closed tight. I opened the door and rescued the confused youngster. (Now I know to leave the furnace door slightly ajar in baby-bird season.)

We did indeed mean to get a chimney cap last year, to prevent this very thing from happening, but our chimney sweep dude was out of stock. He said he was going to order one but it never did turn up. Gordon called him today to schedule our chimney cleaning for this season and to order a cap, again.

So back to today's avian adventurer. Usually these chimney-tumblers don't leave the basement, but today our young starling decided he was going to explore every corner of our house. Fortunately after he flew past my office, he landed in the downstairs bathroom, so I shut myself in there and caught him. He was not pleased at being held and let me know by releasing bloodcurdling screams that made the dogs and cats even more excited. Nonetheless, I got him outside and released, no harm done.

Not five minutes later, I hear a very familiar sound coming from the basement: yes, bloodcurdling juvenile starling screams, and oh no, the sound of a three-legged cat thumping along in tepid pursuit. Screaming "Nononooooo!", I ran after the dogs and Julius-kitty as they peeled down the basement stairs. Julius was sufficiently freaked out by my yelling to stop, as were the dogs, ("What the hell is wrong with mummy? Is she on drugs??") but Alex continued to hop along after the bird, undeterred by my screeching. I managed to grab him and get all the other pets up out of the basement, closing the door behind them. Then I switched off the lights and let the starling fly to a window, where I once again performed a grab-and-run, with the bird once again releasing screams reminiscent of the shower scene from Psycho.

It was a little stressful. I definitely see a yoga class on tonight's agenda. Stoopid birds!

ADDENDUM: This morning, I had to go through this post and change every occurrence of "grackle" to "starling." Why? Because this morning I was rudely awoken by a bird screaming in the basement. I went down there and rescued another young bird from the paws of Naomi, who was no match for the feisty feathered foundling. (Alliteration, I love that.) I had a proper look at the bird in my hands and realized that of course they were all starlings. I had a brain fart yesterday.

The bird seemed fine and flew away strongly, hopefully having learned not to sit on our chimney. Or maybe the same bird has fallen down it three times now!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ta-daaa: I'm a beekeeper!

Some of my beautiful girls at the entrance to one of the hives.

Yes, I am now a beekeeper. I hope I do not become a bee murderer, by screwing up and doing something stupid. But so far, so good.

The girls arrived in their nuc boxes Tuesday night. The "beeyard" is a bit under a kilometre from our house, in a sheltered nook at the entrance to our woodlot, near a pond (they need a water source nearby.) We can't drive our puny cars back there, but we can take a 4WD vehicle. Come honey harvest time, we'll be borrowing a friend's pick-up truck, since I will not be carrying a 90-lb box across a kilometre of fields.

Initially I figured I would put the nuc boxes in my garden wagon and take it across the fields, but I soon discovered that the shock absorbers, or lack thereof, on the garden wagon left much to be desired, and the bees were sounding awfully pissed off. Nothing like shaking up a box of bees to make life interesting!

So in the pitch dark, Gordon and put on our headlamps and walked across the fields (trying to walk between rows of soybeans so as not to crush the crops) each hugging a ten-pound box of annoyed, buzzing bees to our chests. Needless to say, we were extremely careful not to trip and fall.

Last Wednesday, in a stinking humid heatwave, I installed my honeybees in their two hives. It was going swimmingly until I realized, after painstakingly transferring four frames of bees (from the little nuc box my mini-colony arrived in) into the bottom deep (bottom box of hive) that the deep was upsidedown. This is what happens when you assemble beehives in the pitch dark by the light of headlamps at midnight.

It was then that I really started to sweat (although it was almost 90F that day and I was sweating anyway!) But I managed to take all the frames back out, flip the box, reinstall the frames, and then transfer the other colony to their hive. Nobody stung me, although they were getting a little annoyed at one point (because I was so slow and incompetent) and a couple of bees bounced themselves angrily off my (covered) head. But I got the girls in there, hopefully without killing a queen, and now I have two "Frankenstein" hives:

They are Frankenstein hives because Gordon ordered me some really cool D. E. hives without realizing that the frames of bees I was getting were built to fit a traditional Langstroth hive. So we got some Langstroth hive boxes off my octagenarian beekeeping buddy. (They are the green ones on the bottom.) With instructions from The Beeworks, who sold us the D. E. hives, we rigged up a transfer system. In three weeks, I'll remove the bottom deep, and put in another D. E. deep and the nice D. E. hive stand we have, hopefully without killing any bees or doing anything utterly stoopid.

