Saturday 28 September 2013

Falling Behind

I've been feeling kind of bad that I don't have my fall decorating done yet.  I'm into a whole lot of big projects and maybe, just maybe, I'm in over my head right now.  My sister will be laughing because she says I always think I can do more than I can and wind up frustrating myself.

Last year by this time, the front porch looked like this. ~

Why did I start painting three rooms, yes three, when I have chicken coop winterizing to do and the yard to shut down?

I have taken the last of the produce out of the vegetable garden.  A vine that popped up on on it's own has yielded 19 nice squash. Don't you just love getting something for free? ~

As I moved the basket onto the front porch, I thought all the produce sitting out there waiting to be stored was a sort of harvest decorating in itself and I snapped a quick picture. ~

Better Homes & Gardens won't be beating down my door for a photo shoot, but it is real.

A quick update on Ann Boleyn.  She's starting to settle in and letting me get a little closer to her. Today was the first time I let her out into the main run. ~

I made sure the other gals were locked out of there.  As you know, they've spent all their time busting out of the run.  The minute I locked them out, they spent all their time trying to bust back in! Stupid chickens. ~

The reason poor, old Utah looks so cross as he lies on a chaise,

is that Gertie gave up trying to get back into the run and took over his favourite napping spot on the stone step. ~

I may not be able to show you my fabulous fall decor but who else can show you a chicken sleeping with a mermaid!

And really, could I improve on the beauty of this thistle gone to seed on the farm fencing? ~

Welcome to fall in Ontario!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Chicken PMS

I thought I was done posting about chickens for awhile.  Well, at least until I got to the fascinating story of insulating and whitewashing the coop.  Oh, and there will be the one about dusting the birds for lice.  That will be a blockbuster post for my city readers!

But, today we have to deal with angry chickens. ~

When chickens are stressed, they get very, very mad!  And, you'd be surprised at how many things can stress a chicken.  For creatures that don't have to climb any corporate ladders or pay mortgages, they sure can make a big deal of the little bit they do have to put up with.

Then again, I've never had to give birth every day or had all my feathers fall out twice a year.  Still, you'd think they'd count themselves lucky to never have to worry about their breasts drooping.

One of the biggest stress factors for chickens is going through their semi annual moult.  When you start to see this in the coop, you'd better be on guard for trouble!  ~

It gives them the worst case of PMS you have ever seen!  You see, they don't have access to wine and don't have husbands to take it out on so they do the next best thing.  The gal with the worst case of PMS decides to kill whichever one is on the bottom of the pecking order.  That looks like such a good idea that all the other hens decide they should join in.  It's the same thing that happens in big offices only these girls actually draw blood.

My gals seem to be going through this moult without turning homicidal.  It could be that they free range or it could be that I'm religious about giving them a food mixture that builds up the calcium in their bodies. ~

You can see how to make this yummy meal by clicking here.

I'm afraid a friend of mine has not been so lucky with her gals.  They pecked one poor chicken almost to death. After a couple of weeks of segregating her they tried to reintroduce her to the coop.  Failure.  They isolated the most aggressive chicken and the others started in on the poor thing.  So, the decision was to end her suffering quickly by chopping off her head.

I said, "Great idea!"  Just kidding. You know me better than to believe that.

Guess who came to live at Bramasole today?  I've renamed her Ann Boleyn.  But, this Anne has escaped the axe. I couldn't get a very good shot of her because she doesn't quite trust the lady who stuffed her into a cat carrier and dumped her in my quarantine coop. ~

So far Lizzy, Kay, Molly and Gertie are ignoring Ann. ~

Look at poor Molly's bare spots.  She gave Ann a glance and that was about it.  Ann will have to stay in there for about a week and then I'll referee the fights while she finds her place in the flock.  Did you notice she's not white?  We finally have a lady of colour!

She was a little suspicious of the special dinner.  Yay, she's eating it! ~

Now, if no one calls any of these girls fat or looks at them sideways, we may be able to make this work and Ann won't lose her head to the block. I'm even hopeful my friend is wrong when she told me Ann doesn't lay eggs.

Yeah, I know, I've officially become the crazy chicken lady.

Monday 23 September 2013

Securing The Chicken Coop

The problem is that raccoons really do like chickens ..... FOR DINNER!  

I have an 8' tall chain link fence around my chicken run.  It was a safety zone for the girls from any local dogs that got into the yard.

Unfortunately, the two new chickens didn't want to stay in there and they taught the others to do this. ~

So, the minute I let them out of the coop in the morning, they all fly over that fence and wander around the yard.  They wander into the neighbour's yards, even though they have dogs.  My neighbours have been very good about having my girls dig in their flower beds and eat their tomatoes but it's just not safe.

They do love to come to the patio door and squawk at me for treats.  I mean, who doesn't love having chicken poop all over their patio?

