Saturday, May 12, 2018

Weekend Roundup: S

The prompts for S from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with S, Favourite, and Silver.

Starts with S
Here is a pair of American goldfinches at my feeder.  

Why, you are probably asking, am I showing a goldfinch, which starts with G?  Well, their scientific name is Spinus tristis, and that starts with S!  The male American goldfinch puts on a beautiful coat of yellow feathers in the spring, and then they go a sort of dull greenish-brown during the winter.  I think their summer coat looks like sunshine!  The female is less bright, but she also puts on more colour in the summer than in the winter.  Obviously, she's the upper bird in the above photo.

This male is nearly finished moulting his winter feathers, but you can still see the remnants of his winter coat on the back of his head and the top of his wing.  The one in the picture above no longer has those brownish feathers.

The Spinus genus of birds includes the goldfinches (but not other finches) and a whole lot of siskin species.  Occasionally I see a pine siskin, but not as often as I'd like!  The name for the Spinus genus of birds comes from the Ancient Green "spinos" which is apparently a name for a bird that is no longer known or identifiable.  Meanwhile, "tristis" is Latin for sorrowful, because apparently some people think their song is mournful, but it doesn't sound that way to me!

Spring really has "sprung" here and my crocuses are in full bloom, so I took this picture this week of a favourite patch.  I love this little group of blossoms because there are purple ones, white ones, and also the white ones with the purple veining.  They are so cheerful and remind me that summer is on the way.  I have a couple of patches of yellow ones also.
I also noticed some tulip buds are forming!  Hooray!

I am trying to go for regular walks these days, at least when it isn't raining.  On my 1-hour walk circuit, I go past the end of a lake.  The lake is called Silver Lake and it is a lovely view as I go by.  As you can see, things are just starting to turn green around here, but none of the leaves are out yet.

At a different part of the lake, during the summer, there is a swimming area set up (with a barrier to keep kids in the safe area) and there is a boat access ramp.  People go trout fishing on the lake as well.  It is very irregularly shaped, as shown in the map picture below.

I enjoy looking for the loons that are sometimes at the spot where I walk by.  Unfortunately, since I don't take the larger camera with the zoom lens on my walks, I don't get good pictures of the loons.  If you look closely at this shot, you'll see a tiny black and white blob in the middle. That's a loon. Really!  Trust me!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Osprey Sighting

On Saturday I went for a walk because it was a lovely day.  I saw a couple of loons on the lake as I walked, and wished I had taken my camera, but I don't really like taking the camera for exercise walks because it's too cumbersome.  As I neared home, I saw a large bird of prey slowly flying overhead, and then I noticed it was holding something.  I wasn't sure, but I thought it had a fish (from the same lake where the loons were, most likely).  At that point, I realized that it was probably an osprey.

The osprey went over my head and then settled on a nearby utility pole to begin devouring the meal.  I ran (well, I jogged...well, I kind of walk-jog-walk-jogged) to the house to get the camera in the hope that I could get home, get the camera and run back to the pole before the fish was gone and the bird had flown.  It was the end of my walk and I was already a bit tired, but I put in the effort so that I could try to catch a few good photographs of this wonderful bird.

As you will see from the pictures below, I wasn't disappointed!  He saw me coming, but he didn't seem disturbed by my presence because he kept eating his meal with gusto.

Chow down!

I was very glad to have such a good zoom lens and the ability to crop these pictures and still have decent images.  I think, given my burst of energy, my hands were shaking a bit.

He did look at me from time to time as he ate.

Maybe he thought I would make a good dessert? 

I also managed to get a picture showing the stripes under his tail feathers that are characteristic of the osprey.

I was so excited to have the opportunity to watch, and photograph, such a majestic and captivating bird.  An unexpected bonus as a result of going for my walk!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Weekend Roundup: Q and R

I missed the weekend roundup last week, so I'm doing 2 letters this week - Q and R.  The prompts for Q from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with Q, Favourite, and Quiet, and the prompts for R are Starts with R, Red, and Favourite.

