Saturday, March 31, 2012

Muff gone rogue

Now there's a provocative subject line! ;)

Remember the other day when I mentioned that one of our "Muff" hens (they are "bearded" English game hens) disappeared, and we thought she'd been eaten by the fox that attacked Eugenia the  duck? And then the Muff miraculously returned.

Well, the next day we were back to three Muffs, and I was sure Gordon was crazy and had miscounted the morning he said he found her at the coop door in the barn. I actually had him convinced that he had not seen the missing fourth Muff return.

Until Wednesday morning, when I went down to let the birds out and was greeted by a Muff running though the lower barn, squawking her head off.

We have an enclosed run for our chickens, but there is an open section at the top where they can fly out if they really exert themselves. Only two of the Muffs regularly do that. Occasionally one of the Sex-Links manages it, but they fly more like bumblebees than hummingbirds. Or the Hindenburg, sans explosion.

Anyway, we let the Muffs do what they want, as they were brought up free-ranging by the guy who gave them to me, and are wild and wiley.

Miss Muff has apparently gone rogue, showing up every few days, then disappearing again. Our best guess is that she's gone broody somewhere in our large barn. She's lucky our neighbour's dog nailed the resident raccoon while we were in Mexico. Poor raccoon! My friend brought King over every day while she did farm chores, to scare off predators. He's a great dog, but an incredible mighty hunter. He can bag a wild turkey. I've been told even armed turkey hunters find that difficult.

Anyway, Miss Muff is a bit safer in the barn without a raccoon in it, if that's where she's hiding out. I have been searching for her and I think I found her running around the upstairs yesterday, but I wasn't sure because I can't tell the four Muffs apart very well, so if all four aren't in front of me, I have no idea who's who.

Muff gone rogue! Fodder for my future book. I'll keep you posted.

And an update on Eugenia, who survived a fox attack almost three weeks ago but broke her leg. She is doing very well. I ended up taking her splint off a couple of days early, because she flew out of her confinement cage straight into the duck bath, and got the splint all wet (but she was REALLY happy to have a bath!) So I am keeping her confined for a few more days without the splint. I don't want any randy drakes jumping her and hurting her leg.

The injured leg is a bit swollen but she is putting weight on it and it seems to have healed without any deformities. We'll see how it goes. It definitely isn't 100% yet, and I'm not sure if she'll have a permanent limp or not, but otherwise she's doing fine: no infection, her usually happy self, and she still hates me. But she was a good girl, lying on her back on Gordon's lap while I took off the splint and trimmed her claws. I'll keep you posted on Eugenia, too!

Happy weekend.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Please support me in the Friends for Life walk-a-thon!

On May 26, Gordon and I will be participating in the OSPCA Friends for Life Walk-a-thon. My goal is to raise $1,000 in pledges, and Gordon's aiming for the same. Would you consider sponsoring me (or Gordon) with a donation? All donations over $10 are tax deductible.

We are big supporters of the OSPCA and the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry OSPCA shelter in particular. We adopted our tripod kitty Alex there in 2007, after he was found in a leghold trap. Some kind soul turned him in, his rear leg was amputated, and he was adopted out to us six weeks later. The shelter staff and volunteers there work hard for the animals and deserve everyone's support!

If you would consider sponsoring me or the Bearded one, you can visit our individual pages and click on the "Support Natalie" or "Support Gordon" button. My page is here. And Gordon's page is here. They accept Visa, MC and Amex, and I think you can also send me a cheque. Of course you don't need to sponsor both of us. Perhaps you'll feel pity for poor Gordon, who is lagging behind me, and choose his page in order to boost his sagging spirits. HAHAHAHA!

If you enjoy my blog and feel like you would like to do something for me, this is your chance. And if you can't, that's fine too! All good wishes are appreciated, monetary or not. Alex-kitty and friends thank you from the bottom of their furry hearts!

Scroll down to previous post for more kitty cuteness!

