Monday, June 30, 2014

Special birthday coming up!

Charlotte and me in 2012

If you can believe it, July 8th will mark Charlotte the hen's 5th birthday. And she still lays eggs for us! We are planning on having a party for her in August. Any excuse to get my friend Ronna to make another fantastic cake!

Charlotte is the only one left of our original 13 hens. I sure hope she lives another five years. She is a super-sweet hen and we love her to bits.

Lots of things having been keeping me busy lately, including writing. I've been taking online courses through Gotham Writers, the latest being a memoir-writing course (I'm taking the next level starting in July.) I like having structure to prompt me to write regularly. I've had plans for many books in my head for many years and I'm not getting any younger; as my parents would say, "It's time to sh*t or get off the pot!"

 Anyhoo, I thought you might enjoy the following little story I wrote about our first chickens, as part of a homework exercise involving plot.


Our First Chickens

On the kind of July day where sweat meanders down your spine and pools at the tailbone, our chicks arrived. This baker’s dozen of tiny fluffballs had just endured a six-hour truck journey from the hatchery. My husband and I picked them up at our local feed store: six black, seven yellow. I cradled the peeping box as Gordon drove us home. After years of talking about it, we finally had chickens. We envisioned omelettes and scrambles, frittatas and meringues, all made with our own organic eggs, laid by birds leading happy free-range lives, guaranteed a bucolic retirement once their laying days were over.  They would breathe life into our century barn, which once house dairy cows and meat birds.

But these miniature creatures looked so fragile. Could they possibly survive to adulthood under our neophyte care?

“Slow down, slow down!” I admonished as Gordon bumped over the railway tracks. “I don’t want our babies to fall over.” The chirping intensified.  “There there, my tiny darlings! You’ll be home soon.”

We deposited the youngsters in a large cardboard box in our spare bedroom, their presence an excellent excuse for warding off unwanted overnight guests. I checked on them frequently (okay, excessively!) not just because I loved watching their adorable antics, but also due to my borderline neurosis regarding their health. There are myriad ways for a chick to die. They can overheat. The can catch a chill. They can contract coccidiosis, where protozoa maraud through their tiny intestines, causing explosive and deadly diarrhea. But most horrifying of all was the dreaded pasty butt.

Gordon was taken aback. “Pasty…. what the hell?!”

“Their little behinds seal over with dried-out droppings. They can’t poop, so they explode. Okay, well, maybe not explode, but the end result is not pretty.”

As it turns out, chicks brought up without the doting ministrations of their mama risk cementing their cloacae shut with their own feces. Such blockages rapidly prove fatal; thus we needed to perform daily chick-butt inspections. If pasty butt was found, the remedy involved breaking up the offending mass with warm water and gentle fingers. However, one had to take care not to mistake the belly button for the poop-caked vent. More than one keeper has erroneously picked at a chick’s freshly-scabbed navel, only to subject the feathered tyke to a medieval death by disembowelment.

When our little cluckers inevitably outgrew a series of ever-enlarging boxes, we moved them into an elaborate coop we’d dubbed the “Chicken Palace,” a labour of love that had taken Gordon eight months to construct in his spare time. Early autumn brought our first tiny egg, which I proudly displayed in a cup on our kitchen windowsill until our new kitten whacked it to the floor, shattering the shell and its desiccated contents. Fortunately, the hens have proven more durable.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Auntie Penny comes to visit the little oinkers!

My friend Penny drove up from Vermont yesterday to visit me and the oinkers!

They just love to untie her shoelaces.

But they don't chew through the laces!

Everybody was enjoying the sun yesterday, snoozing or taking dustbaths, In this pic we have a duck, chickens a guinea hen and a piglet for your viewing pleasure.

Tina Turner is coveting the piglets' watermelon rind!

Luther knows how to share!

One of my OSPCA rescue hens with OSPCA rescue piglets! :) Ophelia was found in the same barn as this hen.

Mr. Carol giving me the eye. I am teaching him to be a respectful rooster and he's doing very well! He is an OSPCA rescue too, from the same barn as Ophelia.

Cordelia, blissed out.

The whole piggy family!

Mama trying to get away from it all.

"Feed me, Mama!"


Meanwhile, in the house...

I have a miniature cat in the palm of my hand! Can you imagine if there really were palm-sized cats? As I told my friend Valerie, I'd have 25 of them!!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Catch up!

Saw this beautiful Giant Swallowtail on my Sweet Williams this week...

While I am sad not to be seeing Monarchs, this new guys are quite beautiful!

We didn't used to have them in this part of Ontario but their range is  expanding north.

And some more pretty flowers...

My bees girls love any kind of salvia!

Today my friend Penny visited me from Vermont. Look at the beautiful wood-burning she did of our Sophie. I just love it!!

We went out to lunch at The Quirky Carrot, my very favourite restaurant in these parts. Truly excellent, healthy food made from scratch.

And Emerson and Louise have been getting along quite well...

Louise was there first! (Although I've had that crazy tape dispenser in the background longer than either cat!)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Chubby little vampires!