I don't really mind having to hose a bit of poop off and they provide hours of entertainment for the kittens. ~

But, the other day when I came back from visiting a couple of doors away, there was a raccoon in the yard! A raccoon can rip up four chickens in no time at all.  It was a young coon and it ran off when it saw me but I knew I had to get moving on closing in the top of the run or it would be Bye Bye Birdie!

I share the chickens with my sister and brother in law and they came to help close in the top. ~

It's not pretty but it gets the job done and I don't have to worry the whole time I'm away from home. ~

I'm going to have to grow some kind of vine up over the whole thing and disguise it.  Hmmm - what to grow? Any ideas?

Just when I was feeling good about living with an eyesore for the sake of the girls, a neighbour told me his dog had chased a couple of them the day before.  Okay.  Then, he said all four chickens had been perched on top of the fence this morning.  Okay.  Then, he said he hoped they didn't get their necks caught in the roof fencing when they tried to fly out.


Why did he have to put that thought in my head when I was sure I was done worrying!

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Saving Summer Flavours

Fall has arrived in Canada. ~

The garden is winding down.  Gone are the bowls full of beans, peas and leaf lettuce.  Even the tomatoes are close to being finished.  That is, all the tomatoes except the cherry tomatoes.  There seems to be no end to those little, red delights.  I've kept a bowl full in the kitchen to eat like candy, when I pass by, and given as many away as I can possibly force on the neighbours.
Last summer I came up with the idea of using them for bruschetta and seeing how it would freeze.  It froze great and tasted garden fresh all winter long.

I finely chopped a clove of garlic and some onion. To that I added a red pepper, chopped in small pieces.  I halved or quartered the cherry tomatoes, depending on their size.  Toss it all in a bowl and mix with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.  It's such a simple recipe and you can dress it up with any herbs or spices you like.

Let the mixture sit for a couple of hours for the flavours to blend and freeze it.  That's all there is to it!

I did go a step further this year.  I had a day old french loaf in the house and wanted to use it up. ~

I brushed one side of the slices with olive oil, added my bruschetta topping and some grated Parmesan cheese. ~

Into the freezer it went and long after all of these are down ~

I'll have a 'taste of summer' appetizer reading to go under the broiler for a couple of minutes and serve my guests!

Thursday 12 September 2013

I Was Vacuuming My Yard ...

What, you don't vacuum your lawn?  

I admit it isn't something I do on a regular basis.  The heavy rains brought a big, old, maple tree limb down. It narrowly missed the chicken coop and completely pulverised a cute, little bistro set I had sitting in the shade.

The table was bent and the ceramic top shattered. ~

A whole lot of sawing and hauling away later, I figure the mess is done with.  I'm sitting with a cup of tea, enjoying a bit of relaxing chicken TV and laughing at them clucking and stuffing themselves at the base of the maple tree.  The bugs must be mighty good in that area!

Then, it strikes me as very odd that they are sticking to one spot.  I drop the tea and high tail it to that tree.

The stupid chickens are gobbling up pottery shards! ~

I'm running around screaming and trying to catch the chickens and they are ducking (getting my fowl all mixed up here) around to grab another piece.

And that is why I grabbed a shop vac and gave the yard a darned good cleaning! ~

It appears that chickens can eat broken pottery with no ill effects.  You will really make their day if you give them Styrofoam for dessert!

Stupid chickens!

Monday 9 September 2013

Lost On A Laptop

I'm trying to get used to the new computer.  EVERYTHING IS IN THE WRONG PLACE!!!

I've wanted to get rid of my old desk model, but I couldn't justify it when it was working just fine. Sure the ports were all loose and it took me forever to connect my camera to it to download pictures.  It didn't have WIFI and I had to use a cable to connect it to my internet hub, but it was really more about wanting to get rid of all the cables and the big desk in the library.

Then, the monitor died.  A friend gave me her old one.  It died and another friend gave me one.  That one bit the bullet and my sister  gave me one.  When the last freebie monitor crashed, I headed right into the nearest store and asked for their cheapest laptop.

All would be heaven if I hadn't spent the last week thinking I was getting a capital letter and getting something like this instead ///////////// /////.  Or, somehow changing the language setting to Spanish and the font size to miniature.

It's all making me remember those first awful days of my new job as head secretary at a community college in 1969.  I had marched out of high school at the end of grade 12 and declared any further education as irrelevant in the 'new world'.  Apparently, my dad thought having an income was relevant, even for a seventeen year old drop out.

Luckily, he knew the head of the local community college and thought I could get a job there.  Dad asked if I could type and I assured him I could.  I'd taken an entire semester of typing in grade nine. That would be the extent of my secretarial training.

I got all dressed up and went for my interview.  Dad's friend wasn't there.  I'd soon learn that he was very rarely there (he was completely occupied with raising prize chickens) and a big part of my job would be covering up for his absence.

