Sadly, we have another chicken requiring a bit of treatment. I think having Flink (the roo) in the coop with the girls is proving hard on everyone. None of the chickens want to go outside in the snow, consequently everyone has been stuck inside for a month and a half already.  Flink wants to have his way with the girls, but they are tired of him and inevitably a battle ensues. 

Poor Blanche has had the short end of this stick, being one of Flink's favourites. If you've never seen a chicken mate, it can be a bit of a violent experience if the female isn't receptive.  Poor Blanche is not open to his advances and has suffered a bit of a gash on the top of her head. 

We first put some Blu-Kote on the wound, but it would seem that she's now got a bit of infection - swollen, red, oozing and hot.  Because the topical anti-bacterial medication was not helping her (in fact, the swelling had even pulled her eye lids back a bit), we decided to take more potent action.
While I consulted the Maritime Fowl Facebook group, Laur went down to Annavale Co-op to see what they had available for chicken medications.  Luckily, Phil was there (who knows a considerable amount about poultry) to help Laur with some recommendations.

She decided a penicillin injections were the way to go and we sprung into action.

 Whilst Laur put the finishing touches on our Home for Convalescent Chickens, Blanche and I entertained ourselves by checking out some fish tv.
Blanche came surprisingly easily. Sometimes the chickens struggle a bit when you pick them up, and not being one of our favourites, Blanche hadn't been handled quite much as some others.  I'm not sure if it was because she was feeling quite crummy, or if she simply realized we were going to help her but she came with me quite willingly and was interested in the household goings-on.  She sat in my lap as Laur constructed a wide catch-all to prevent wood shavings from being scratched out of the cage and on to the floor.  She took an avid interest in the fish for a bit, occasionally trying to peck at the small rocks lining the bottom of the aquarium.

The fish were also interested in her, too, often swimming in circles right in front of her.  Both species seemed to find a pleasant diversion in one another and it was a rather amusing sight.  
After the cage was ready, Laur bravely gave Blanche her first penicillin shot - 0.5cc injected into her breast.  As neither of us had ever given a chicken a needle before, we weren't sure what would happen. Would she struggle and flap? Would she try to wriggle free? Would she scream?  We were both tentative and curious.

I flipped Blanche gently on to her back, where she settled nicely and relaxed (apparently this is the "put the chicken to sleep" position). Laur drew 0.5cc into the 20ga syringe and quickly, confidently, injected it into her breast.

She didn't bat an eyelash! What a champ!

Blanche checking our her new pad.

This morning has dawned with a gray drizzle lightly falling.  After checking her a few times last night, it seems that she has passed in relative comfort. The swelling has gone down considerably, the wound has stopped weeping, both eyes are now looking symmetrical and she appears to be bright and perky.  She's had a nice big drink of water and eaten her breakfast. Laur even found an egg!

This afternoon we'll give her another injection, but for now she's resting comfortably and quietly.

She's such a good girl!


Horn hacking...

In retrospect, an Aussie saddle without a horn would have been a better investment - already having been caught and stabbed by it numerous times.  But because budgeting is tight, a different saddle was not in the cards. So, I've had to do some surgery on my current saddle. I'm sure I'll end up replacing the current flap with something prettier, but in the meantime my saddle is much safer.

Because there wasn't a lot of information online about removing a horn, I decided to document my experience so others will have an idea of what to expect should they decide to do the same thing to their inexpensive stock saddles.

So, here you go... hack on, happy hackey hacker!


Happy Solstice and Yuletide!

I'm not much for all the Xian-ness of the season, preferring instead to focus on the message of the ancients - darkness and light, death and rebirth, the cycle of the year and the hope that lives in our darkest days.

To that end, we're tucking into a supper of seafood chowder and waiting for our traditional listening to CBC's production of The Shepherd, written by Frederick Forsyth  and read by Al Maitland.

Take a moment to look around you and think about how your life would be different tonight if you had no electricity.  Tonight I am thinking of those tens of thousands in cities and towns without power on this dark, cold Canadian winter night. Stuck in apartment buildings with no elevator, no heat, no lights, not even a way to heat a can of soup. Please keep all those people in your thoughts. 