Mid-afternoon in the garden of good and evil






The Twitter Usage Monitor: he's good AND evil! Yesterday, Sophie decided to mess with Julius, or vice versa. They have never liked each other although Sophie is smart enough to acknowledge feline authority, and generally gives Julius a wide, if begrudging, berth. But for some reason, she thought she'd have a go at Julius yesterday.

Bad idea. Julius is just fine. Sophie has scratches all over her face. Thank goodness Julius missed her eyes! Look at those three scratches on the left. It was very close.

I was there when it happened (Julius hissed, Sophie growled, and to be honest, I think Julius lashed out first.) This is why we never leave the dogs alone in the house with the cats (they stay in my office when we are out.) While they are generally fine, you never know when a certain old marmalade kitty is going  unsheath and go for a canine.

Now they're all acting like nothing ever happened.

Note Naomi in the background. I'm not sure if she's mocking Sophie or merely curious.

And Sophie has a new nickname: Pincushion!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pizza night with obligatory kitten shot

I haven't done a pizza post in a while. I made one last Monday night, with organic bread flour I got from Penny's Market last Saturday.

All kneaded and going into the oven to proof!

I don't have a pizza peel, so I use a round non-stick pan to slide the dough onto the pizza stone in the 500F oven. I brushed olive oil with garlic (from my garden) and oregano over the crust.

I decided to make Greek pizza.

Some mozzarella and yellow pepper.

Green olives, and local goat milk feta from Glengarry Fine Cheese.

Red onions and tomatoes and voilà!

Not the most beautiful crust in the world, but tasty!

And to drink? Young's Double Chocolate Stout!

Speaking of alcohol, our neighbour gave us some of the maple syrup he made this year, in this bottle:

I think I should keep it in the breast pocket of my parka and take several swigs a day!

And here is your kitten shot:

Emily is veeeeeeeeery long!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another duck music video...

I have come to the conclusion that chicken videos work better than duck videos, because chickens are just more frenetic, crazy and, er, active.  I suppose if I had caught some duck whoopee on camera, it would have ratcheted up the excitement here!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Emily works it for the camera!

Is she not exquisite?

Avian adventures

Took the camera down to the barn last evening...

It's spring. I don't which is worse, the fact that Hannibal is trying to make babies with his sister, or the fact that I photographed the event! Any children born of this union will be used to make an omelette.

I need to name the girls. I have trouble telling the white ones apart!

They are sweet little things.

Mama duck is doing better every day. I'll take the splint off next Monday. I'm hoping it has healed okay.

The Muff was NOT amused when I pulled aside the curtain and photographed her trying to lay an egg! "Some privacy would be nice!"

Charlotte and Henrietta aren't letting anybody up there!

We put up another next box, an old apple crate. It was a nice old antique apple crate until Alex the cat inexplicably peed in it last year. After airing out in the barn for a year, it'll do for a nest box. Thanks, Alex.

Charlotte and Henrietta hanging out. They turn three this July. Charlotte has a chronic wheeze that we've been unable to sort out, but apart from sounding like she smokes too many Marlboros, she does just fine. I treated her with antiobiotics last summer but we never really got it cleared up.

Buttercup and Tina Turner like to hang out near the ceiling.

A handful of fresh eggs!

And ten cords of next year's firewood waiting to be stacked in the granary!

Speaking of my "Muff" hens, one of them disappeared four days ago. Two of our Muffs habitually fly out the gap in the top of their run and go a-wandering. They are pretty wild and wiley, so we've just let them do that and hoped they'd be safe, because they hate being penned up. (They are some kind of English gamehen.) We looked all over for the missing Muff, but no luck. I figured the fox that caught Mama duck had probably eaten the hen.

This morning she showed up in the barn, waiting at the coop door to be let back in! It is very cold and windy today, so maybe she decided she'd just had enough of the nomadic life. I wonder where the heck she spent the past four days?!?! We're just glad she came back!

Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nom-noms and a cutie-pie

Today we went to Penny's Market, a farmers' market at exit 35 on highway 417. It's open Saturday from 9 to 1 and Tuesdays from 12 - 4. If you're in the Ottawa or Montreal or Cornwall area, you should check it out. As growing season approaches, they're getting more goodies in every week.

Today we bought quiche, salmon spread, local cream cheese, oatmeal-coconut cookies, lime loaf, salmon, organic spelt flour and bread flour, local sour cream, pierogies and these...

Jerusalem artichokes! I should have taken a pic before Gordon peeled them and chopped them up. They are the tuber of a variety of sunflower, and very tasty. Gordon made a Jamie Oliver recipe with them using garlic and bay leaves. They were very yummy. 

Jerusalem artichoke peelings.

We also had Arctic char, which is my favourite fish.

I am still using garlic from the crop I grew last year. Time to bring up some more from the basement!

This is the lime loaf from Carolynn at Taste of Town and Country. She makes amazing baked goods, quiche, smoked salmon and more.

Some veggies are just starting to grow. They expect to have spinach and green onions at the market next week,  and maybe some lettuce. Some farmers around here get an earlier start by using polytunnels.

So that was the nom-noms. Here's the cutie-pie.Remember this, back at the start of January?

Look at her now:

Emily is 4-1/2 months old now and growing like a weed. She's long, lean and lanky. She spends a lot of time running around like she just mainlined the entire inventory of Starbucks.

She loves the pipe cleaners Auntie Trish from Katnip Lounge sent with our prize package last January.

I think she could fly with those ears!

Her new favourite toy is a hard white ball of used, dried-out Kleenex. I forgot a snotty tissue in my bathrobe pocket, which went through the washer and dryer before I found it and threw in the bedroom wastebasket. Emily fished it out and has been batting it around and carrying it in her mouth like it's the most awesome prey EVER.

I don't know why I spend money on cat and dog toys and treats. Sophie spends her doggy days plotting how to steal my used Kleenex. Emily is in bliss with a nicely washed and dried one. I should get walking pneumonia more often! Not.


I just love her markings. And although she lost the tip of her tail to frostbite, the fur has grown in nicely and you don't notice that her tail isn't quite as pointy as it should be.

I don't know how she came to be dumped at our farm in frigid winter temperatures, a tiny six-week-old kitten, but I am so glad we found her and brought her into the family. She's happy and healthy now, and will never be alone in the cold and dark again.

And a little Mama duck update. Eugenia is healing very well after the fox attack. In a week I will take off her splint and see how she's doing. Every day she puts more weight on her injured leg! Today I opened the top of her "recuperation suite" (aka dog cage) and while I was getting her feed and water, she flew up, hung a left out the duck coop door and landed outside on the grass amongst her children.

Everybody had a joyful reunion, and Eugenia snacked on grass until her son Moishe decided to try to have his way with her. Whereupon I rescued her and put her back in her cage.

We had one male duck left to name, the big white guy. We're calling him Oedipus, since he (and his brothers) are all a little too willing to hump their mother...

And on that note, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Perambulating in the springtime

Today was my most active day in ages. I am finally starting to feel better after my not-fun time with walking pneumonia. I got sick four weeks ago today and it has been a real drag.  I was coughing much less today and decided to see how far I could walk. I ended up walking down our road and back for 4.2 km or 2.6 miles, then Gordon and I took the dogs for a walk later on. It felt great to be off my butt!

We are still having unseasonably warm weather in the 20s (celsius) but it's supposed to cool off a bit next week. I noticed that a crow has been breaking twigs off one of my lilac bushes, presumably to build a nest. We've had three crows visiting our garden and feeders all winter. I really like crows, especially having read several books about them. They are incredibly intelligent and inventive. I have watched them get more and more used to me over the winter. Now when I go out to fill the feeders, they just fly up into a nearby tree to keep an eye on me. At the beginning, they would disappear for hours or the rest of the day if I showed up!