The black fabric is landscape cloth to keep the weeds down. I need to put some mulch on top of it. I'm getting to it. I have much to do. My 5,000 sf vegetable garden needs my attention as well. ANd the chicks are arriving July 8th. Never a dull moment at the farm.

For now I am feeding my girls sugar syrup, to give them the extra boost they need to make honeycomb and build up the colony. Today I'm off to fill up the feeders, but I won't be doing my first hive inspection (pray for me!) until this Wednesday, which happens to be Canada Day. I'm hoping it won't be pouring rain as is currently predicted.

I still haven't recovered from this week, but I had a perfectly idyllic morning on Thursday. I went down by myself to check the hives, and ended up sitting on an upended bucket for half an hour, transfixed by my bee girls (and a few bee boys, aka drones.) It was perfectly wonderful sitting there in the early morning light, listening to the buzz of my bees and the singing of the birds, with a background chorus from the several varieties of frog that inhabit our pond. Ahhhh!

And on a final note, I have to say... this outfit is NOT flattering to the female figure. But it sure beats being stung.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Nine Faces of Chicken

In honour of our chicks, arriving on or about July 8th, my art trading cards for this month's meeting had a chicken theme. My personal favourite was General Tso's chicken (and yes I know that he's wearing a Maoist outfit and that Tso isn't Mao. Artistic licence!)

Cluck, cluck...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kitty frolics

The other day, I moved the cathouse onto the porch. The cats had been ignoring it as of late, and it is hardly an attractive furniture statement. It's not exactly making our screened front porch into something out of House & Home either, but by golly, the cats are pleased!

Here we have wee Naomi lording it over Julius:

"Hello, hello, is anybody home?"

Naomi left her lofty perch for one where she could get a better view of her orange boyfriend (as opposed to her three-legged boyfriend, Alex. Naomi is very loose.)

"Yes, I am fully aware of my great beauty. Don't let it fry your retinas!"

Mr. Fluffy, being the elder statesman of the cats at age nine, is more relaxed and slightly less egotistical. He lives for sunshine.

But finally he'd had enough sunshine, so he vacated the cathouse...

...to cool off under the table. I love it when he stretches out like this, with his legs splayed behind him. I've read that Maine Coon cats often assume this posture, and while Julius is not likely 100% Maine Coon (he showed up at our back door in Nova Scotia one winter), he does have many MC features, including very furry feet, like a lynx.

"And now, the cathouse is mine mine MINE MINE MINEMINEMINE! Bwaaahahahahaha!"

"Get my best side. Oh wait, all my sides are my best side!"

And now for something completely different. Gordon bought me a used tiller the other day. It's in fine shape. He keeps calling it "my" tiller, like he thinks I'm actually going to be the one tilling. HAHAHAHAHA!

And look what slithered out of the barn pumphouse on Sunday...

It's a very large eastern garter snake, maybe 20" long. Fortunately the dogs didn't notice, since they are always happy to wrassle with snakes. Gordon held them back while I got my camera. This morning, I surprised another garter snake in my vegetable garden. It was under the straw mulch around one of my pumpkin plants. I am definitely not afraid of snakes, particularly since we don't have any venomous ones around here, and it's just as well I'm serpent-positive, since I spent the past 3-1/2 years, off and on, illustrating a kids' book about a rattlesnake. (Blatant plug!)

Happy summer. My tomato plants are finally starting to bloom.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

One man + propane + ignition = whole lotta happy!

Be afraid.

Be VERY afraid.

We've got a wee issue with weeds taking over the gravel path that leads down to the fields. Gordon, aka Torch Boy, is looking after it. We had a tutorial on perennial flower identification beforehand!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nova Scotia Lupins

My ATC friend Ronna has some pretty flower pics on her blog today, including a shot of her lupins. That reminded me of some lupin shots I took in Nova Scotia back in 2003, the year we moved from there to BC (and then in 2006 we moved from BC to Quebec, and then in 2007 to Ontario. And NO, I am never moving again. They can take me out in a pine box, although I am happy to wait 40 years for that!)

These photos were taken in beautiful Hall's Harbour, which is on the Bay of Fundy and has the highest tides in the world.

Yes, this is low tide, if it's not patently obvious:

Amazing eh?

And on another note altogether, today we ordered a dozen red and black "Sex-Links" chicks, due to arrive around July 8th. No, I am not making up that name, and I am not sure where it came from, although they are easier than other chickens to sex at birth, and so we are guaranteed a dozen hens with no annoying cockerels! Gordon got the wiring finished in the coop yesterday, and now that he has a deadline, I'm sure he'll be inspired to finish everything up very soon. Right, dear?