So whatever this season means to you, I hope you find rest, warmth, quietude and the company of good friends and family.


Houston, we have an "animal" problem.

Those of you with spouses or mothers will know exactly what I'm talking about when I mention the "something's wrong" voice.  In the past, I have heard it too often for comfort. Thus, when I hear it now it strikes fear into my heart - when I hear the "something's wrong" voice, I immediately get irritated.

This morning, when Laur came in from checking the birds she called to me.  "Please come here. We have a bit of an issue - an animal issue."  I'd checked the birds not 2 hours ago and knew there was nothing serious, and yet there was a tone in her voice, verging on panic, that irritated me immediately.

I sighed heavily and plodded down the stairs, certain that whatever was the matter was going to be neither fun nor clean.

Laur motioned towards the coops. "There," she said, "it's in there. There's a squirrel in the feed bin."

I sighed again, grabbed my rubbers and continued plodding out the door and down the hill.  This is what awaited me.


Day #2

Schools and events are closed across the province for "pending snow". Perhaps we should just stop teasing and shut 'er down for the holidays, yes?

In other news, The Goat goes in for neutering today. 

From the Mouths of Babes:

Last night Laur and I were going over today's scheduled appointments when she mentioned that Finn goes in for neutering today. 
A small voice from near the fireplace piped up, "ME TOO!"
I think what he meant was that he's got an appointment, too. For a tooth extraction.


Finn's Composting Adventure

Finn has been known to jump the barrier on the front deck from time to time. When Laur let the dogs in this afternoon, only one returned.  Neither of us had seen him jump nor had any inkling where he might have gone.

I called out the deck door quickly, but I neither saw nor heard anything. I went to the side door and called again. Nothing.

Just as I was reaching for my boots, a quick flicker of movement caught the corner of my eye.

You can take the dog out of the wild, but the dog can't get himself out of the compost.

Yes, there is a video of the repentant little nutter.



For the record, today is the first day school has been cancelled this year.

Last year my recording system was rather flawed, to say the least, and I lost track. So, let it be known, today is the first snow day!


Home on the range...

During today's inclement weather Laura was inspired to make a wonderful slow-cooked pork roast. Whilst it was percolating in the crock-pot she asked if there was anything I'd fancy for a treat.  Because I've always been rather fond of pull-apart type dessert, I asked her to research some kind of sticky-goodness to satisfy my sweet tooth.

I'm sure you can imagine my surprise at seeing "ass in a bag" in repose upon our kitchen range.

Apparently downstairs in the freezer, we had a few loaves of bread, ready to thaw, rise and bake.  Placed upon the range to do just that, were two loaves of unbaked bread, left to rise and await their fate as my sticky-bun treat! I can't wait!

The hatches are battened.

Seems we have a bit of a blow comin' in. As usual, Laur has the chickens, ducks and particularly the Guineas best interest in mind and we set out for the back to make sure everyone was comfortable.

Laur has been making a warm porridge for the girls every morning. Although today isn't as cold as yesterday, will be around zero by day's end, she likes to make sure everyone is well-fed and healthy. Laur is worried that with winter temperatures the Guineas (named The Kabuki Twins) will become quite weak and has decided to move them into the chicken coop. To that end, I hung the heat lamp in the coop. When the temp warms a bit I'll be back to make a few changes in order to accommodate them - a higher perch will enable them to stay away from the hens, lest they be picked on.  The ducks seem to be quite content with the little duck-house-inside-a-duck-house that we made for them.

It would also seem that the porridge breakfast and extra protein has paid off, as today we had our first chicken eggs!  We need to start keeping a sharper eye on those girls as the two we found this morning were frozen, but now that we know they're coming we'll be paying close attention!

Clockwise from top left:  jugs to take water to the birds; food for the stray kitty;
a spare chicken toy; our first, albeit frozen, eggs; and an empty porridge dish/spoon.

