The Cluck Sisters

The girls are moved in! Sunday evening they were put in their new hens in cage in truck bedcoop. They’d waited in the back of a truck and, by that time, were clucking and pretty much pointing with their little beaks at their little chicken wrists as if to say “don’t you know it’s bedtime?” It didn’t take long, after they’d explored and scratched and ate their welcome wagon treats. They flew up to their perch and bedded down.

cat and dog watch chickens in runThe dogs are fascinated. First thing they do when they go out is check their chickens. I doubt it’s concern for their welfare so they haven’t met without mesh between them. Cats too look at them like, wow, big sparrows!

Tire off wheel on chicken coopThe last remaining big job is replacing the wheels and axle. The small wheels just couldn’t take the weight. So a bigger set will go on. Then we should be able to haul that coop just about anywhere. (See Have Chicken – Will Travel for coop construction.)

Fine-tuning the coop interior

trough style feeder and plastic chick watererWe’ve been fine-tuning the interior since they moved in, putting in a small plastic chick waterer and trough style metal feeder raised on 2x4s and making nest boxes. We’d put a ladder in so they could climb up to their shelf. But they quickly showed they didn’t need it by flying up. So it’s gone. Less is more is the best design philosophy for a henhouse.

They need a small enough space to keep warm in the Coop being pulled with lawn tractorwinter but enough let them freely and easily move around when they are cooped up. Between 2 to 4 square feet coop space and up to 10 square feet run space per bird (depending on whether bantam or full size), according to Backyard Chickens. So, with a 4 x 4 x 8 foot coop and 8 foot long run, their space is what real estate agents call “cozy”, but it’s ok. They’ll get more outdoor space next year, in Phase II of the development.

inside coop with wall insulation and panelboardBut in winter, they’re not likely to be outside much. So you want to balance their need for movement with the amount of space that they can keep warm. We insulated with Styrofoam sheets. You can use fiberglass batts too but make sure they can’t peck at it.

Panelboard is nailed over the insulation. There is no vapour barrier, despite the advice of one chicken man. Without an inside heat source, if moisture builds up because the building materials cannot breathe, that may cause greater problems than passage of air.

High, dry and warm

hens on coop perch and shelfTheir waterer has no heater. My advisor said the coop should be warm in winter so the chickens don’t have to expend all their energy generating heat. So we hope that the insulation will hold in the body heat they generate in their small space.

You want to keep them from sitting in their food dish and want to keep dirt and faeces out of their food and water. Also it’s easier for them to digest food and water when their dishes are at neck height. They put their heads up in order to swallow properly so raised containers make that easier to do.

hens settled into run“High, dry and warm” is the key to healthy chickens, according to a lifelong chicken farmer. His words were passed on to me by the people at J & P Farm Services. They and the people at Shur-Gain Feeds and the Co-op in Sussex have been wonderful, helping to outfit the girls in style.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Sept. 16/12)

Good Parenting

Maybe it’s having only half the episodes to which we’ve become Steve nearing bus stop with Ryan's guitaraccustomed.  Maybe it was a week of filler stories – updating us on characters we haven’t seen for awhile and building the bases of new storylines.  Or maybe too much Tracy and Michelle and who cares.  Whatever, I was hard pressed to find a scene that stood out this week.

The scene that choked me up a bit was Steve finding Ryan at the bus stop and giving him his guitar back.  Ryan had hocked it for drug money and Steve bought it back.  Steve said ryan seeing that it is his own guitar“your mum and I”, but I suspect this was Steve’s idea.  Nicely done, Steve.  He didn’t get all emotional, didn’t plead, didn’t preach.  Just handed it to him and said he knew it meant a lot to him.  When Ryan said he didn’t want it, Steve just said fine, keep it, sell it, do what you want with it, it’s yours and then walked away.

Steve comes back around corner - good parentingBut he didn’t go far, just around the corner enough that he could quickly come back in time to see Ryan break down crying.  Then a lovely moment where I actually felt sorry for Ryan, as he cried in Steve’s arms and Steve gave him manly ‘there there’ pats.

In those moments, Steve did good parenting. Gave exactly what was right and needed by Ryan.  I don’t know Steve consoles a weeping Ryan - good parentingwhat Michelle would have done but it would have involved over the top histrionics and would have just made everything worse.

