I took a few photos of the laying hens this morning.  They are growing up and you can really start to see their body types and colouring - fewer ratty baby feathers and more adult plumage.

 Chantecler - Berwyn

 Buff Orpington - Hillary and  Columbian Rock (I suspect male) - Flink
 Silver Laced Wyandotte - Maud - quite stout!

 Silver Laced Wyandotte - Pearl - seems to be The Boy's favourite as he's always asking after her.

Supposed to be a Columbian Rock, but I suspect Buff Rock or Orpington - Penny.  I'll have to get my chicken-lady's opinion!


All in a morning's work...

Some exceptionally bad photos to update you on the comings and goings at Occidental Acres.

Apparently chickens truly are the "gateway" livestock, because we've now got 14 Meaties, 11 Layers (of course some of those will turn out to be male) and four Buggers - read: Guineafowl.  By all accounts, they are the absolute best insect tick control. Not only is this a pesticide-free method of keeping ticks down, but it's also organic, lays edible eggs and doubles as a watch-dog.

 Super cute as babies.
 File:Helmeted guineafowl kruger00.jpg
 Super hideous as adults.  Ours will be this plain grey/white, but there are several colour varieties.  "They eat lice, worms, ants, spiders, weedseeds, and ticks while on range" - wikipedia.

Oh yeah, we'll also be getting four Muscovy ducks (slug eaters) from Mooshum and Kookum.  Their ducks are the most beautiful colours and I've never seen another Muscovy like them - we'll be getting a brown female, a white with faint buff female, a beautiful black/green female with golden lacing on her neck and dark male.  I'll post photos when we bring them home. 

To that end, it looks like we'll be processing the meat birds next week while The Boy is at day camp, but before I leave for Regina.

Another exciting development this morning entailed Aida and Truman cornering a young squirrel in the tomato boxes.  You can't see it, but in the bottom of that square zinc container is the answer to every one of Aida's dreams. You might, however, notice that she's a bit fuzzy in this photo. That's because she's trembling... and drooling... with excitement. Like somehow she's going to reach in and toss that little squirrel right down her gullet.

I started to feel bad for her, so I removed the tomato planter from the box.  Here she is trying to taste the squirrel through the wooden grill in the bottom of the box.  Before anyone gets upset, I eventually put her in the house and let the poor little thing go. Aida is 10 years old, going blind and deaf and slowly becoming incontinent.  The least I could do is let her have some fun - the squirrel was perfectly safe under wooden slats.

Last Saturday we went down to Annapolis Royal for the weekly market.  As is our habit, on the spur of the moment we decided to head cross-country and ended up in Liverpool in search of a nice sandy beach.  After Laur stopped in at the local tourist info centre and got directions, we made a pit-stop at Frenchy's.  Frenchy's is da bamb, b'y!  If you like good quality second-hand clothing, this is the place to go - much of the apparel is brand-new brand-name stuff!

Anyways, it was a wee bit chilly and I'd forgotten a sweatshirt/jacket, so we stopped in.  I happened by the bedding and spied a really neat twin sized flat sheet and scooped it up.  I got a brand-new, Russel, Riot-red sweatshirt and spent 9 dollars all told.

When I showed the sheet to The Boy, he said he'd like it made into a blanket.

So, that's what I did. We went and got a blue $5 twin sheet from Wlamrat (that's what we call it around our house) as our local Frenchy's didn't have any suitable twin sheets for a backing.  While at the mall, I stopped in at the fabric store and purchased some quilted cotton batting.  A few stitches here and a few stitches there, et voilá! A summer weight quilt for My Little Gift from Jesus.

Señior Stinky Pants said his favourite is the blue (of course) guy with three eyes. My fav is the wee brown teddy-looking guy.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, that's Olootee, Tiger, Softee and Frida.  Olootee and Frida are from Raplapla in Montreal - check them out, they have amazing dolls.


Sunday Drivers - The Honey-Do edition

No driving adventure today as we all stayed home to do some projects.  I cleaned the meaties' coop, took apart some old metal roofing pallets, stored leftover siding material and stacked the rest of the wood.  When cleaning the chicken coop I brought the tractor over to the doorway so that I could scoop the soiled shavings right into the bucket.  I'm not quite sure how it happened, but all of the sudden I realized that the loader bucket was stuck in the door way. Sideways.

I didn't feel the tractor slide sideways, but perhaps I sunk a bit in the mud because getting the bucket stuck in a doorway is a bit of a head-scratcher. I muttered some combination of expletives as I contemplated my course of action.  The last thing I wanted to do was to take the bucket off the tractor, but neither did I want to inadvertently rip the casing, door and wall off my new chicken coop.