I'm back off out to the salt mines, aka my vegetable monstrosity garden. Gordon bought me a tiller today, which some guy was selling because his back was too sore for this crap anymore. I think my own back is headed that way. I'm too old for all this hard manual labour. My knees now make funny crunching noises when I walk up hill. You know you're middle-aged when your body starts talking back to you all the time. Someone else told me that you know you're old when you grunt every time you get up out of a chair. Great, I'm already at the grunting stage...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strawberry Heaven!

I was coming back from walking the dogs in the rain yesterday (because my dogs are completely undeterred by climatic adversity) when I noticed that my strawberries were suddenly ripening. So in the downpour, I started berry-picking.

The dogs patiently waited for the few bug-gnawed ones I found (our dogs will eat anything, and I do mean anything, including entire red squirrels and tomatoes and things that have been dead for a year), and I came back to the house with this manna from strawberry heaven:

Mmmmm!!!! I see shortcake in my future.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fame! Fortune! Okay, well, at least fame...

I showed two hooked rugs in Art Fayre this past weekend, and when I opened The Glengarry News yesterday, I discovered a photo of one of the rugs and little blurb:

(Click on photo to enlarge)

He got the title slightly wrong, since it is "Turkish FISHIES", and the cropping is weird, and the orientation is wrong, but I am nonetheless chuffed to see one of my babies in the local paper. Here's a better photo of the rug. The words around the outside are an old Algonquin saying, and the fish are inspired by the ones I saw on ceramic tiles when I visited Turkey.

Turkish Fishies

Lately I've been writing my own verse to put in the borders of my rugs, like for this one I just sold on Etsy. (I LOVE Etsy!) As you can see, I have a bit of a thing for fish, not to mention using the word "fishies" in my titles:

Fintastic Fishies

Thanks to my ATC friends for inviting me to participate in this show. It was a lot of fun, and the work on display was just beautiful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wee poultry

My friends just got a bunch o' chickens and turkeys. Yes, they are destined for the dinner plate, but they are at least going to have a nice free-range life before that time comes, which is more than can be said for most of the turkeys and chickens you buy at the your supermarket.

Right now, they are so young and delicate that they need to be indoors under a heat lamp, but soon enough they will be moved to their respective pens, with access to the great outdoors.

Wee turkeys!

Wee chickens!

Before long, we hope to have our own wee chickens. Gordon is now working on getting the wiring fixed and turned back on in the barn, so that we have light and warmth for our future laying hen chicks.

And for some reason, that dang "You must whip it!" song is running through my head.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Men who weed-whack and the women who love them...

...today on Knatolee's World!

Sixteen years ago, I married a great guy. Kind, gentle, funny, patient, smart, brings me tea in bed every morning, rubs girly-lotions into my feet at night, loves animals even though he was brought up without pets and fell for a woman who would have eleventeen-hundred cats and dogs and chickens and squirrels without a husband to keep her in check, is helping me assemble 40 beehive frames...

And is a great dog-daddy!

(Of course, he didn't get all that grey in his beard until he'd spent a few years married to me, but thatt's okay, because he's four years younger than me and the older Gordon looks, the better I look by comparison! I am aging him faster than he is aging me.)

G is very tolerant. He let me put a skirt on him and take his picture, back when we lived in Nova Scotia and blogs were still a figment of someone's imagination. It's possible that by posting this photo, I have signed my own death warrant, but then no one has ever called me "restrained"...

(I collect used wool skirts to cut up and use in my rug-hooking projects. This was one of them. I'm not into cream pleats!)

That said, the Lad is Scottish and he did get married in a kilt...

(He looks a little tense. But at this point, the deed was done and there was no turning back.)

So as you can see, I have a whole lotta love for Mr. Beardo. But I am being sorely tried these days. Last year, the Lad got himself a brand new, gas-powered weed-whipper (or whacker, depending what part of the world you hail from!) The thing is so fearsome that they actually supplied a chest protector with it. Since its arrival, my flowers have quivered in fear. Last Friday, I found the amputated daylily. I thought it was just this one flower that had fallen under the rotating string of death.

I was wrong.

I am also now the proud owner of a decapitated crocosima, and this...this... this TRAVESTY:

...which used to be a little flower bed full of THIS:

Pretty. Pretty flowers! Prettyprettypretty! Absolutely no freaking resemblance to grass, beyond the sharing of the colour green.