Earlier in the week, when Ryan went missing from the flat where Michelle had him under house arrest, Steve didn’t show such good parenting with his own kid.  Tracy asked him to look after Amy while she went for a job interview.  He said yes until Michelle came in a panic because Ryan had gone walkabout.  And Steve threw Amy to the wind and said he couldn’t possibly tend her because he had to help Michelle.

What?  Ryan is an adult, a stupid one admittedly, but still an adult of legal age.  Michelle has been his sole parent for his entire life.  Amy is a child, Steve’s child and Steve’s responsibility.  And at least on the surface of it, Tracy’s request was perfectly reasonable and justified.  Steve has wanted her to get a job; she had an interview and needed his help with Amy.  And he blew her off for Michelle and her adult son.

Tracy adjusts new kebab shop uniformPayback is a – well, Tracy.  She is glommed all over Ryan.  Calls herself a cougar.  She got herself a job, working with Ryan at Dev’s kebab shop and she created her own fairly easy job of seducing Ryan.  This time you asked for it, Steve.

Stompin’ Tom Revisited

Thank you CBC Radio!  Just when I think I’ll never hear anything that I haven’t heard at least once already in any given day or week, you give me a wonderful treat.

Stompin’ Tom Connors – his songs and his conversation in radio interviews and call-in stompin tom album cover My Stompin' Groundsshows from the CBC archives.  Last Sunday on Radio One on Inside the Music (listen here).  If you know him and love his music, you will truly enjoy this.  If you know him and think ho hum, take a listen to him talking about his life and where the songs came from.  If you have no idea who he is, listen so that you may learn about someone central to Canadian music and Canadian pride.

My mother was a fan of Stompin’ Tom so I grew up with his music.  I don’t know if ‘Tillsonburg’ was the first song of his she heard, but it was her favourite.  She’s from Aug 1986 priming tobacco West Lorne Fodor farm from elgin.caTillsonburg and she worked in tobacco – one season.  She understood, and connected with, every word.  That’s what Stompin’ Tom songs do for Canadians and Canada.  He is the quintessential Canadian; born in New Brunswick, raised in PEI and has worked out west, in Ontario and pretty much every part of the country.

In the doc, he talks about meeting people who had recently returned from visiting Germany.  The Germans they were with one evening sang their country’s folksongs then asked to hear some songs about Canada.  They couldn’t think of one except for Oh Canada.  So Tom, over the Stompin' Tom accepts 1973 Junoyears, set about writing those songs.  He created the folk songs about our country.

There are strong regional music traditions in Canada.  Certainly Newfoundland, the Maritimes and Quebec are rich in traditional songs that tell the history of their places, events and people.  The west is the homeland of country and western.  But songs about Canada as a whole or regional songs known outside those regions?  Like Woody Guthrie, Stompin’ Tom both created and popularized the music of a land.

‘Stompin’ from St. John’s to Tillsonburg

me with Stompin' Tom in St. John'sThe first time I saw Stompin’ Tom perform was in St. John’s at the old Memorial arena.  He was on a small dais and the audience was seated in front, all of us on the covered ice surface.  It was close and personal.  He didn’t mind you getting out in the aisle taking his picture and he stayed after the performance for a long time signing autographs and talking to fans.

Years later I saw him in Tillsonburg.  The sound system was atrocious.  It was almost impossible to make out his words when he was singing or talking.  But it was worth every cent and more when he started Tillsonburg (My back still aches).  The place went up!  You couldn’t hear him over everyone singing along.  (You can listen to him singing it in Hamilton by clicking the title, also below for Sudbury Saturday Night.)

In his songs, Stompin’ Tom gets at the heart of the people and landscape of every one of stompin tom autograph on cigarette packour regions.  And by focusing on the particular, he speaks to the whole of this large and sometimes fragmented nation.  Thank you, CBC, for the chance to hear him talk about how and why he made the music and to tap my foot and sing along with Sudbury Saturday Night.  You don’t have to have ever been in Sudbury to ‘get it’.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Sept. 9/12)

Love Hurts

It’s the story of Kirsty and Tyrone I guess, more than any one scene this week.  Although Kirsty listens to Tyroneevery scene where Kirsty gets or might get annoyed or has an implement of any kind in or near her hand is scary.  After her return, that meant pretty much every scene she was in.  And Tyrone, desperate for love and a baby, willing to sacrifice himself, his friendships – everything to keep a madwoman happy.

