Pets

Summertime, and the Living is... Busy!!

Is summer really almost over? And I haven't put up a single blog post outlining what has been filling up our time? (Okay, I guess a single one--which I copied from my husband's post about the Spartan Race.)

As per usual, there is never a dull moment around here. Thanks to the immensity of the list, I am going to keep it to point form.

  • Two days after school was out in June, we went to visit our families in central Alberta for about 8 days, the culmination of which was the Spartan Race in Edmonton on the way home. My brother, Logan, was also there for the week from Seattle area, and my mom also made the trip down for part of the week in order to see him. It was so awesome to see members of our extended  families, plus a few of our friends. I took over 750 photos on this trip! Needless to say, it's taken a while to slug through them all, and I confess that I am not finished yet. Here's one:

"Uncle" Logan and Jabin at the Go-Karts

  • While on holidays, I received notification that the eCommerce platform that I chose to build my store on will be closing down in February. So I have to migrate everything. I am not very happy about that, as you may have guessed. So... guess what I will be doing this fall?
  • This summer has been exceptionally hot and dry in the Peace Country. We are usually lucky to have a week where the temperatures hit the high twenties, but this year has seen a good six-week stretch where the average temperature is around 30 degrees C or higher. In that same six weeks, there has only been one rainy day, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times rain fell at all. Thank goodness that I can water my garden--the tomatoes and squash are loving the heat, and in general, the garden is looking really nice. The temperatures inside my thin-walled tin can of a house have been less nice, with average temperatures in the afternoon being well over thirty degrees. I have begun to think that "slicked with sweat" is the new normal.
  • Jason's red Ford Ranger has been dead since March or April, and the repairs too costly to be worthwhile for this little truck. It has served us well, but we knew it was time to move on. After several months of sharing a vehicle, a generous gift from a family member enable Jason to buy a new (to us) half-ton last week. I am VERY glad to have my freedom van back, and Jason is loving his new "baby."
  • Jude was sponsored to go to Riverside Bible Camp this week, and just got home this afternoon. Tales of exploits with his buddy (and cabin-mate) Ethan have been filling the air ever since. It was the longest he has ever been away from the family, but he doesn't seem any the worse for wear. His most excited exclamations were for the food. "I think I ate 80% of the Jell-O I've ever eaten in my life this week. They even had whipped cream." :-)
  • Today, while not a whole lot cooler in general, started off several degrees cooler than has been the norm of late. I took advantage of that fact to make blueberry jam*, cook up some of the copious amounts of zucchini being produced in my garden into a yummy, cheesy, soup, and grate the rest into freezer packets to be made into muffins and loaves at a later date.
 


  • I am loving the sunflowers that I planted under my office windows this summer--the first time I have had them so close to the house. They are almost all in bloom, and I had to take advantage of this little buzzy guest on one this morning.
  • Our orange female tabby, Angel, had kittens in June-ish, both of them little copies of their mom and creamy-orange tabby father Tigger. The cuties are almost ready to go out into the world--but they are nigh impossible to catch. Sigh.


  • My birthday on Sunday was also the date of the Supermoon--when the moon appeared largest of any full moon of the year. I did not take advantage of the photo op due to sheer exhaustion, but I DID take advantage of the one in July to play around with moon photography (though it was not quite as impressive as the sequel.)

Almost the Supermoon

  • In two weeks, I will have a child in Junior High! Oh me, oh my, where has the time gone? I hope your summer has been going well, friends. What was your favourite summer memory so far?

*This recipe turned out good, but too sweet--next time I plan to cut the sugar by almost a third. It might require a longer cook time if you do that, though.

A Random Series of Un/Fortunate Events

Last weekend, the clocks sprung forward an hour for Daylight Savings Time. Ever since, "springing" out of bed has been out of the question for me. I've felt tired all day, every day, and am really hoping that this weekend will help me make the final transition into the new schedule. The spring time change is always the worst for me, but seems worse than usual this year, not sure why. (Anyone else wish that the almighty "THEY" would pick one and stick to it, for-crying-out-loud?!)

Maybe the tiredness is accentuated because the weather simultaneously went from "warm and sunny" to "freeze-your-knackers-off and gloomy", which doesn't help at all.