I put the transmission in "turtle", shifted into first and very slowly inched back while turning the wheels hard right.  This is difficult to do at the best of times, even with power assisted steering. But without moving very far in a backwards direction, it was nearly impossible.  Undaunted, and with Die-Hard type images of my coop being blown apart in some amazing Hollywood pyrotechnics display, I forced the wheel right and turned the tractor just enough.  Because the bucket is so far ahead of the wheels, there is a bit of "tail-swing" when conducing a sharp turn.  I was able to move the loader almost straight out from the doorway and back up without any damage.


I completed my chores and took a moment to watch the wee layer chicks chase each other around the run.   Worms are plentiful in the mornings because of all the humidity and dew. It seems they come to the surface just to sacrifice themselves to the birds.  One bird would find a worm and run around cheeping triumphantly, whilst the others chased it, hoping for a mouthful.  Soon, almost all the birds had worms. It was almost comical as each ran around trying to entice all the others.

While all of this was transpiring, Laur was downstairs rewiring the pantry for a motion-sensing light.   Of course, The Boy set up a paint-can drum set downstairs and was beating out some tunes whilst Laur was trouble-shooting her light. Seems she can get the light to stay on or stay off, but not not operate properly.

She still has some weed-eating on her agenda and will likely get that done after supper - roast duck!



I close my eyes... and a moment later I am seven years old, on the flower couch in my parents living room. Never very comfortable, but always providing a safe and cradled haven in the stormy sea of sickness.

Pitching and yawing in an Icarian dystopia, I lift my right hand - an enormous lobster claw - then drop it to my chest, that I might experience it's colossal weight.

I lift my head, only to realize it too presses ever downward through my pillow and into the sofa's frigid briny depths.


Tributaries, formed on the watershed of my brow, become raging rivers careening wildly down my temple, pooling placidly in my ears.

I'm drifting.  Shudders, long past controlled, wrack my teeth from their dry berths.  Saliva scuttles their small craft, tossed out with the flotsam of a late lunch.


Wednesday's forecast: Showers with a chance of baths

It's another beautiful day in the Valley; twenty-five degrees Celsius, overcast and a light breeze.

After Laur's morning work was completed, we took a jaunt into town.  After dropping The Boy off at daycamp, we sauntered over to Charlie's feed store and asked him all about bird food.  You see, chickens truly are a "gateway" livestock.  Get a few meaties and you'll want layers. Get a few layers and soon you end up with ducks.  Once the ducks are settled in you will naturally turn to Guineafowl.  Aaaaaand, the list goes on from there.  Hopefully all this will lead to a nice Belgian gelding quite soon...

But I digress.

After a little feed-store education, we came home and set about the business of logging.  Doo (equipped with his bell) and I took a walk to the other end of the property and had a look at a stack of logs which had been left behind. Over 40 eight-foot pieces of ash and beech are left to rot and for the life of me I can't figure how to get them out. I might put them in a pile near the fence and ask our neighbour in the fall if I can access his field to take them out.

Doo and I dragged several logs around, looking for the best place to bring them close.  Of course, as I was moving them around I thought to myself, "Self, it would be much easier to find a good path if you weren't dragging the logs through the forest behind you." But of course, I didn't pay attention to that tiny voice.

I went up and down the hill a few times before I gave up and started to drag a large piece of beech home.  A couple hours later, after all that futile effort, I didn't want to come home empty handed.  But it was a chore dragging it over logs, muddy ruts, stumps, large branches and through grass and rushes taller than me. 

Of course, Doo was my constant companion this entire time - deliriously running about, sniffing, sneezing and doing his doggy thing.

It's almost 900m from the house to the east end of the property and I paid in sweat for every footstep. I was drenched from perspiration alone - never mind that a light shower had started falling.  My boots got sucked into the mud a couple of times. I fell a few times - during which I had visions of my femoral, carotid or brachial arteries (you pick) being penetrated by any number of discarded sticks, branches, twigs or limbs which litter our property in great number.

Eventually I took to counting my steps - for every hundred I took, I'd take a small rest in order that the deer flies could also take a break and have a wee feed on the tender skin behind my ears.   During the homestretch, right before the brook, eyes stinging with sweat, I entertained the notion of jumping in, clothes and all, for a dip in the crisp, refreshing water. 

But I was too thirsty and after dropping the log, I elected to carry on back to the house.  Just for shiggles, I had decided to count my paces from the bridge back to the house. I'd just reached thirty-nine when in front of me, Doo took a flying leap straight into the air.  He danced about and began pushing his face into the dirt, clearly in distress.

I called a few times to him and  he belly-scooted over to me - shoulder dropped, eye closed, dragging his body.