On Friday, two scenes that happened after Kirsty found out Tina and Tommy knew about the way she vents her stress illustrate both points.  Tyrone walked in the house and Tyrone looks at iron and goes no nearer KirstyKirsty was there ironing clothes.  He looked at the hot steam iron more often than he looked at her.  So did I.  He made a move once toward her, as if to hug her, but stopped short at the sight of the hot iron between them.  I’m sure he was more relieved than I was when she unplugged it and put it away.

Next scene, over a meal, she once again says she’s willing to get help. But she can’t bear the fact that anyone else knows about what she does.  That she loves him but it won’t work, Tyrone and Kirsty talk over takeout mealblahblahblah.  Not with Tina and Tommy knowing and watching her every move.  And Tyrone once again falls into her trap.  He says that he will totally cut off contact with Tina and Tyrone, anything to make her happy and let him have his little family.  And you can see the self-satisfied glint come into her perhaps truly remorseful eyes.  If he does it, she’ll have total control over him.  And she seems to need that.

This is an excellent storyline remarkably well done by Alan Halsall and Natalie Gumede.  steam rising from iron in Kirsty's handThey beautifully portray the complexities of two people who want to love and be loved but have some self- (and other-) destructive issues that neither want to actually deal with.  The thought of a baby being added to this mix is horrifying.

Kirsty blames her dad

I missed the episodes when Kirsty’s parents were there and she explained that her dad beat her and her mother.  Maybe I’d feel more Tommy confronts Kirsty about taking her work home with hersympathy for her if I had seen those.  As it is, I see only the pride that is keeping her from getting help that she knows she needs.  I am relieved that she is no longer a cop. Interestingly, Tommy is the only one who has explicitly connected the dots about that and her being abusive.  She is a bully and that’s not what any police force needs on the streets.

And it’s not what Tyrone needs.  In the final scene of the week, Tyrone cut his friends Tyrone walks past Tina and Tommy on streetdead, told Tommy he only wanted to see him with the loan repayment and for them both to stay away from him.  I wonder what it’s going to take for him to think, if not of his safety and sanity, but of the protection of the baby that is soon to arrive.  If Kirsty wants to blame her father for what she is doing, Tyrone ought to remember that her dad beat both his wife and his child.

Corrie Catch-Up

CBC’s Coronation Street is now only two weeks behind the UK. Wow! We’ve never been Rovers Return photo CBC on RCI Corrie Catch-upthat close before. In an RCI interview with Carmel Kilkenny, CBC Executive Director of Content Planning Christine Wilson said that we had got nine months behind (I think it was 10) because of accumulated time loss due to preemptions of the show.

Preemptions have certainly increased the time distance between UK and Canadian airtimes, but there has always been a difference. It is my understanding that an agreed-upon minimum airtime difference was part of the terms of purchasing rebroadcast rights. There still is that, now 2 weeks for CBC. Preemption adds to the time lag. So I hope CBC keeps its promise that episodes will be rescheduled if need be instead of preempted.

Catch-Up due to internet

Ms. Wilson said that the internet has made a time-lag of many months untenable. Viewers find out online what’s happening in UK Corrie then have to wait months to see Betty with Rovers hotpot from backonstreet.blogspot.cait. The recent death of actress Betty Driver is a case in point. It was big news in the real world and, while UK viewers had to wait until the story of the character’s death was written and aired, Canadian viewers had to wait months beyond that to pay their respects. In reading news reports of the real Betty’s death, finding out about UK storylines was almost unavoidable. Not a big deal if you’re relatively current in storyline airing, more so if you’re almost a year behind.

Coronation Street Hinterland

The internet certainly has made it easier to know what’s happening on the Street in UK time. But that has always been a part of the Corrie Hinterland, long before the word “spoiler” had anything to do with tv. I was introduced to Coronation Street in the 1970s in New Zealand by an English ex-pat. She explained and interpreted the show and The Street issue 6 magazine coverwould have told me what was going to happen. In letters from England, she would get news about what was happening on the Street.