Despite that, the week has plugged on at it's normal, relentless pace. The boys are in another round of swimming lessons for three days a week until the end of March. Unfortunately, it is in the morning this time around, which really messes up our school schedule on those days. By the time we get home, not only are we past their brains' peak operating times, but they are also tired from the swimming. Some days, my pokey middle child hasn't finished his "morning" subjects until 5 p.m.... or later. The other two are sometimes not far ahead of him. It can make for kind of a long day, not to mention that we are falling further and further behind in our "afternoon" subjects of history and science. Thank goodness we are not Alberta-government-aligned in those ones!

Last fall, I joined a ladies Bible study group to do a study on James by Beth Moore. We just finished it up this week (crammed an 8-week course into four months :-D), and I am so thankful for what I learned through it. It has helped me to become much more proactive in my faith, in the sense of not only seeing the need that surrounds me, but looking for ways that I can actually do something about it. It can still be frustrating to see so much wrong in the world and feel so inadequate for the task of making a difference--but I can still make a small difference. And the small things that I can do might just make a big difference in the life of somebody. We never know what long-term impact our small actions can make on the world, whether for good or for bad. The study also inspired my assignment for Week 2 of the songwriting course I am taking from Berklee professor Pat Pattison, which you can read about here.

Last weekend, I cajoled Jason into doing a renovation project that has been on the back-burner since moving into our current trailer. When we moved in, the linoleum throughout the house needed to be replaced. The addition was done before we even moved anything into it (by yours truly, I am proud to say), and at the same time as we purchase lino for that project we also bought laminate for the larger boys' bedroom to cover the disintegrating 35-year-old linoleum that was there. We got a great deal on the flooring through Spirit River Flooring (it really does cost less, there!), partly because we weren't being very picky about colour, partly because they had a sale on laminate at the time, and partly because the saleslady was very sympathetic to our situation of having to replace our home because of the mould issue, and did the best she could for us on the price.

Fortunately, when we purchased the first trailer, the previous owners had just put laminate into the smaller bedroom in that trailer, and they had three leftover boxes that they gave us. That bedroom is almost identical in size to the room Jude currently occupies, so we figured we would have more than enough laminate to do the floor in there without purchasing anymore, even if it meant lifting some out of the old trailer.

However, despite getting Noah's and Jabin's room done last spring, and having the best of intentions to get to Jude's "fairly soon," it didn't happen until this Sunday past. However, once we got started on the project, it only took a few hours to empty the room (including taking apart the bunk beds), lay the flooring, and move everything back in. Jude got to bed a little late, but since it was the first day of the time change, he probably wouldn't have fallen asleep earlier, anyway--night owl that he is. The three boxes of laminate were the perfect amount to cover the floor, so we didn't even have to lift the "used" stuff. :-)

It's nice to have that project out of the way. It seems that stuff like that doesn't happen in the summer, because it is way too hot indoors. Maybe we should look at getting a window-mounted air conditioner this summer, because frankly, I am kind of amazed we got through last July without my guitar cracking and without all of us turning into little pools of water and minerals in our beds.

At any rate, while Jason was cutting floorboards outside last Sunday, he let our Alaskan Malamute (who is now a 17-month-old "teenager," with all the grace of Goofy in a China shop, and the self-discipline of a two-year-old), Thunder, run free. During the warmer weather we were having last week, we had been tying him up to prevent untimely chicken deaths as we let the chickens out of the coop to enjoy the sun. The snow, at about three feet, is high enough that these excellent flyers don't feel that the run fence is a particular hindrance right now.

Jason was keeping an eye on him, but it doesn't take long for this speedy dog to be on top of any little thing that he thinks might entertain him, which was the case with one unfortunate hen who strayed outside the run. Jason interfered before she died, but since Thunder had been tossing her around like a football, she lost all but one scraggly little tail feather, nearly all the feathers on her back, and several square inches of hide, as well.

So, needless to say, "Rosie" (as we have now dubbed her) has been spending the last several days in the house in a large plastic storage tub that doubles as a brooder for small batches of chicks. She is past the critical stage--she didn't go into shock and die, and after several bouts with hydrogen peroxide and colloidal silver, the wounds have closed up and appear uninfected--and yesterday, she even started walking around in her little tub, eating stuff, and clucking gently at us when we checked on her. If it weren't for the missing flesh at a most inopportune location as far as roosterly "affection" is concerned, I'd actually send her back out today. As it is, I'm wondering, How long will it take for a chicken's hide to grow back?! I guess we'll see. The poor thing will have to be in "solitary" for another day or two, at least.