They USED TO add a nice little shot of colour outside the pump house attached to our barn. Now, it looks like a herd of starving, sharp-toothed goats rampaged in the yard while I had my back turned...

(Note complete and utter absence of perennials.)

But one good thing has come out of this weed-whackin' atrocity. I have discovered The Sisterhood of Chicks Whose Menfolk Can't Control Themselves When They Have a Power Tool in their Hands. TSOCWMCCTWTHAPTITH for short.

The TSOCWMCCTWTHAPTITH (wait, that's redundant. That reads as The The Sisterhood...whatever!) has taken me in, held me in the warmth of their petal-splattered arms, and shared so many tragic, tragic stories of men who can't tell a blade of grass from any other green thing in the universe. (Watch out, frogs! Time to invest in some amphibian chain-mail.) Here is a mere sampling of their desperate cries:

"I feel your pain... My poor butterfly bush has gotten much the same treatment."

" First year after I planted some lilies my son mowed over them."

"I lost a low bush cranberry bush to an overly enthusiastic husband once upon a time. It was a bush for heaven's sake!!"

"Richard took out all of my Siberian iris!"

And on, and on, and on, until I wanted to cry tears of nectar for all the poor dead plants. For the love of all that is green and holy, how on earth could you mistake a LOW BUSH CRANBERRY for GRASS? WTF?!!!!

So sisters, it is time for us to unite. Time for us to ply our menfolk with cheap beer and tater chips and yes, even pizza, and while they are nodding off on the couch in front of the football game, (which won't work for Gordon, since he doesn't watch sports... in his case, it would be nodding off in front of the Wii, were such a thing possible, which it isn't, because a Wii is so stimulating that it can give you seizures) we must stomp out to the garage en masse, spirit away the weed whippers, and hire a LAWN CARE PROFESSIONAL! Preferably a female one. And then our poor little flowers (and low bush cranberries) can breathe a sigh of plantly relief and go on to live full, lush, colourful lives without the threat of weekly mutilation.

And yes, dearheart, I love you even more than the day we wed, especially since you don't have a blog and can't tell the world about MY foibles!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy divorce!!

No, not MINE you silly! (Although things could change if Weed Whacker Boy keeps killling my perennials! KIDDING, Gordon, I'm KIDDING!) This was in the Montreal Gazette yesterday:

Now that's the way to divorce: with a sense o' humour!

Friday, June 12, 2009

A brief lesson for husbands who are a little too fond of weed-whacking...

Okay, listen up boys! (Especially YOU, Gordon!)

This is grass.

This too is grass.

Yep, grass.

If you said "grass", you'd be correct!

Whole different kind of grass, and perhaps you mightn't want to weed-whip it.

Now pay CLOSE ATTENTION to next photo. I know many of you boys THINK it's grass, but it's NOT.

NOT GRASS!!!! Prized day lily, purchased last year, now an EX day lily.

I think that certain bearded husbands can make amends by bringing certain pissed-off wives a nice order of fresh sushi.

Pay attention to this lesson, men. Not all women are as forgiving as me! I love men, but God help me, you have your moments...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Porch full o' cats

Our three cats love the enclosed front porch. They'll love it even more when we get the plexiglas out and put in the summer screens!

Right now we have three cats but only two cat basking-shelves. This does not seem to be an issue, since all of them take turns making use of the wicker furniture with the comfy pillows.

Here's Alex doing what he does best: lounging.

"I am cat. Hear me roar. Have you brought me my tuna, human flunky?"

"Our tails are pointing straight to hell, which is where YOU'LL be going if you don't get that tuna out here, pronto!"

(Naomi, on the left, looks quite large in this photo but really she is still a tiny thing at six pounds. She will always be our miniature cat. Alex is a brute by comparison at about twelve pounds.)

"It has been a hard day. I have only slept for 22 hours, but I suppose I should get up and eat something. Do you like my Hallowe'en cat impersonation? Does it scare you into fetching the tuna can?"

"Hello? Tuna? Hello? I am becoming impatient, useless human!! Bring it at once, before I flay your delicate, hairless flesh with my razor-sharp claws of death!"

The life of a cat is pretty darn cushy in this house.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Yes, yes, it's still Knatolee's World

I got bored, sitting here waiting for the oil dude to inspect our friggin' oil tank (which is four years old and JUST FINE, but this is what oil companies make you do when you sign up with their company for the purpose of throwing lots of money at them for home-heating oil; and hey ULTRAMAR, you SUCK, you're fired!!), so I redesigned my header. Maybe one day I will actually put some real time and effort into redesigning my blog. It's not as if I'm, oh, a graphic designer or something! Oh wait, I AM a graphic designer. Never mind!

