Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: K

The prompts for this weekend from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with K, Kids, and Favourite.

Starts with K
Knitting starts with K.  I bet some of you could guess that's what I would choose for K.  I haven't had as much time for knitting lately as I would like, but I try to keep on going with at least one or two projects.  I always try to have a "mindless" knitting project that I can knit while Marc is driving us somewhere, or while I am having a conversation.  That kind of project has to be simple and repetitive so I don't have to think about it too much.  My current mindless project is the Verdant Shrug by Gina Bonomo - her picture of the final item is shown below in green.  It's a free pattern, too!
Image result for verdant shrug
Image copyright:  Gina Bonomo

It is essentially long sleeves connected with a knitted section across the back.  It's for times when you don't need a whole sweater, but maybe you have short sleeves and you need a little extra warmth.  Or you can wear it over a sleeveless item for an extra bit of cover.  Here's mine so far. It will just be continued flat knitting for the full length until the other cuff.  Then I will seam up the arms about 15 inches or so.  

I am knitting it in "Gale" colourway of classic yarn from Fleece and Harmony in PEI.  I do love using locally grown and milled yarn!  The mix of light blue-grey and pink is like the sky after a storm.  

We have lots of fur, fleece, and feathered kids.  To be precise, we have 2 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs, 1 rat, 1 dog, 2 cats, 2 sheep, 1 goat, and 22 chickens.  Here are most of them, except for the chickens, of whom I have shown 3 examples!

Here is a favourite little friend whom I often see outside my home office window.  I took this through the window last week during a snowstorm.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: J

The prompts for this weekend from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with J, Joy, and Favourite.

Starts with J
Jumper starts with J.  In the UK, and some other commonwealth countries, a jumper is what we here in North America call a sweater.  To me, a jumper is a sleeveless dress that is designed to be worn over a top of some kind.  In any case, I was recently inspired to try a new wine from a winery called Tussock Jumper.  Each wine they produce has a different animal on the label, and in each case, the animal is wearing a red jumper (sweater).  The wine I tried was the Sauvignon Blanc variety, which is one of my favourite wine grapes, and I really enjoyed it.  However, with this cute label with a sheep in a red jumper, how could I even resist trying it?!

Tussock Jumper makes a whole range of different wines with cute jumper-clad animals on the labels.  I'd like to try the Rose Moscato with a rabbit in a jumper on the label, and there's a Cabernet Sauvignon with a really cute penguin!

I am not very joyful today - unfortunately little Ivy, our pet rat whom I featured last week, died last night.  It was a sad day for me and I am sad for her sister, Violet.  Sometimes when I am feeling sad, spending time with pets and animals helps me to feel happier.  So, I found some joy today when I went out to spend some time with the chickens.  I have a little plastic step-stool that I take out to the coop and I sit on it and just relax and let them interact with me.  There are several hens who will immediately come over and jump up on my lap.  The first one is almost always Amelia.  She flew up onto my shoulder the day I brought her home, and she has remained very interactive ever since.  Here she is on my knee today, doing some preening.

Amelia has really lovely feather patterns.  She is a maran cross breed hen.

Such a beautiful hen.

The two young birds that have been the subject of prior blogs, which were incubated by my white silkie, Whisp, are now out in the coop, and they are also extremely friendly with me.  Willoughby, the little rooster, and the little hen Buttercream, both fly up to my lap very quickly, and as I pet them, they soon settle down to sleep.

Here they are shortly after flying to my knee.

Such a sweet pair.  How can I not feel some joy when they are so eager to sit on my lap?

Buttercream flew up to my shoulder for an adventure.  She made me smile, and that's a sign of joy.

Shortly after that she came back down to my lap, where her brother was already asleep.

Soon I had two sleeping chickens and after a time spent enjoying the antics of the rest of the flock, and collecting a few eggs, I had a much improved disposition.

A favourite shot for this week is this one I unexpectedly snapped of a red-breasted nuthatch who had just dropped its seed, presumably by mistake.  I didn't realize I had caught that moment until I downloaded the pictures.  Since a person who drops things is sometimes referred to as a "butterfingers," I wonder if I can call this bird a "butterbeak?"  

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: I

The prompts for this weekend from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with I, Inside, and Favourite.

Starts with I
Ivy starts with I.  One of our two pet rats is named Ivy, and the other one is Violet.  Unfortunately, Ivy has had some respiratory distress this week so she went to the vet this morning and she has pneumonia.  She is on antibiotics, which she gets drizzled on cheerios cereal, which is a favourite treat.  

We do hope Ivy will recover quickly.  

I keep all the chicken food - both their pellets and their scratch grains - inside galvanized metal garbage cans.

