Tag Archives: farm

Horse Keeping

manure-forks-photo-d-stewartFor Christmas, I got a manure fork. Yippee! It’s a good one for winter barnyard cleanup. Such a necessary tool is way too hard to find. This one came from Princess Auto. Its metal tines are close enough together to pick up what it’s supposed to pick up. And, unlike plastic, they won’t snap off in uneven frozen ground. The wooden handle is heavy, but tines that don’t break or bend is most important.

Just one of the bits of knowledge we’ve acquired in two years of horse keeping. From experience, the horses themselves, stables, friends, our farrier and feed and tack stores. And the internet and social media.

jerry-and-d-2021-photo-j-stewartMaybe the most useful advice about horse keeping I read a year or so before we got ours. I loved spending time at Butternut Stables, and I learned by watching the daily routine. I could see how much work there was just in maintenance of the horses, barn and paddocks. Plus what I didn’t see – horse emergencies, storms and equipment breakdowns. Could we handle all that?

A 2016 post by L. C. Street is what I kept thinking about while we finished the barn and fencing. It still often comes to mind.

What they don’t tell you about bringing your horses home

1. Your horse is an asshole.

Oh sure, he loves you when you come visit him at the barn right now. You bring him cookies and give him a good grooming session… When you leave, he whickers and you kiss his muzzle and think: “If only this could be every moment of every day!”

Now, flash forward to having your horses at home. Your horse doesn’t give a shit about you unless you’re bringing the feed buckets out. He sees you every single moment of the day and you don’t have cookies 99% of the time, which means he doesn’t care. About the only time he does care is when you are about 5 minutes late feeding.

2. Your horse is an asshole.

That’s not a typo. I’m talking about more assholery here… Your horse breaks shit constantly. Those reasonably priced $10 feed pans? Gone within weeks. That beautiful fence you spent three weeks building? Gone in a day.

horses-at-fence-2019-photo-d-stewartThe other most valuable thing I read is by Jane Smiley. It gives context to the assholery.

from A Year at the Track

A horse’s life is rather like twenty years in foster care, or in and out of prison, while at the same time changing schools over and over and discovering that not only do the other students already have their own social groups, but that what you learned at the old school hasn’t much application at the new one.

We do not require as much of any other species, including humans. That horses frequently excel, that they exceed the expectations of their owners and trainers in such circumstances, is as much a testament to their intelligence and adaptability as to their relationship skills or their natural generosity or their inborn nature. That they sometimes manifest the same symptoms as abandoned orphans – distress, strange behaviors, anger, fear – is less surprising than that they usually don’t.

Oscar-and-Jerry-photo-j-stewartOur horses are low on the assholery scale, and high on the adaptability scale. They don’t break fences. They sorted out their relationship with each other, and us, quickly.

Jerry’s low rumbling whinny chastises you if you’re not there at feeding time on the dot. Oscar’s high-pitched whinnies echo off the hills if Jerry is not within his sight. Anything in the yard that they can mess with or hurt themselves on, they’ll find. That’s why baking pans are screwed over the outside tap and the water trough electrical plug. Jerry can turn on taps. We took the handle off, then he gashed his head on the stem. They hadn’t pulled out any plugs, but why give them the chance.loaf-pan-over-outlet-photo-d-stewart

Horse ends and middle

Other bits of advice? Watch the weather. In winter, don’t over blanket or don’t let them get too cold either. A woman at Green Hawk told me the hairs of a horse’s winter coat stand upright in the cold. That keeps the snow from reaching their skin. A blanket keeps the hair from doing that, but, depending on weather and the horse’s condition, a blanket may protect better than their own coat alone. (Keystone Equine has a great Facebook post and comments on blanketing.)

Their winter coat gives some protection against rain too. But a heavy rain does go through to their skin, so rain sheets are good. But don’t leave one on too long, especially if it’s not cold out. The warmth trapped under the sheet is a breeding ground for rain rot to develop. If your horse gets it, Shapley’s M-T-G is what we found works best.

keeping horses and hay photo d stewartHaving your horses at home really lets you know just how much work your boarding stable people do. Cleaning stalls and yards is hard work, and it never stops. Getting hay in is a major summer project if you make your own. Buying it costs a lot of money. Horses eat a lot of hay. So you watch it go in one end and come out the other. Both ends make a lot of work for you. On average, a horse poops 12½ times a day. We counted.

Ride forever – or not

field-riding-2020-photo-d-stewartSomehow, you want to find time to ride and just hang out with your horses. I ride much less now than I did when I took lessons. That’s been something that I had to think about a lot, to try to reconcile for myself. I felt guilty, not riding. A lot of time, work and expense to keep two animals standing around in a field. Still, just looking at them and fooling around with them while cleaning up or feeding or fixing things – it felt worth it even if it didn’t make any sense. Then I saw this on Facebook. It made me feel much better.

You don’t have to ride your horse

It’s ok if you don’t ride your horse. It is not a requirement of horse ownership that you RIDE your horse. I often hear people talk –

“(name) NEVER rides his/her horse! I don’t know why (name) bothers having a horse, why does (name) spend all that money on board, and farrier, and veterinarian, and vaccinations and NEVER ride their horse? What a waste of money!”

First of all, it’s none of their business what (name) does with his/her horse and his/her money. None.

Secondly, so what? Who cares? If the horse is happy and well taken care of, then it’s all good. I promise you that the horse is not standing in its pen/pasture/stall saying to itself “Oh I wish (name) would come ride me!” or “Oh goody, here comes (name) to take me for a gallop around the barrels”. Horses don’t function like that. Horses look for and require food, water, shelter and companionship. Being ridden is not on their list of daily requirements for survival.