A secretary took me into a a cubicle and handed me a timed typing test to do.  Ooooh, I'll have to type really fast!  I look down at the typewriter and there are no letters on the keys!  Am I supposed to have memorised the keyboard?  I started typing like a maniac and the end result was - gueienn  soiygg ialliil sa, etc.  I have one piece of paper and it's covered in gobbledygook.  I'm dying of embarrassment and sat there trying to screw up the courage to walk out and tell the interviewer that I can't type.  No one came looking for me and I couldn't live in that cubicle forever, so I went looking for someone to hand my piece of gibberish covered paper to.  There was only one girl in the office and she told me the interviewer had gone home for the day.  I walked out with the test crumpled up in my hand.

I got the job!  Yay.  Dad is happy and I'm happy because I'm going to have cool office things to play with.  If only I had known how to use them!

I loved my high tech typewriter. ~

I worked for 15 young, male instructors and one of them was kind enough to show me how to change this thing. See, it's a ball instead of keys! ~

The first morning was going really well until one of the instructors handed me a test he wanted to give his class that day.  He wanted me to type it out on mimeograph paper and make copies for him.  Like I know how to run a mimeopgraph machine!  What was he thinking?  I told him I was kind of busy and he said I could just type it out and he would run the copies.  Whew!  I pecked away at the keys, had that baby done in under an hour and was really pleased with myself until he brought it back saying there was nothing on it.  No one told me there was a piece of tissue paper that had to be removed from between the carbon paper and the front page!  Luckily, he changed his mind about giving a test that day and all the instructors agreed to hand test material to me a full day ahead.

Exams would need at least a couple of days notice because I would have to use the collator to get all those pages in order.  My first experience with that monster was terrifying! ~

Completely unaware that there were speed settings on that baby, I had sheets of paper flying all over the room and as fast as I ran to get them more were shooting out.  I can completely identify with Lucy when the production line at the candy factory went crazy on her!

I nearly lost a hand to the electric stapler. ~

Of the fifteen instructors on my campus, only one was old.  I mean, he had to be a least forty and he was the head of the secretarial programme. One day he called me into his office and asked me to take a letter.  I don't know shorthand!   This guy starts yakking away and, quick thinker that I am, I decide to write down the first and last letter of every word.  A sentence like, "I'm responding to your request for a course outline." becomes "im rg to yr rt fr a ce oe".  If you ever decide to use my system, I can assure you that sentence will mean nothing at all to you when you go to type it out.  I couldn't very well go back and ask him to repeat it all, so I made it up to the best of my recollection and he signed it without ever looking at it. Whew, another hurdle cleared.!  I told him I was too busy to take letters and he used a Dictaphone after that.

There was one woman instructor and she did tell me I was completely incompetent.  That really hurt my feelings and and a couple of the young fellows took me out to lunch at a ritzy steak house to make me feel better.  Not everyone in the world is insensitive, thankfully!

I think the worst moment on the job was when I had to go to the main campus for a day and fill in for the switchboard operator.  ~ 

The headset was cool and made me feel very professional.  I answered a call and patched the guy through. I answered the next call and that caller wanted the same office.  The third caller, who sounded a lot like the first two, said, "Honey, do you have any idea what you are doing?"  Huh?  "You have cut me off twice.  Do not touch a single thing!"  And then, lovely man that he was, he walked me through how to use a switchboard.

Because all my stories have happy endings, you know the job worked out just fine.  My boss found out how very busy I was and hired a graduate of the college secretarial course to work as my assistant. She was very grateful to have such a wonderful supervisor and I let her do all the secretarial stuff. That gave me plenty of time to do the interviewing and hiring of new instructors and my boss didn't have to leave his prize chickens to do it.

I left that job with a wonderful sense of how understanding and kind people can be when you are learning new skills.  With the exception of the one woman on staff, I was treated very kindly and someone took me for lunch almost every day to make sure I had a break from all that office stress.

Life can be very good when you are 17, blond, 4' 11, have measurements of 36  24  34 and favour wearing this kind of outfit! ~

Yeah, I know that skirt is kind of long.  I liked to dress conservatively for the office.

So, bear with me and I'll get the hang of this new computer.  

Anyone want to take me for lunch?

Monday 2 September 2013

Picture Life Without Them

I took a few minutes today to think about all the people who labour to make this old world keep on running. They are the grease that keeps it turning smoothly on it's axis.

I feel better knowing these folks are there for me. ~

These ones make life a heck of a lot nicer. ~

My mechanic and I have become old friends. ~

A lot of people work hard for the life I enjoy. ~

Others make sure I stay well. ~

Some suffer injury or worse.  This workers memorial in Hamilton, Ontario reminds us of all those who were injured at work. ~

It's a day of honour for them and and a reminder to give thanks for all those who face danger, wear their bodies out, suffer from stress or cope with injuries.

Here's a great THANK YOU to every single person that has worked to give me the goods and services I enjoy every day!

Today is your day and you've earned your R & R, picnics, ball games and BBQs.  Have a great Labour Day!  This party is all for you. ~