This means that I don't have bags of feed laying around to be temptation to raccoons or other creatures that I don't want stealing the food!  Keeping the food inside the bins also keeps the food dry and clean during inclement weather.  The lids have a simple locking system integrated into the handle and the raccoons can't open them.  I keep the cans right next to the coop so it is convenient for me to access.

I was thinking about using "ice" for my letter I word.  Ice is not a favourite thing of mine, but this picture of ice in my backyard is a favourite for this week because the ice in the yard is starting to melt, and I can see the little green shoots of the sphagnum moss growing underneath.  There is even a green blade of grass in there. Perhaps spring will arrive in March this year instead of the end of April!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: H

I'm quite late doing the weekend roundup this weekend.  It seems to have been a bit busy lately and I am just catching up with things today.  The prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with H, House, and Favourite.

Starts with H
Words that start with H include huge, or hefty, which are good words to describe one of today's eggs from the chicken flock.  Normal "large" size eggs from the grocery store weigh approximately 2 oz, or 56 grams, and extra-large weigh 2.25 oz, or about 64 grams.  Here's a fairly normal egg from our flock.

The tiny eggs we get from our silkies weigh about 1.2-1.4 oz (35-43 grams) which is classified as a "small" or "peewee" egg for commercial sizing (based on the USDA egg weights, which are similar to the Canadian egg sizing charts). 

Today's huge, hefty egg came in at an amazing 3.1 oz (87.8 grams) making it the largest yet from our flock.  I feel a bit sorry for the hen who had to push this one out!

Holy cow!  errr....egg!

We still have quite a bit of snow around our house, as you can see in this picture.  This is a view of our house through the grove of trees in the front yard.  Although we've had some warmer days and some sunshine, it takes a long time for the snow to melt because we get a lot of shade from the trees.  Some areas near us that have sun all day have no snow, which is weird for this time of year here.

Here's the path to the chicken "house" or coop.  The path is VERY icy right now because we've had several freezing rain events and then melting, with freezing again, making the path a very compacted, icy spot.  I have put some straw down in the front of the coop to stop me from falling on the ice. 

The deck still has a lot of snow on it, as you can see on the steps in the left of this picture, and all the flower beds are still well covered with snow, although it's only about 6 or 8 inches now, compared to the 2-3 feet we might normally have in February.

One of my favourite new additions to my house that I assembled and installed a couple of weeks ago is a new bookshelf in the kitchen to hold all my cookbooks.  Now my cookbooks are all close at hand when I am actually cooking, rather than being in the home office.  I have organized the cookbooks by category.

I am very fond of the rabbit and mouse bookends that I am able to use on the bookshelf.  They are longtime favourites of mine as well!

A bonus favourite shot:  Here is "mama" hen Whisp, a splash silkie, with her two young ones, who have grown into lovely little chickens.  The little hen on the left is Buttercream, and the little rooster on the right is Willoughby.  Whisp didn't lay the eggs, but she did incubate them, and the rooster (Wellington) to the left of Whisp is definitely the father.  I suspect that the hen you can just see in the far left (her back and tail are visible) is the one who laid the eggs, since she is the palest of my red hens, and the eggs were definitely from one of the red production hens.  The pale colour of the little ones leads me to suspect the eggs were hers, but I'm not sure.  In any case, they have integrated quite well into the flock and are permanently outdoors now, rather than in the rabbit cage in my home office!  Hooray for that!

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: G

This weekend's prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with G, Green, and Favourite.

Starts with G
Goldfinch starts with G.  This is a picture of an American Goldfinch at the feeder last week.  It is, obviously, wearing its winter plumage, not its bright yellow summer outfit!

I don't see them every day, but I do see them with some regularity.  In 2017, the finch populations of Atlantic  Canada were decimated by a very contagious infection called trichomoniasis, caused by a parasite.  People were advised to take down their feeders all summer because the parasite is spread easily between birds.  With the onset of winter, feeding could occur again because the parasite doesn't live very long in the cold, so it seems to have abated now.  I hope that the finch populations will rebound this coming spring and summer.

Early this week we had a first egg from my cream legbar hen, Lady Charlotta.  She lays pale blue-green eggs.  The very first one was very thin-shelled and it broke when it was gently cleaning a bit of dirt from it.  She laid her second egg today and it seems to be a more solid shell.  I am sure you can see which egg is hers.  The blue-green coloured eggs are my favourites!  They taste the same but they are just so pretty.  I love all the different colours of eggs we get from our flock.  Today was also our first 6-egg day since having chickens here at our current home.  How eggciting!