And so, with the fire blazing merrily, a bottle of mulled wine in reserve, meat in the crock, dogs happily chewing on some stinky hooves, a tall stack of books to tuck into and a few crafts on the itinerary, we are going to sit back and enjoy the season's first Maritime storm!


Are you lookin' at me, or lookin' for me?

As many of you know, we have a certain fondness for Raplapla at our house.  A few weeks ago, Frida sustained a life changing injury - she lost one of her eyes.  Needless to say, The Boy was verklempt - admonishing us to send her back to the hospital for treatment.

It's somewhat cost prohibitive to send her back for repair, as she's successfully outlived her 1 year warranty. This morning, we took things into our own hands and performed a rather successful transplant, if I do say so myself.

 Pirate Frida.

20/20 Frida


A couple of chicken vids for your enjoyment....

Flinker Ban Crows his wee heart out.
(...aaaaand it looks like I forgot to delete the credits bit... oh well. It's probably the same on the vid below.)

Hillary and Penny hop up for some treats.

Chickens and chicken accessories.

Well, we finally got some snow and it looks like it's here to stay - at least for a couple of weeks anyway.  The current temp is hovering around -5 which means that snow is melting in the sun and making the roads a bit  slick. But the sun is shining, the birds are singing and I can't help but feel upbeat. 

Yesterday I processed the last three of our male chickens.  We had to put one down a few weeks ago as he looked unhealthy and we managed to rehome one of the Silver Laced Wyandottes.  But the two Black Australorp x Golden Laced Wyandotte crosses and the Chantecler were too much for our small flock.  When the testosterone starts to flow, the flock hierarchy changes. They started by trying to out-crow one another and moved on to chest bumping. One of the BAxGLW was absolutely gorgeous, but was itching to get into a full-on fight with one of the other males, started to chase people around and tearing feathers out of the hens.

Oddly enough, we'd chosen Flinker Ban many weeks ago to be our flock roo. He matured faster than the others, has been crowing the longest and seems to be the most docile whilst doing a good job looking after the girls.  What does "looking after" mean? Well, he makes sure no-one has wandered too far, sounds the alarm when something looks threatening, generally struts around looking good without being aggressive and the hens listen to him.  He's also been really good with the females, and I think if we do hatch some babies in the spring they'll be a decent looking mix.

We've still got all three Buff Orpingtons  - Blanche, Penny and Hillary (with Hillary being my favourite of the favourites); one BAxSLW - Poe; and one Chantecler (Shorty - who seems to be at the bottom of the pecking order).  I think we're going to add one Red Comet from Mooshum's house, just to round out our hens to six.

Laur saw an interesting post on making a toy for the chickens and I think I'll put that together this afternoon.  Might help to relieve their boredom come winter - they've already decided to blockade themselves in a tiny chicken snow-protest.  Although, Penny and Hillary will hop up on the door barrier to receive some treats and evaluate the weather on a day-by-day basis.

 The beginnings of our own chicken toy.

Lucy wondering what I'm doing.

Skiffin and Poppy with the view from the stoop.

 Some new Nova Scotia product to try - Stutz cider made from 100% Nova Scotia apples; Glowine, a mulled wine from Jost; and Smuggler's Cove dark rum, distilled on Cape Breton Island.  I asked Laur why she had such a broad smile walking out of the liquor store this morning. She replied, "How can you not feel good about getting Air Miles from NSLC?"

"Pardon me, but have you heard the good news about our Lord and Saviour, Jésus Polito?"
Berwyn might no longer be with us, but his Chickengelical legacy lives on.


Off to Regina

Hello friendlies... I'm off to Regina for a few days to attend the funeral of a very dear friend.  Consequently, there won't be too many updates for the next week or so.


Sunday Drivers - Off to Walton and the great beyond...

On Sunday we decided to head out and explore some uncharted coastline.  Our wanderings took us through Hants County and all the way to Truro in Colchester.  On the way we passed through Walton and took a few snaps.