Once he got close enough I saw a yellow liquid on his forehead, over his muzzle and completely down the front. 

Oh fuck.  Skunk.

I got the dip in the creek after all.  Once I convinced Doo to stop rolling around and follow me down, I began rinsing him with creek water to soothe his eye and mouth.   At tremendous sacrifice, I even used my favourite cap to scoop the cold, running water onto his neck, back and face.   For a dog who does not really like the water, he took it all like a champ.

After doing the best I could with just water, we made our way home - I was in front, leading a very sad dog who followed with his head down, closely behind.

"Laur", I said into the basement window by her desk, "Tru is ok, but we've had a mishap."
"You mean you can't smell that?" I asked.
"Oh fuck", came the reply, "skunk."

Having been through this with Petey, she knew the recipe for anti-skunk-stink shampoo and quickly put a batch together.   Here's the recipe if you ever need it:

1/2 bottle peroxide (about 250ml), 2-3 heaping tbsp baking soda, generous squirt of good-quality dish soap (because skunk scent is quite oily).

 Doggy sadness turned to absolute dejection as I began to hose and scrub him down.  Poor ol' Doo!  The skunk had got him all over the side of his head, his chest and shoulder.  It was in his eye, ear and nose.  I'm sure it was painful as eye lids and eye were bright red.  I could even smell it on his breath, which means it got him in the mouth, too.

It really is too bad that you can't smell a picture.

After two soap/rinse cycles, we went out to the meadow and played a few good games of of stick to relieve some stress and dry him out a bit.

I think we got most of it off - the bell and collar didn't seem any worse for wear, my hat and clothes are now in the wash on "sterilize" (so thankful I was wearing an old ripped-up pair of rain pants) and Doo is completely knackered out.  Laur reports that he's now curled up in a tiny ball, sleeping on the cozy by her desk.

I think it was a young skunk - what with his bell and all, it should have had ample warning that something was coming.  It's also unusual for a skunk out during the day - they've been described as "crepuscular" (isn't that a great word?).

I wonder what he'll think the next time he comes across a skunk?


It is done.

With Mooshum by my side and Laur in tow, today I set about the business of processing meat birds.

I have inserted a jump here in case you do not wish to read any further.


My Brilliant Chickens

Because the laying hens are getting to an age where they can start going outside, I've been forced to reconsider the Meat King's access to the outside.

Behold, the meaties leaving their coop.

While they were at play in the big yard, I used the chainsaw to punch a hole in the west wall of their coop. I fixed it up with a nice guillotine-style door, moved the ramp from the stairs to the new door and gave the door a few test drives before letting loose the fowl.

Laying hen run to the right, behind gate; meat bird run to the left, by rain barrel.

I lured the birds back into their coop with false promises of grain. When they see me come into the run, they literally flock to me. I'll twirl their food bucket to spin the last dregs of mash to the edge of the bowl and stand back. They will run over one another to get to their food bucket. If I do this in their coop, they'll all come at a chicken trot - up the stairs and ramp.

With all of them in the coop, I gave a bit of food reward and opened the new door.  You could have heard a pin drop.

Maybe even two or three.

I could almost hear the machinations in their t-i-n-y brains slowly grind into motion.

"Baaaaawk, bawk, bawkbawkbaaaaaaaaawk," Speedy said hesitantly as she carefully moved towards freedom.   She's always the first to do anything, which is one reason why she's going to be kept.  A relatively intelligent smart bird, insofar as chickens are concerned, and she regularly figures solutions and demonstrates for the others. Anyways, she came hesitantly out onto the ramp, as if it was suspended over flaming hot lava.  Soon the others came forward - four males gallantly strutted out as if they'd had the best idea ever - and then it was pandemonium as chickens shoved one another out of the way and off the ramp.

Great! They'd made the mental leap from ramp in main doorway to ramp in new chicken doorway!

I gave them some vegetable trimmings after supper and they were all bawking. scratching and meditating contentedly in their new digs.  Because it was time for everyone to bed down for the night, I gave the food bucket a swish, put my safety glasses on and waited for the riot to begin.

Speedy, as usual, came trotting in to receive her nightly ration. I shook the bucket again and stood back.

Again I waited.  Speedy was super happy to have the entire kilo of food to herself and pecked excitedly.

Shake, shake.


I peeked out the door.

Thirteen pairs of eyes hungrily watched my every move.  I could see a couple of the chickens calculating the jump from ground, past ramp and into doorway, but no one moved. Not one feather, not one eyelid. They were all, ALL, squished under the ramp, under the door. Packed together like wee hungry sardines. As if they had been teleported from inside the coop to the new run, not one was able to negotiate the ramp.