Button says good morning! 

The piglets turn nine weeks old today. As you can see, they are no longer petite.

In fact, they are milk vampires. Poor Ophelia has lost too much, despite our best efforts to keep her well-fed. I'm trying extra hard to up her caloric intake these days.

The piglets, however, most certainly do NOT need any extra caloires!

Wide load there on the right!

I think everyone is pretty happy that it's summer.

Button and Dahlia.

Dahlia and Cordelia.

Ophelia and Luther. This photo makes Ophie look chunkier than she is. She really does need to put back on a few pounds!

I think she's just happy to be away from the kids for a little while!


Carlton is unimpressed. "Why aren't you paying more attention to ME?!" We have plans to get a couple of female turkeys for him and Richard so they don't spend the rest of their lives in a state of utter frustation. :)

Have a happy Sunday!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

You can own this rug hooked by me! :)

I donated this rug (hooked and designed by me, and I also dyed most of the wool) to this weekend's Pilots N Paws Canada online auction. You can see the auction (and sign up!) here. I bought some really cool stuff in the auction last year.

My rug is at the start of the items, here, so it's easy to find.

Pilots N Paws Canada does excellent work! Here's a description, taken from the auction page:


About us:
Pilots N Paws Canada brings together the skills of a community of volunteers that can provide free air transportation to Canadian rescues and shelters that need help getting their abused, abandoned and injured animals to new beginnings within Canada. Spreading from coast to coast, the network of volunteers, Transport Coordinators and pilots make moving animals to areas of greater opportunity for adoption a priority and provide ongoing support to the hundreds of Canadian animal rescues that need that help.
As a Registered Non-profit Charity we rely on donations to keep our program going. Your support helps make rescues happen and allows us to do the outreach needed to find the volunteer pilots available when the time comes.   


If you;d like to bid on this rug and help out an excellent cause, go drop by the auction page! It ends on Monday at 6 pm PST.

Have an excellent weekend. :)

Friday, June 20, 2014


Do you like the ad I created for our local shelter's Twitter feed? Spock was born with just two toes on his front foot. I was rather pleased with my creation here!  Two months old and totally adorable.

If you're interested in Spock, he's at the SD&G OSPCA shelter in Cornwall, Ontario

NO. I am not adopting him!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Double trouble, old and new!

Here are our orange boys...

Julius (14) and Emerson (somewhere between 6 - 8 months), aka Agent Orange and Creamsicle.

Everybody's got a pet name around here!

Our old boy, still handsome!

Beautiful green eyes!

We love the old boy dearly.

Emerson seems to think he's okay too.

And not orange and not a cat...

Hi Luther!! Need to get some more piglet shots up soon. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Oh rats...

Oh yes. It's rat-o-rama in the barn. We have resorted to poison in the past when things got desperate but it's really awful, so we are planning on getting some true barn cats, which is a story for another day. In the meantime, we have stocked up on some of these...

As traps go, these are fairly humane: instant electrocution. I prefer them to snap traps (which sometimes maim instead of killing) or sticky traps (just a torturous UGH!) or poison (so bad, in so many ways, but effective if the rats aren't too suspicious to take the bait, or haven't developed warfarin immunity) We'll see how they work for the charming rat colony that has taken up residence here. We had a similar trap for mice that we used in our kitchen and it worked like a charm (although lately the cats have been dealing with the mice before they even make it out of the basement.) A little light comes on when a critter has expired in the trap. Compared to the mouse version, the rat one is  much bigger and uses a larger (12D) battery.

Now I quite like rats as pets, and I admire their intelligence and resourcefulness. However this spring they have gone absolutely nuts in our barn in ways we have never seen before (including gnawing holes in the floors of the duck and chicken coops, which is just NOT acceptable!) All our feed is kept in metal cans but that doesn't stop the rats from going to help themselves at the chicken and duck feeders (gaaack!)

The last straw was today.  I dumped out a bucket of water that I'd left out in the barn for the ducks and chickens. As I began to scrub it, saw Karène the duck snatch something from my feet and run off. I looked down to see a drowned young rat that I'd unknowingly dumped from the bucket, then looked up to see Karène racing off with yet another dead rat clutched in her beak! Two young rats had managed to drown in the bucket sometime between the time Gordon filled it this morning and the time I emptied it this afternoon, and I hadn't noticed the sodden corpses until the duck snagged one and took off. I do tend to daydream when doing barn chores.

Even better was the part where I had to chase Karène all around the yard, trying to get her to drop her ratty prize. Not a chance! She had absolutely no interest in relinquishing that tasty carcass to me. Finally I managed to catch her, but she still wouldn't drop her catch,  so I had to grab the sodden rat (in full rigor-mortis) by the TAIL with my BARE hand and yank the rodent out of the duck's beak.  I am usually not very squeamish but that particular manoeuvre just about did me in. I suppose I should be grateful that the rate wasn't ripped in half in some kind of ghoulish tug-o-war between me and Karène.

Needless to say, I had a beer with supper tonight. I don't drink much but you know, sometimes even I need alcohol!