And Naomi is obsessed with eating the earbuds on my iPod, which is currently recharging next to my keyboard tray. She keeps trying to cram her head into the tray... earwax is her secret love, what can I say? Any trace of it, and she's there. There's no alarm clock like a kitten reaming out your ear with her tongue. Eeeeeyuw! But it's better than being kissed by a dog who just ate her own poo. EEEEYUW!

Remind me again why we have pets?

As for the oil... we are supposed to get automatic oil delivery so our tank doesn't empty. Last Wednesday, we realized the gauge was on EMPTY, so we call our oil company, Ultramar. They wouldn't send someone Wednesday, but said maybe Thursday, definitely Friday. Meanwhile, we were afraid with every shower that we'd run out of hot water. We let the dishes pile up. Friday came, no oil. Gordon called them and the office had closed early!! We made it through the weekend, still had hot water, still had a tank that said empty. Called Ultramar. "Oh, the driver ran out of oil on Friday. He'll be there next Wednesday."

Uh, our tank is empty, it's your fault, and we are on pins and needles waiting for the last drops to drain from the system and leave us with no hot water, and you say NEXT WEDNESDAY?

At this point, Gordon had called Ultramar six times and gotten no where. So yesterday we called a local oil company, signed up with them, fired Ultramar, and are supposed to be getting oil today, although oil-tank inspection dude is currently an hour late and I'm not impressed.

The funny thing is, some sales guy from Ultramar called last night and this morning, leaving messages asking us to call and explain why we cancelled our contract with them. (Because you don't give a sh*t, that's why!) I'd like to know why we had to close our account to get them to pay attention to us. I'm only glad it's not January and we're only relying on oil for hot water.

Of course, Ultramar is the same company that sent someone to do a regular cleaning on our furnace last year, and ended up breaking the furnace. It took three more visits and a pretty damn cold house before they sent in a service technician with some experience with wood/oil furnaces, and he fixed the problem (that the previous techs had created) in the space of five minutes.

Customer service is dead in this country. Ooops, I think that all turned into a rant. I just want someone to fill my damn oil tank!!

ADDENDUM: Oh wait, we're going back to Ultramar. The new oil company is even more idiotic! For starters, some guy was supposed to be here at 2pm to inspect the oil tank. 4 pm, still no dude. Gordon called the office. "Oh, he's running late. I was going to call. Oh and by the way, no oil delivery for you today or tomorrow." Even though they promised us yesterday that we'd have oil by tomorrow at latest. So back to the lesser of three evils (the third oil company choice around here is an evil local empire we refuse to deal with.) The sales rep had to grovel, but he PROMISED us oil tomorrow. If it doesn't come, I have no clue what we'll do next. Switch to an electric hot water tank?

Done ranting for this week! Who knew it was so difficult to buy 900 litres of oil?

Cluck cluck!

Gordon is still working on the chicken coop. He's feeling a bit frustrated because he was been working on it for a while and wants it finished, but I reminded him that he has been a bit busy putting together beehives for his wife and doing myriad other farm chores, not to mention holding down a job and commuting over two hours a day. Anyway, the chicken palace will soon be finished. It's being constructed in the bottom of our barn, using mostly recycled wood and old windows from around the farm.

The former owners left us this huge picture window, which now forms most of the front wall of the chicken palace:

The window is in good shape, but it needs a little cleaning...

When that's done, the chickens are going to have the nicest view on the farm. I'm jealous! We don't have this view from our house, because the barn is in the way...

The sliding window at the bottom is going to be the chickens' door, but we've come across a slight problem...

Hello Tristan!

Hello Sophie!

We're thinking that the chickens won't appreciate dog visitors in their coop, so we have to work out a way to bar the dogs from entering, since right now we are not planning to fence the chickens in during the day. If they start annihilating my gardens, we'll have to talk.

Our dogs lived on another farm before we adopted them, and allegedly herd chickens! We shall see if this tidbit is true or not. I have seen both of them herding the cats, so it's entirely possible.

And here is my dear hubby, working away inside the coop:

I do have one issue with the huge window. I need to figure out a way to prevent wild birds from slamming into it! That's partly why I have put off cleaning it. I've heard that putting hawk silhouettes on a window isn't necessarily effective at preventing bird strikes, but even if it were, I'm thinking that the chickens might get a little freaked if I started pasting birds of prey all over their line of sight. So let me know if you have any other ideas.