Well, you're pretty much caught up, and that's enough rambling for one post. Happy Thursday, friends!

Epic Fail

Since I am only in my second year of chicken farming, and the monetary investment into the project far outweighs the benefits received from it, when I have a loss, I feel it. Not just in my pocketbook--I am still attached to the darn critters, because they are my responsibility.

Now granted, I no longer weep when I find a dead chick from confusing causes in amongst the healthy ones--an event that, thankfully, has been rare this year. And the only deaths of adult birds that I weep at are the ones I inflict myself.

In fact, I am emotionally hardened enough already that I don't really cry when the deaths are inflicted by another sentient being, either. But not so hardened as to feel nothing. Oh, no--there are definitely other emotions evoked.

Like anger.

This week has seen some serious losses to my flock. The flock that we spend money, time, and effort on so that WE can have the benefit of our labours, not some random passing coyote who realizes that these dumb, domesticated birds are much easier hunting than the other prey he might find in the trees.

I should have 20 adult birds. I only have 12. The numbers have been dwindling at the rate of about one a day.

Jason has been working on digging the post holes for a permanent, enclosed, fortified-against-wildlife chicken run, but it is slow going in our gravel-pit of a yard. Also, he is away on a work trip this week, so hasn't been able to take advantage of the ground softened by rain, and I have been too busy to do the same.

We can't get that thing finished fast enough. I managed to get a "temp" enclosure of orange snow fence and electric-fence-posts up around the coop the other night (the soft ground certainly helped with this project). It has, so far, mostly managed to fulfill its purpose of keeping the chickens inside, out of the trees where they are "sitting ducks", so to speak. At only three feet tall, the soft plastic wasn't animal-proof by any stretch, but I hoped it might be a deterrent for the coyote.

Nope. Two more today. I could see the remains of their struggle right on the border of the fence, little feathers scattered about as an enraging reminder that something else was profiting at my expense... and probably laughing at me, too.

You know, I know Roald Dahl has us all sympathizing with a chicken-stealing fox in his classic story, but in my heart, I am really with Boggus, Bunce, and Bean. Those darn foxes, coyotes, and other critters have no right to the fruits of my labour!!

However, despite the staggering losses to my adult flock, my chicks have been okay so far, as they are always completely enclosed in our other, smaller chicken tractor, within which they are warmed by a heat lamp, protected from the wind, and get to see fresh grass about once a day. When we first got the chicks, Sunshine (our golden retriever) proved that although she seemed to have overcome her need to chase adult chickens around, she had just as keen of an interest in these new little appetizers as Koda had with last year's newbies--at four days old, she managed to dig a hole under the chicken tractor and extract at least one chick before Jason caught her in the act, little brown body still in her mouth.

Koda had been spending a lot of time kennelled, unless we were outside, since he has a tendency to wander off to the neighbours' to visit his buddies if left alone outside for longer than ten minutes. However, Sunshine had been free to wander around (ideally, protecting the yard from thieving coyotes). Since that incident, they have both been on detention.

We make an effort to make sure the dogs get several hours of exercise a day, which is usually pretty easy. When we are outside doing our yard work in the evenings, we let them out, and they exercise each other. However, with the rain for the last several days, I haven't been outside that much at night. Since Koda seems to have been doing better (not running off), and Sunshine had seemed to be less interested in the chicks now that they are a little older, I thought I would just let them run around tonight and keep an eye on them. So, every now and then, I would look out the window and see Koda running around. It should have set off an alarm bell that Sunshine was not there wrestling with him. But it didn't--after all, she isn't the one who runs off.

When I went out to "put them to bed," I was very thankful it wasn't raining.

Because I got to fix holes in my little chicken tractor's poultry wire (she went through two layers!)

And Sunshine gets to spend the night with a dead chick around her neck. I don't know if she got more--the hole which she also dug in the ground under the rear edge (and dragged one through, I'm sure--the holes in the wire didn't seem big enough for her to get through, and the chicks were more interested in staying at the opposite end under the heat lamp) was certainly big enough!