I always talk to the crows to let them know they're welcome. If we had neighbours, they'd think I was crazy, but since the nearest house is about a kilometre away, I don't worry much about being overheard! That said, I can hear the guy at the place next to ours screaming at his dogs sometimes when he can't find them in his woods! Sound does carry across open fields.

Anyhoo, here are some pics...

I am not very good with trees, but this is a medium-sized maple outside our kitchen window.

Budding out already! It's early this year.

I don't usually take pics of our house from this angle. I walked diagonally across our front field (which usually still has snow on it at this time of year) to take this. The very tall tree is a tall old white spruce, of which I'm very fond. I wonder if the crows are building a nest there? I often see them hanging out in it. 

Took this almost at the edge of our property. The tree on the left sits alone in the middle of our front field, and do you think I can remember what type of tree it is? Uh, no. Maybe an ash of some kind?

This is one of our neighbours' farms down the road. He keeps beef cattle.

And our road. Not too much traffic this morning!

Have a happy weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fundación en Vía - empowering women!

Here are more photos from our Mexico trip! While in Oaxaca, we took a tour with Fundación en Vía. This organization provides interest-free micro-loans to women in the area.  They organize tours of the businesses run by these women. The women participate in these tours as part of the requirements for their loan funding. The $50 fee we each paid went directly to funding loans. They are combining tourism with micro-finance and it's working very well.

 We and eight other tourists spent a fascinating afternoon visiting businesses with some of the volunteers who run the organization. The women explained their enterprises in Spanish, and the volunteers translated. The ladies were very welcoming and gracious, and rightly proud of their work.

This woman runs a tortilla shop out of her home, and used a loan to buy this corn to make torillas...

When I asked if I could take her photo, she was happy to oblige and pose. I told the volunteer to tell her in Spanish that she was a supermodel, which made her laugh!

They had the cutest dog living there that hung out on the roof, peering down at us.

So adorable!

Here is the machine that makes the corn tortillas. When I was in Oaxaca, I bought a tortilladora (tortilla press) of my own to make tortillas by hand


The corn is soaked over heat before it is ready to be made into tortillas.

They sell for about a US dollar per kilogram!

Note dog munching on a stale tortilla  in the background.

This little pullet was also wandering around, helping herself to treats from the reject pile!

Scale for weighing tortillas.

And what have we here?

Why it's a turkey brooder! Ingenious!

Across the street we visited a pharmacy...

Here is the owner with her daughters, graciously posing for photos.

In Mexico, a lot of drugs that would require prescriptions in Canada and the US are instead available over the counter.

A loan from Fundación en Vía enabled the women to buy a display case worth of inventory for her pharmacy.

The tortilla shop doggy came over to sit with us!

We also went to chat with a woman who sells vegetables and fruit at various market stalls Her loan enabled her to buy more produce to sell. Here she is with a big bundle of garlic she was about to take to the market.

And here is her cute chihuahua, taking a little nap.

Finally, we visited women who weave. "Women who weave"-- I like that!

A rug on the loom.

Carding wool roving before spinning it.

They offered to let us try carding. Of course I had to give it a go. I was bloody useless at it; I think I was just trying too hard! But it was fun and we all had a good laugh.

Here's another of the women mixing up dye ingredients.

And another beautiful rug!

If you would like to learn more about Fundación en Vía and maybe make a donation, visit their website. We were very impressed with the work they are doing. I set up a monthly Paypal donation for them after we got home. What is a little bit of money to us is a LOT to these women! It's amazing the change an interest-free loan can make in a someone's life. Their default rates (about 7 out of 500) are impressively low. 

Gordon wrote a very good post about this group on his blog as well, If you want to read more about what's going on, Fundación en Vía also has a blog.

I only wish I spoke Spanish so that I could have communicated directly with these wonderful, hardworking women. If you're near Oaxaca, I highly recommend you take a tour. It's the #2 tour attraction on TripAdvisor for Oaxaca,

And my thoughts are with everyone down there after the earthquake that hit the area this past week. Fingers crossed that none of these women suffered any danage to their homes or businesses.