Starts with Q:
I'm feeling woefully inadequate for Q this time around.  Here is a picture of a pair of American Wigeons taken last month at the local waterfowl park.  American Wigeons are ducks.  Ducks say "quack" which begins with Q.  (see....really not very inspired).

Here is a quiet bunny.

Did you know that rabbits actually do make noises?  Most people think that rabbits are entirely quiet, but this is not true.  They make a range of noises, but many of them are soft noises that you wouldn't normally hear.  An annoyed rabbit makes a soft growl or grunt noise.  Sometimes Pippin does this when I pick him up and he doesn't want to be picked up.  Sometimes it's also accompanied by kicking feet.  Happy rabbits sometimes grind their teeth a bit (just gently - serious grinding is a sign of pain).  The grinding can make a soft noise almost like purring.  

In cases of extreme distress or pain, rabbits can actually scream.  This is a horrible noise and one that I never want to hear again.  I heard it once, and it was unforgettably bad.  

Starts with R:
This week, the helpful local carpenter (who built my little barn and chicken coop last year) was able to build and install six raised beds for me in my backyard.  I am really excited about this because it means that I will be able to grow some veggies of my own this year.  Raised beds are great because they tend to have fewer weeds and are easy to fill with ideal soil blends.  I will be filling these with some of my own compost as well as some compost from the farm where the carpenter lives.  As you can see, they are positioned near the chicken coop.  In the fall, when the beds are needing to be cleared out, I will make a portable raised bed frame so the chickens can forage in a bed for a day, without being taken by hawks.

The carpenter and his team carried the beds from their pickup trucks into my yard.  The beds are made with extremely thick rough-cut lumber.  They are lined with poly to help them last, but given the thickness of the wood, they will last a looooong time!

Then they positioned them all as I had requested.  This arrangement takes best advantage of the sun that I get in the yard (which is limited due to all the trees). I took this picture from the balcony off my bedroom to show the arrangement with the trees.  This is facing mostly east, but slightly south.  I put some cardboard in the bottoms of them to prevent weeds growing up, although they are 24 inches deep, so they probably won't have a problem with that.

They are constructed with a ledge around the top edge that I can easily sit or lean on for comfort while gardening. He even rounded the corners so I would not hurt my knees while walking around the beds.  It is great to have good help!  He is coming next week to help me fill them.

Last week I was able to photograph a pileated woodpecker.  It is the largest species of woodpecker we have in this area, and it has a bright red crest.  The male (seen below) also has a red "moustache" along the side of his face.

Here are a couple of favourites from the last couple of weeks.

A mourning dove on a wood stump in my yard having her fill of seeds.

A purple finch on a branch in the yard.  The favourite aspect of this picture is that the buds are swelling and getting ready to break.  I am so very ready for green!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Bath for a Guinea Pig: Rolo's Spa Day

Our long-haired guinea pig, Rolo, sometimes needs to have a bath.  His fur is so long (6 inches or more) that it trails on the ground, and since he isn't all that particular about where he goes to the bathroom, his fur can sometimes trail in the litter in his cage and he gets a bit grubby.  Guinea pigs shouldn't be bathed too often because it can irritate their skin - once every couple of months for long haired piggies is fine. It's not that difficult to give a guinea pig a bath, so here's the process.

First, I set up a "bathtub" in the shower stall.  I am using a corner litter pan here, but any kind of container of this type will do.  I also have a large water jug handy.  I use warm water in both, and have them prepared before I get Rolo out.  I recommend wearing an apron - it can get a bit splashy!

And here he is, in the tub.  He really doesn't seem to mind the warm water.  It's spa day!  The important thing is to make sure the water is not too deep - a guinea pig should be able to stand comfortably and not feel like it is about to drown.  As you can see, his head is well above the water line.

Here you can see how long his fur is!  I make sure there are no tangles and ensure all the fur gets wet.

Once he's wet all over (except for his face), I use special pet shampoo to get him lathered up.  A bit hard to tell here, but he's all covered in shampoo.  I wash all over, including his belly and underside.  Just gentle lathering and rubbing to ensure he gets all cleaned up.