Sunshine had an epic fail tonight. I'm just thankful that it wasn't quite as epic as Koda's--as far as I can tell, she only got a few, (a lot less than 40!) and maybe only the one I caught her with. It's really hard to count seventy-five portable little chicks!

Why do we have dogs again?

(On a more positive note--Koda seems to have either learned from last spring's experience, or has grown past that stage, as he has not attempted poultricide this year.)

The Great Gardening Experiment

Remember how I mentioned that I was going to try straw bale gardening this year?

A perfect way to get an "instant garden", while doing something with the ratty straw bales that I used to winterize my chicken coop with, thought I.

Well, it just keeps getting better.

As the plan evolved, Jason helped me set the bales up in a ring around an odd patch by the vegetable garden with a little dirt in it. The dirt was "left" from when I was first building my raised veggie garden beds, and I had needed a place to dump the dirt-in-waiting before moving it into the beds. That was two years ago, so mostly it had been taken over with quackgrass, dandelions, and a bit of the marshy weeds that had come with the dirt. (I got this dirt from our friends Greg and Robin, who had made a big pile of topsoil while digging a new dugout for their water source a couple of years ago.)

After circling up the bales, the boys covered the top with composted chicken litter from the winter (one more "waste item" getting put back into use!), and drenched the whole thing with water to kick-start the composting process. A week later I managed to dig and pull and chop most of the weeds out from the middle, and in between battling mosquitoes I had time to think what a waste it was to just be throwing that valuable greenery over the side to smother the wild strawberries.

Straw bale/

That night, while I was reviewing the ins and outs of straw bale gardening on this site, my eye was caught by another link called "lasagna gardening." (Wouldn't you be curious how pasta and meat sauce works into the garden?) Well, by the time I had read that page, I knew what I was going to do in the middle of that straw bale garden.

My original plan had been to dig out the weeds, throw in some sunflower seeds (which I have been collecting for years, because apparently I have many good intentions when it comes to flower gardening, and am a little short on follow-through) and see if any of them grow. I wanted to clean out my seed drawer and start fresh, and I knew most of them would likely not germinate anyway, due to their age, so what difference did it make?

Mixed sunflowers

However, I really liked the idea of sheet composting the middle section of the garden. For one, it would help the straw bales retain some moisture. For two, it would give me a good start on some nice, rich soil, and the beginnings of a permanent, rather than temporary, garden spot. For three, it would help me use up some stuff that was laying around the yard.

So, in went the layers. Ripped-up cardboard boxes, followed by all those weeds (and then some) that I had dug out the night before (Yes! I actually put weeds into my garden!), followed by a layer of composted chicken litter.

Several days passed before I was able to progress from there--days involving rain, and snow, and wind, and coldness. Sunday afternoon was bright and sunny, and I knew I had to finish the job before the growing season got any shorter.

More layering commenced: partially-decomposed compost from the bin (collecting since last summer, but some of it was pretty fresh); partially-decomposed straw from the dogs' winter bedding; extra bags of peat moss that were laying around, full of holes and ants (the peat moss and ants went in, not the bags); some potting soil in a thin layer on top.

Straw bale garden 2

After that, I mixed all my sunflower seeds--old and new--together for the official scattering. The boys and I each took a handful and threw them in--the result was covering a rather smaller area than I expected that many packets of seeds to handle. A bit anti-climactic, since I had been promising them they could help me plant sunflowers once I got the garden ready. Oh, well. I filled in the rest with daisy seeds.

Then I planted as many other flower seeds as I could around the straw bale edges, leaving a few spaces to insert tomatoes in a week or two when my plants indoors are ready to move out.

Will anything grow? I don't know. It would be nice if it ALL grew, but right now, I am just kinda excited to see what will happen.

I call it my "Anything Goes" garden. If no sunflowers grow, at least I might get a few more hills of potatoes out of the deal from the "extras" we threw in the compost pile last week! :-)

Potatoes sprouting in the veggie garden (wire to keep the chickens out)

Potato leaves

The peas and corn have sprouted! Yay! (Last year, my corn didn't grow at all. Also, I'm using last spring's pea seeds. I was a little relieved to see them start to peek out above the dirt.)

Peas and Corn shoots

Gardening assistants? Well, three out of four, anyway. The hairy one mostly likes eating the fertilizer!