This sign is on Highway 215, north of Brooklyn.  Interestingly, the halfway point lies on the 45th parallel- this places us on the same latitude as Bordeaux, France; Turin,Italy; and, Hokkaido, Japan.  We're even on a more southern latitude than that of Portland, Oregon!

The light at Walton.  Although it is difficult to tell from this photo, it was absolutely freezing cold!  Prairies "dry" cold. Out East is "humid" cold.  It doesn't really seem to matter to me - dry or humid - cold is cold and it was FRICKIN' cold!

The strand at Walton.

 Walton's condemned wharf. It was far too frigid to take more photos, as I was completely unprepared for the weather, but we really must return with the truck on a more pleasant day.  The beach was carpeted with generously sized, flat, blue rocks.  I would love to pave the floor of my shop with these amazing stones.

On our way through Wolfville, we stopped at Pete's Fruitique for a wee snack and a bevvie.  For those who are not familiar with Pete's, I think it could be described as Mark's and Spencer meets Whole Foods, with a dash of Herrod's (but mostly just the prices!)   All of us selected a portion of sushi and a fruit juice.   In passing I spotted a barrel of the most beautiful chestnuts I've ever seen. The sign indicated they were from Italy and I was immediately taken back to my Christmas trip to Switzerland in 1998.  It was during this trip that I fell in love with roasted chestnuts offered at Christmas markets in every town square.  I simply could not get enough of them at that time and was so delighted to find such a quality product again. Because I am the only person in our household to enjoy this early winter treat, I only purchased a pound of the delicious little devils.

Our day ended in Truro, where Laura was delighted to find a Taco Bell.  While the boy and I enjoyed some popcorn chicken, Laur was quite happy to order tacos.  The time was just after 1pm when we decided to head home - and what a fortuitous decision it was, too.  The first little snow squall of the season meant the roads had deteriorated markedly by the time we were safely home!

I popped the chestnuts into the oven and when they were ready, we all sat down with a treat and concluded our adventure with an episode of Doc Martin

Fresh Italian chestnuts!

 Slice an X on the flat side of each nut, roast at 425 for 20-30 minutes.

Once the skins begin to roll back from the X, roast for a few minutes more, then wrap tightly in a towel to steam.  The shells should peel quite easily away from the nut inside.

So good!


Back with a vengeance!

Hello again my dears! I do apologize for the lapse in blogging, but it's been a busy couple of months. What with guests and my brain exploding, I've been rather preoccupied.  That said, Occidental Acres is back with a vengeance!

I've had a rather creative bug up my arse lately. I've completed a couple of projects and have another on the go.  To that end, I whipped up a set of saddle bags for Brandy.  And I just realized I should probably get a photo of that before I start talking too much about it. Once the weather clears a bit, I'll get over there and take some snaps of the ol' Brandster - her feet are looking fantastic and we've been putting on a few miles together. 

Because it's hunting season, we've been taking it easy on the backwoods stuff.  Sticking to the roads has been a bit of a bore, but it's only a couple more weeks before we can start wandering over hill and dale once again.

In the meantime, I finally busted out the forge this afternoon and pounded out a primitive hoof-pick.  It felt pretty good to pound some hot metal although I am incredibly rusty!  Shaping keg shoes is nothing compared to using your imagination and creating something with a bit of artistic flair. That said, this simple hoof pick will be serviceable, if lacking in panache

 Forge, blasting away.

Farrier's anvil and Grandpa's ball-peen hammer. I do have Grandpa's Peter Wright, but want to get my skills back up to snuff before busting it out. I know... it's an anvil, right? I'm only going to make hammer and anvil sandwiches, but there is a bit of ceremony and respect to be paid to those who've gone before me.

And of course, the chickens had to come over and check out what was going on.  Some really crappy snapshots of the girls and their curiosity.


 Attila and Hillary (she's my favourite!)



Did you know that a chicken's right eye is near sighted and left eye is far sighted?  You can tell in the photos of Penny and Blanche that I was quite far away when snapping the shot (well, you can tell because it's a really blurry/grainy snap, but also because they are looking at me with their left eye). Whereas the photo of Hillary tells you that I was quite close and that I had something interesting on my boot!  I recently read an interesting article on how chicken's see the world - check it out on Fresh Eggs Daily.