Then it's back into fresh water - he looks sort of like a mop!  I use the jug to pour fresh warm water over him to rinse out all of the shampoo.  I do 2 or 3 rinses to make sure he's all clean.

Then he's wrapped up in a towel for the initial pat-down drying phase.  Piggie burrito.

I use a blow dryer at this time of year to ensure he doesn't get a chill.  He doesn't seem to mind the blow dryer either, although mine is not especially loud and I use a low heat level because they have sensitive skin.

It takes a while to get the drying done.  It's convenient to put him in the (dry) sink on the towel so he doesn't run around too much.  Only thing is, sometimes I'm not sure which end is which!  He looks like a toupĂ©e now!

Nearly finished!  I dry underneath his belly too, but it's too difficult to take a picture with one hand, hold the guinea pig up with the other hand, and take a picture all at the same time! 

And that's a wrap for spa day!  Just a little bit of brushing to ensure there are no tangles.

What a handsome piggie!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Answering Some Questions

I missed the Weekend Roundup cutoff, so I'll do Q and R next week.  This week, I thought I'd answer some questions.

Sometimes readers ask questions in their comments on my blog, and I'm not always very good at responding to those. This is a post that responds to a whole lot of previous questions.

Regional Questions:

"Do you travel to Halifax very often?" asked Jim.
Yes, I travel to Halifax numerous times throughout the year.  It's about a 2-hour drive.  Since my parents live there, I try to visit on a somewhat regular basis when my work schedule allows.  Next time you and Mrs. Jim are visiting, let me know and I'll come and have a coffee with you!

"Because your place is so wooded, I thought you lived in more forested country." said Michelle.
This isn't exactly a question, but I thought I would add more to this point.  We do have a home that is surrounded by woods.  Our home is on the edge of an agricultural area though, so there is a mix of wooded areas and open pasture areas.  Here's a satellite view of our general area.  As you can see, the left side is largely wooded (the darker green) and the right side is largely agricultural, and there is a lake in the upper middle area that kind of separates the areas.  When I go for my walk, I transition between those two zones.  The agricultural area is actually a floodplain, and it's where I get the hay that I feed to the sheep and goat!

Critter Questions:

"Does Pippin like to be groomed?" asked Michelle.
I think that he doesn't mind short periods of grooming.  He stays quite still on my lap for a while, but he has a time limit.  He doesn't like more than about 5 minutes.  When he's shedding heavily, I may hold him firmly for a bit longer to get more of the fur off.  This is in his best interest because GI stasis and intestinal blockages caused by hair are very serious in rabbits.  I try to limit the time while also avoiding these potential problems.  He always gets treats post-grooming!  

"Can you spin rabbit fur into yarn as you can other fibers?" asked Porkpal.
You can spin rabbit fur from angora rabbits, which typically have 2.5 to 3 inch (or more) fibre length.  Spinning rabbit fur from our domesticated short-haired mini-rex rabbits would not be easy, because the length of each fibre is only about 1 inch.  You could blend it in with other longer fibres, but it would have a tendency to work its way out of the yarn because it's so short.  

"When Pippin misbehaves, do you call him Pippin or Sir Pippin of Dazzlewood Hill?" asked Tom.
Pippin....misbehave?  Now when would that ever happen?!  Actually, he sometimes chases Epinette, which he should not do, and that usually results in me clapping my hands loudly and saying "Pippin!" in a fierce voice, which stops the chasing and makes him think twice.  

"Since you never mention the dog, I assume it is Marc's?" asked Michelle.
Yes, Timber is Marc's dog and she is mostly an outdoor dog.  She is a part Newfoundland dog we think, and maybe part lab.  She is about 13 years old, which is surprising given her age.  She is a long-haired, heavily shedding dog.  I am more of a short-haired dog fan, or a very small dog fan, so I guess she just isn't quite my kind of dog, but she's very sweet.