Three sprouts and a dog

Blog Giveaway!

Okay, folks. We caught our first glimpse of Nala's kittens on Monday--long enough to snap a photo of the little guys, who were two weeks old and sleeping like, well, babies. We didn't pick them up, and the counting was quick, so in that mass of neutral colours, we are not sure how many heads and tails actually existed. One thing's for certain--Nala didn't hold back on her first litter!

Nala's Kittens October 10, 2010

How many kittens are there? Leave your answer in the comments or e-mail me.

We will be going in to check on them again this weekend, and at three weeks old, I have many less qualms about handling and counting them.

Contest closes next Friday, October 22 at 4:00 p.m. MST.

Prizes:

A cute, cuddly kitten!* Good while supplies last...

OR

A $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. (Only one of these will be awarded.)

All correct answers will be thrown into a draw for the giveaway. All other answers... Sorry, "close, but no kitty!" Well, not unless you ask really nicely!

*Kittens will not be deliverable until approx. November 27. Will deliver to local area only, or to Red Deer area in 3rd week of December. Don't worry--if you want to play, and don't want a kitten, I will not dump one on your doorstep!! I promise!

(Mwahahahaha!!!)

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.*

They were like ungrateful, self-centered teenagers.

They didn't see that their restricted freedom was a direct result of its abuse. They thought only of themselves, not the destruction--and cost associated with it--that went along with every pastime they thought to amuse themselves with.

They didn't understand that it was their frequent late-night (and mid-day) excursions that resulted in the chains that held them down. They only applied themselves more diligently to maximizing the time when security was lax for their escape bids.

Even at the end, as we drove away waving at them, they hadn't figured out that it would be the last time--that instead of posting their bail again, after they had tunneled under the fence and escaped for the second day in a row, we had chosen the less-expensive option of leaving them imprisoned at the S.P.C.A., rather than continuing to incur the costs and the stress of being their caretakers--a role they so obviously did not wish us to have.

Everyone has to learn that actions have consequences sometime.

Brutus and Suri, may you find some wide open spaces to exercise your neuroses on in your next homes.

I guess this is goodbye. Here's looking at you, kid.

*Dave Barry

The Dog Came Back

Brutus has been taking lessons in escapism from Suri. He disappeared Friday, and didn't come back.

Well, not on his own, anyway.

Yesterday, on the way home from the S.P.C.A., Jude was so sweet. In comforting tones, he patted Brutus on the head and said, "Did you miss your friend? Are you all right? Suri missed you!"

I'm sure if my wallet still hadn't been smarting so much, I would have appreciated that a lot more.

Et tu, Brute?

Last year, I filed my taxes in September. I also registered with a GST* number for my business, which means that in addition to taxes this year, I also got to file a GST return.

This year, I managed to get my taxes filed sometime in early June, I think--a huge improvement over last year. And although my GST return was due on April 30, I dropped it in the mailbox across the street ten minutes ago, after receiving a verbal warning from the government from the self-same mailbox this afternoon. (Really, it was on my things to do last night already, but my husband, erm, distracted me. Like I was going to file a GST return after that!) I was tempted to see what would happen if I just let it sit, but they were using four-letter words like "fine," and I figured it wasn't worth paying more money to the government to find out. I'm such a wuss sometimes.

Anyway, in other news, our house grew by four more feet on the weekend. On Friday, as I pulled the van into the driveway from our homeward sojourn, Jason was filling up the water dish for Suri and friend, whom he had found wandering around downtown. After putting up a few "Found" posters over the weekend, and calling him in to the radio, his owner called us this afternoon--and said we could keep him! The voice on the other end of the line said that she had actually been trying to find him a new home for a while now, and if we wanted, we could have him.

We had already been joking about that very thing, since he is more laid-back and has less bad habits than Suri. Also, Suri is a lot less work with him around, since they play well together and he helps to keep her entertained. So, other than the additional cost of feeding another dog, there were very few drawbacks. We were planning on getting another dog when we move out to the acreage anyway, so this just saves us looking and training an "unknown."

Brutus, in all his canine glory.

Welcome to the family, Brutus.

*Government Sales Tax, applicable on practically everything, except I pay more than I collect in the course of my business, so I registered for it so I could actually get some of my money back from the government.