This is a problem because earlier in the day I did not install a gate for humans in the four foot fence which prevents chickens from wandering off into the wild beyond.  There is no way for me to get into the chicken run.

I called them again.
I shook the food near the doorway.
I thew a few bits of food onto the ramp.
I stuck my head through the chicken door and cooed softly.

Nothin' but a few blinky stares.

I sighed, got the ladder, placed it over the fence and attempted a descent into the chicken abyss.  Ever notice that ladders only have rungs on one side?  Yeah, well they do.  Why, you ask? Probably so someone can't use it to get in and out of their chickeny Alcatraz, that's why.

As I jumped from the third-most top rung on the eight foot ladder and into the run, I contemplated building a stile in case this happens again (and it will). But with my luck, the chickens will completely ignore the terrifying ramp and use the stile.

None the less, first thing on the to-do tomorrow is to build a gate, because you know this is going to happen again, and again, and again. And possibly two or three more times until they ALL figure it out.

From chick to hen

By request, some snaps of the chickee babies.  Their adult feathers are coming in, so they're looking a wee scraggly these days!  It's so hard to take photos on a sunny day, but I'll get some good ones before long.

Buff Orpington - Penny

Buff Orpington - Hillary

Columbian Rock - suspected Buff Orpington

Chantecler - Shorty

Chantecler - Berwyn

Columbian Rock - Flinker Ban

Golden Laced Wyandotte x Black Australorp - Atilla (no longer the biggest chick!)
I suspect all my GLW/BAs are male

Golden Laced Wyandotte x Black Australorp - unnamed

Golden Laced Wyandotte x Black Australorp - unnamed

Silver Laced Wyandotte - Maud

Silver Laced Wyandotte - Pearl (Sadly, I think Pearl is male...)


Tweet, tweet!

This just in - Occidental Acres is now on Twitter!

I have no idea what I'm doing!

Chickees big day

Big day in chickee land.   I opened their small enclosure to the larger space of the coop floor and hooked them up with the big-bird feeder and waterer.  Initially I had some concern that they wouldn't "get" the waterer, so I've been filling a small, shallow dish for them several times a day.  After two weeks of super hot weather and filling and cleaning the water dish a million times a day, it got pretty old.

Sunday Supper

We're having some wonderfully warm, low-humidity days!  Temps are in the low 30s and a slight breeze blowing makes for pleasant work outside. Those who didn't get their haying done before our last stretch of rain are back in the fields, trying to get the work done before it rains again.


Sunday Drivers - Bear River

So... went down Bear River and Digby way today and I took some amazing photos of the local sights.  However, I forgot to put my memory card in the camera so... you can imagine the rest of the story!


Hot diggity dawg!

It was another calm and beautiful morning in Nova Scotia. Now that the field is fenced, Dawg-nut and I have been having a bit of fun.  It is difficult to take quality photos while throwing a frisbee, so please pardon the image quality.  He's so athletic and can't wait to really start working with him!


Workin', Workin', Wooorkin'! Rawhide!

It's been a busy couple of days. I've fenced all but the last 120' of frontage and have to make two gates then that project will be complete. This hasn't stopped El Doo and I from heading out to the field to enjoy ourselves, though.  Now that the meadow has been mowed (174 240 square feet, mowed four feet at a time.  Took me over three hours!), the ticks have been knocked down and we can now play frisbee and chase-the-Kong to our hearts content.  His recall is pretty darn good and I'm not worried about him finding the 120' gap at the far end. Nor is it a big deal if for some reason he chases something over the brook.


Busy Beavers

Yesterday was a busy day in the rain.  I rented the wood splitter and made a big dent in all those logs at the top of the logging road.

This pile represents five front-end loader loads of wood.


Sunday Drivers

Well, it was our intention to go down to the beach Margaretsville this evening, as boy loves to play in under the falls. However, for some reason he decided that he'd rather stay home and have a bath.


Sunday is a popular day for my blog - stats zoom up starting Sunday mornings!


Farm update

We've been plodding along with work on the property. I've been fencing, our fruit trees are settling in nicely and we now have a small patch of grass in the back "yard".

Check it out!


Rain, rain go away!

It would seem that it's been raining for weeks, but finally an end is in sight. Unfortunately, that end will bring temps in the low 30s and with the humidex it's going to get downright ugly (think 40s).  It will dry out eventually and hopefully we'll be able to enjoy some nice summer weather.


Chickee Lickee Chooks

Baby Buff Orpington - Hillary - named after Sir Edmond Hillary because (s)he likes to be the one on top of the rock in the water dish.  I wasn't able to get a decent shot of the bigger Buff Orp.