Subscriptions to English magazines provided Street news. They were shared like a piece of meat among jackals. And woe betide someone coming from ‘home’ who didn’t bring information about ‘Coro’! It was like currency. Anyone with up to date details was fêted like royalty so they would share. Although why it mattered to a NZ viewer, I don’t know. What was happening in the UK was over two years in the future for us. I had enough trouble wedding album page 50th anniversary special Mirror magazinefollowing what was happening in the here and now, let alone two years ahead. I didn’t want to know the future.

My attitude to spoilers has remained the same. Visiting the UK, I avoided watching Corrie. I didn’t want to plunge ahead then have to backtrack when I returned to Canada.

In researching my weekly scene, I’ve become adept at googling and doing the keyboard equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and ‘la-la-la’-ing so that I don’t read everything while looking for something specific. I learned how the hard way: by accidently reading too much and finding out someone was leaving the show or a character had died. You never really can put it back out of your mind. So it’s much better that we are now so close in time. Only weeks of waiting and wondering when you find out something you didn’t want to know instead of nearly a year.

NZ still 18 months behind

50th anniversary issue MirrorAccording to the internet, New Zealand viewers watched the 50th anniversary special only this summer, So still about 18 months behind. Googling anything about the show, and social media, must be horrendous if you don’t want to know what’s ahead. Time for your broadcaster to play catch-up too!

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Sept. 2/12)

Eve at an eat as much as you like buffet

Soap operas are about emotions, relationships and the vicissitudes of human interaction. Roy and Hayley as motorhome returnsSo there are many powerful scenes that involve love and loss. As a viewer, you expect to be moved.

Tuesday and Wednesday had some of the most moving and thought-provoking scenes that have been on recently. And I think, on balance, the past months have been excellent with many good and emotionally gripping stories. But the tales told by four characters this week was extraordinary.

Mary and Roy and Hayley and Norris

emotions - Mary and Roy outside church for concertTuesday I thought I had my scene when Mary realized that no subterfuge was going to keep Roy in her motorhome overnight. When she realized that all he wanted was to be with Hayley after her dance competition. And was even willing to walk out of the encores for the Elgar performance. Like Anna, we knew what she was trying to do with her chess games and invitations to concerts and maybe booking hotel rooms, maybe not.

Mary and Roy going to motorhomeBut Roy talked so clearly and feelingly about why it was important he be there for Hayley that she folded her tent, so to speak, and gave up her assault on him. Nothing can top that, I thought.

Then Hayley, realizing that her suspicions about Mary’s intentions are justified, goes to confront her. Another absolutely Mary telling Hayley her feelings for Roybeautiful piece of theatre – the two of them in the motorhome, Mary talking about her feelings of invisibility, her longing for someone to think about her as Roy does about Hayley. Hayley’s delight in hearing what she means to Roy from someone else. Nothing could top it. And I don’t know if anything did, but two more scenes on Wednesday matched it.

Mary telling Norris she is leaving WeatherfieldMary, tired of losing at love in Weatherfield, decides to leave and tells Norris. Norris, who likes her despite himself and despite her actions, clearly not wanting her to leave but not able to tell her. Mary clearly waiting only for a word, a syllable, a pause at the right moment – anything to show her that he wants her to stay. But he doesn’t give it.

Hayley hears that Mary is leaving and knows it’s because of their talk. Again she goes to the motorhome. The two of them in the front seats, drinking coffee or something. Talking about emotions, life and love and relationships. They forge a friendship and quietly do wonders for each other’s self-esteem.

Emotions and misfits

Hayley wanting to talk to MaryAll four of these people are misfits. They have quirks, old-fashioned standards, all are laughed at by many in the street. All have been, or are, desperately lonely. It hasn’t been easy for any of them.

Norris with his dreadful ex-wife the late unlamented Roy explains his love for Hayley to MaryAngela, Roy with Aspergers or whatever it is, Hayley having started life as Harold, and Mary with her Mary telling Hayley about feeling invisiblemother and the burden of being Mary. Yet all of them this week had so much to say about loneliness, love and the human condition. The acuity of their observations about themselves and each other spoke to the heart of the need for human contact. And it was polite and with Mary tells Norris why they returned early from concertrestraint, befitting the personalities of the characters.

It is too bad for Steve and Tracy’s new domestic mess that it was sandwiched in between these other scenes. Without the counterpoint of the Roy-Mary story, they would have been fine. But as it was, for me, they were just dross.