"I didn't know you had so many hens!" said Michelle.
Not exactly a question, but yes, we currently have 22 chickens.  Our 3 roosters are Willoughby, Fancy Pants, and Wellington.  Our hens are Cream, Jellybelly, Whisp, Licorice, Dazzle, Marigold, Poppy, Paprika, Juniper Moon, Sienna, Marble, Onyx, Little Grey Hen, Amelia Henheart, Dove, Shadow, Star, Maple, and Buttercream.

"I didn't know you had rats - more photos please!" said Lin.
Unfortunately, as you know, Ivy died earlier this year, but we still have Violet.

"Do you just fry up those little eggs?" asked Lin
This is in reference to the small sized (1 to 1.5 oz) eggs from the silkies and seramas.  I tend to use those little eggs for egg custard.  My recipe calls for 4 large eggs, so I use 8 little eggs and it turns out perfectly!

"I notice some sheeply artifacts in the background..." said Porkpal.  "Even though they don't begin with D, I'm curious about them."
This was on my letter D post back in March.  I had posted a picture of my new mug warmer on my desk.  In the background was this adorable sheep hooked mat, which Marc gave me for Christmas.  It was locally made and sold at the craft shop located at the waterfowl park.  I use the mat on my desk for hot plates (I often eat lunch and supper at my desk).  I also just like to look at it and smile at the cute design!  

You might also catch a glimpse of these sheep coasters on my desk, a gift from my mom, who always has her eye open for sheepy-themed gifts!

The other artifact in the background of that D-post was my sheepy pajama leg.  

I have a bit of a thing for sheep pajamas...

....and sheep sheets.

Don't tell the sheep, but I also have alpaca pajamas.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: P

The prompts for The Weekend Roundup from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with P, Purple, and Favourite.

Starts with P:
Our rabbit, Pippin, starts with P.  His full name is Sir Pippin of Dazzlewood Hill, but we just call him Pippin and he doesn't mind.  

As you can see, it is moulting time of year for Pippin.  Notice how the fur on his side, at the bottom, is puffier and longer than on his back. Rabbits all moult, but they don't moult as heavily every time.  Sometimes they just shed some of their fur, and sometimes they have a full moult when all of their fur is replaced.  That is the kind of moult that Pippin is currently having.  Here's a picture from a couple of weeks ago.  You can really see the patchy nature of his coat as the long old fur is coming out and being replaced by new fur.

When domestic rabbits moult, it is important to keep an eye on them to ensure they don't have digestive problems.  They can quite easily ingest a lot of hair due to self cleaning (licking) and end up with hairballs.  Rabbits can't throw up like cats, so the hairball has to come out the other way.  I give our rabbits some papaya, which helps prevent hairballs.  I also spend time grooming Pippin to get as much of the loose fur out as I can, preventing him from ingesting it.  Here is the result of a recent grooming session.  That's a lot of fur!
A few months ago, well....maybe a year ago...I don't really remember....I spun this bobbin of purple and pink merino fibre.  I loved the colours, but couldn't decide whether to ply it back on itself to make a 2 or even 3 ply yarn, or to ply it with something else.  

Recently, I acquired this new-to-me fibre from another spinner's destash of items she was selling, and realized it will be the perfect match.  It is East Friesland wool, which is a breed of dairy sheep from northern Germany.  They do not have a very long fleece length but it is still very easy to spin and I think that it will be a lovely match for this merino fibre.  So, I will be taking the time to spin this new fibre, and then I will ply the two bobbins together to make a 2-ply yarn.

A favourite picture from the past week - this one of Pippin and Epinette.  Very comfortable rabbits who feel safe in their environment will sometimes lay on their sides like this.  It is sort of "dead rabbit pose" but don't worry, she is very much alive!  She is still battling pneumonia though, and has another vet appointment this coming Thursday.  

 A bonus favourite for this week - I now have two young hens who are laying green eggs!  This is because they have Isbar genetics.  Isbar are a Swedish breed of chicken.  I love the gentle green and blue eggs that appear in my nest boxes now, along with the lovely browns and creams.  I took this picture on a lovely wooden platter made with bird's eye maple, which my Dad polished for me on their recent visit, which really brings out the grain.