Glad to see you back, hearties! Come back soon and I'll be sure to get back on track with regular blog updates!

Oh yeah and your dose of From the Mouths of Babes:

"Momma, do you wiggle a little bit if your butt itches?"


The moment you've not been waiting for...

I know you've all been waiting patiently for a blog entry.  OK, some of you have been waiting patiently for a blog entry. Others? Not so much...

This is just a wee update to let you know that I have not forgotten about you, my hearties.  I do have a lot to share with you, but I've been a bit handcuffed by Cluster Headaches lately. It is a difficult target to nail down and a moving one at that.  Click here if you are unfamiliar with CH.  It pretty much runs my life for a few months each year and I've not been in much of a story-telling frame of mind lately.

Here are a few photos of our recent adventures to tide you over...

 Noggins Farm pumpkins.

The last peaches of the season.

The new guy is making himself at home.

 Adventures at Ross Farm during Nana's visit.

One of the last market days.
In Annapolis Royal during Nana's visit.

 Shannon River public access point.


 Windsor Pumpkin Festival - breast cancer fundraiser.

Inspector Clouseau dropped into the drink for a bit of the festivities.

 Even the local dogs were into it!

 A secret cove we recently discovered.

 Microwave in a landscape.

The Boy, colourful as usual.


Sunday Drivers - Fort Anne

Yesterday we had a special visit from my cousin Rob and his co-worker Michelle. They are on a cross-Canada tour promoting his non-profit organization, Our Horizon.

It's a simple, yet radical idea.  Just as Canada led the world in placing warnings on cigarette packages, Rob hopes to stand behind another Canadian first - warning labels on gas pumps. 

Worried about tar sands? Pipelines? Climate change? Disrupt Demand. We want to put warning labels on gas pump nozzles, similar to those on cigarette packages. Learn the theory, impact and how to lobby local government to pass this idea into law. Then, we'll take it global.

Check it out, mull it over, talk about it with your friends.  Email your Councillors, make a donation, spread the word.  You can even create your own label.  Seriously - check out the links, it's so easy!

As they only had a short time to spend with us, we wanted to show them some places which are special to us.  Naturally, we took them to the Farmers and Traders Market in Annapolis Royal and stopped for shenanigans in Fort Anne!

A very small bit of Autumn's bounty.

Beautiful, gigantic crooked-neck squash.

Ken's quote of the day on the Sinclair Inn.

Rob sets the hand-stand bar by staying up for several seconds.

Not to be outdone, Michelle shows us her newly acquired skill, too!

Uncle Rob, sharing his technique with The Boy.

"With a flower behind your ear, lean over."

"Then you hop with your legs."

"And then your shirt falls off!"

Cirque de Robbé!

This photo got cut off by the side of the monument, but was too good to pass up.  Boys will be boys!

Sharing a laugh on the cannon.

Shooting people to the moon!

I'm getting the impression that Nova Scotians don't hold back!

Clown detail.

All in all, a fun day was had by all.  Rob and The Boy really hit it off, goofing around, running up and down the hills, playing patty-cake, crawling on the cannons and laughing, laughing, laughing.  

Michelle was also the apple of The Boy's eye - I think thanks to Merida, he has a growing fondness for red hair.  At the market, he was dragging poor Michelle everywhere, trying to show her all of his favourite places - the balloon twisting clown, where he buys his favourite tarts, the wharf and of course all of his favourite places at Fort Anne.

Our day ended with a quick spin past the light at Margaretsville, a test-drive of Rob's SmartCar (of which I neglected to get a photo) and then they were on their way back to Halifax.  The Boy was particularly curious about Rob's car and was delighted to get a wee ride up the hill and back!

We'll be seeing Rob and Michelle again before they leave.  They're planning a quick jaunt back to the Valley to pick up Michelle's coat, scarf and phone charger!  Maybe they'll take the ferry from Digby - what a treat!