Here's a "bonus" favourite shot.  Yesterday was a lovely day - much warmer than normal for February at 6 Celsius, or about 43 Fahrenheit.  I could not help but go for a quick walk in the middle of my day so I went to the local waterfowl park.  I didn't see many birds - just a few chickadees and a crow, but I did see beautiful blue sky and the lovely trunks of the birch trees.  This particular point on the boardwalk is one of my favourite spots with all the trees making a kind of living tunnel to walk through. It will be a while before anything begins to turn green, but it was still nice to be out on such a sunny day that was, comparatively speaking, warm(ish).

Things remain mostly white (or brown) around here, but of course, the evergreens are still green, although a less vibrant green than they are in summer.  Here's a cone on one of the trees in our yard, with lots of green needles.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: F

This weekend's prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with F, Flower, and Favourite.

Starts with F
Fish starts with F.  We recently joined a weekly delivery program for a sustainable seafood company called Afishionado (yes, the spelling is correct!)  Each week, we receive a pound of a sustainably-fished species of fish from Canada, most often locally fished.  We get information on the name of the fishing boat, the method of catch (mostly line caught for sustainability), and the captain of the vessel.  I like supporting local businesses and environmentally sound fishing practices, so it's a win-win for us!  This week's fish is albacore tuna, and right now it is marinating in an orange ginger soy marinade.  

It will make a lovely supper.  Other fish we've had recently from this program include smoked mackerel, cod, and steelhead trout.  

Tom sure was posing a challenge for northerners with this prompt!  There aren't any flowers to bee seen in my snowy landscape.  The best I could come up with is this little flower on my indoor rosemary plant that sits on my windowsill.  Not very big but still, it is a flower.

Until at least May, that's all the flowers I'll be seeing around here except for this lovely print on my kitchen wall, a gift some years ago from my parents.

I recently finished knitting this cute little mouse - definitely one of my favourite knitted items so far!  It was good practice for me on the colourwork part of his sweater.  Here he is inspecting some of this week's eggs.  A number of people commented last week that they hadn't seen an egg skelter before.  I think that is probably because in North America, for the most part, people keep their eggs in the fridge, whereas in other parts of the world, they are kept at room temperature.  North American eggs are washed, which removes the protective surface coating, therefore requiring them to be refrigated.  In some countries, it is illegal to commercially sell washed eggs because the coating protects from bacteria and they are considered safer when unwashed.  In any event, it's a useful item if you keep your eggs on the counter, as I do!  Here's some more information on the history of egg washing and chilling:

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Weekend Roundup: E

This weekend's prompts from Tom the Backroads Traveller are: Starts with E, Evening, and Favourite.

Starts with E
Eggs start with E.  We had a scarcity of eggs over December and January, despite having nearly 20 hens of laying age.  I choose not to provide supplemental lighting in the coop, believing that my hens' bodies deserve a rest that nature orchestrated for them.  The past week or so has seen a small uptick in egg production though, as the winter day length slowly starts to increase.  This week, we actually had a 4-egg day, which is quite egg-citing!  

I am charmed by the daily experience of going to the coop to collect eggs.  The range of egg colours provided by the hens is quite lovely.  At the moment, we have a very dark brown egg coming from one of the maran breed hens (not sure which one).  You can see one of them on my counter-top "egg skelter" below, which keeps my eggs in order of collection so we always use the oldest ones first.
The small pale cream coloured eggs are from a silkie hen, and then there are eggs in various shades of brown ranging from pale tan to an almost pinkish-brown.  The silkie eggs are about 1.4 oz, whereas the larger pinkish-brown eggs are 2.7 oz.  

Well, sticking with the egg theme, I'm always particularly fond of the speckled eggs.  I do have a couple of hens that may be blue-egg layers, and those are a competitor for favourite egg.

I don't often take pictures in the evening....I suppose because most of my pictures are of birds and other things in nature, which aren't easily photographed in low light.  In addition, at this time of year, it's far too cold (in my opinion) to spend time outdoors photographing in the evening.  At the moment, for example, it's -24 Celsius with the wind chill...that's -12 Fahrenheit.  I just don't enjoy being out in those temperatures.  I thought about using a photograph from an evening at another time of year, but looking at them just made me grumpy because it's such a contrast to now, and spring is so far least another 2.5 to 3 months.  At least the day is getting a little longer, as the chickens can attest, and so here is a picture from my living room window, at 5:18 pm, today.  I'd call that early evening.  It's just bleak and cold and everything is white or grey.  I don't even get pretty sky views because the house is surrounded by trees.  I look forward to the weather change when I can once again sit out in the screened porch in the evening.  Until then, I'm stuck with this.  Winter evenings are for knitting on the couch instead of taking photographs!