To be honest, I have a lot of respect for people who don’t ride their horses, but are still willing to spend the necessary money, time and effort it takes to be a conscientious horse owner.

Maybe (name) has good reason not to ride, perhaps they have physical limitations, or too many demands on their time, or perhaps they just don’t want to ride. Perhaps they struggle with their confidence and prefer groundwork, perhaps they don’t like to ride or work with their horse when no one else is around. Perhaps they really just like to own a horse and derive as much enjoyment just being a horse owner, providing a good life for a horse they love and want to support, for as long as they can… Horses need good people, not all good horse people ride.

Running in circles

We lunge Oscar before riding so he’ll be settled down for a nice ride. Other times we lunge him because he’s bugging poor old Jerry to play and Jerry doesn’t want to. Free lunging or on a line lets him burn off that energy.

Lunging-horse-photo-d-stewartIn a discussion forum, a rancher said if his horses have energy to burn, they can do that with each other in the field. He has more to do than stand around watching his horse run in circles. I always think of that when I watch Oscar snort, buck, fart and jump as he runs in circles.

Jerry and Oscar tells more about our boys and, for more on the horses of Butternut Stables, see my School Horses.

Happy birthday to Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses and all those in the Northern Hemisphere who officially turn a year older today.

The Old Baler

McCormick B46 baler photo J StewartI don’t know how old the square baler is. There’s no paint left. The name – McCormick – very faint. Old Faithful, I call it. A friend said you can use this until you get something else. That was several years ago. We still have it. It baled the whole first and second cut of square bales this year.

McCormick baler photo J StewartWe have two other balers now, both newer. Another square baler and a round baler. Neither could be called “new” but compared to the old fella, they’re youngsters.

Every year since we’ve had them, something has gone wrong with one or both at critical moments. Haying time is often one long critical moment.

One long critical moment

In early July, you start looking at the fields. How high is the grass, how green. A walk through the fields to see what the heads of the timothy are doing. What’s the weather forecast. For square and round bales, you need at least three sunny, dry days for cutting and baling. Radio weather reports, plus localized weather apps and the farmers’ forecast. They might be accurate, they might not. With them and your gut feeling, you decide and hope for the best.

A nice stretch of 3 or 4 days of sun, light breeze, low humidity – good drying weather. Mower ready to hook up to the tractor PTO. Let’s go. Cut when the morning dew is off. Wait a few hours and toss with the tedder. Next day, toss again a couple times. Leave it when the evening dew comes out. Toss again next day. Test it to see if it’s dry enough. When it is, windrow it so the baler can scoop up the line of hay.

Rain and scattered showers and rain

This year, there was so much rain. The upside was the hay quickly grew tall and lush. The downside was the hay quickly grew tall and lush. Predicting a stretch of several dry days and nights was a crap shoot. So you have to act fast when the odds look good.

Massey-Ferguson baler photo J StewartDo square bales first, while the sun is shining and no rain in the forecast. The new baler plops out one bale, and sputters to a halt. Can’t find the problem quickly. No time to delve into it. The hay is cut and it’s not going to bale itself.

Need me, do ya?

Walking past farm equipment around the yard, fretting. You can almost hear the old baler wake up with a creak and a groan. Need me, do ya? Yes we do.

Old baler in field 2021 photo J StewartSo hitch up the old guy. Trundle out to the field, and get back to work. Bale after bale after bale pops out the back. They might be a bit crooked. Somehow the tying mechanism is looser on one side than the other. But if you were as old as that baler is, you’d likely have trouble tying too. At least the bales are made.

loading square bales sep 2018 photo d stewartJob done, the baler goes back to its resting spot. Hook the wagon on to the tractor, and head out to load it up. One phone call, and neighbours appear from all around. They head to the field and start loading.

Then in the barn, they unload and stack. So that’s a lot to be thankful for: good neighbours and a good old baler.Oscar-Chasing-Haywagon-Aug-2021-photo-D-StewartWinter Resort has more on living in the country, pre-haying days, and the reason we hay is told in the story of Jerry and Oscar. That’s Oscar above, happy to see the food truck!

Ohio County Farm

By Marji Smock Stewart, from Climbing the Hills and Finding the Rivers. This continues her story on from Just the Three of Us.

The weather New Year’s day in 1960 was mild and balmy. Almost weirdly warm. It was a good day for moving into our Ohio County bill-with-cattle-sep-1966 photo M Stewartfarmhouse. I had rounded up furniture from both our folks’ attics and bought new appliances to be delivered after the move. My parents helped us move.

Bill’s dad was opposed to the farm purchase. He almost cried. Robert thought farm work was physically too hard for a guy starting out at age 45. He also thought Bill was mentally capable of much more challenging work.

As it turned out, Robert and Mabel both loved the farm and enjoyed many a pleasant day there in the years to come. Robert especially loved the cattle. Nine and one half years later when we sold it, smocks-stewarts-mothers-day-1968Robert was unhappy again. He wanted us to keep it. It was all he had dreamed of having when he was young. They and Bill’s sister Lillian were jewels, the best grandparents and in-laws a person could have.

With the help of Duke’s store in Dundee, we began remodeling. We had a bathroom installed on the main floor and, in the basement for the guys, a shower. Storage areas and desks were built in upstairs in our son’s room and the guest bedroom which doubled as my sewing area. Hardwood floors were refinished. A deep water well was drilled.

My California city kid and I refinished furniture, partly to keep us warm! We braided wool rugs for the floors and learned the fine points of country living. These and our camping experiences provided better learning than any Boy Scout troop could muster. We cleaned and burnished a heavy antique brass bed until it shone like gold. Mother later made a “wedding ring” quilt for that beautiful bed. He now has the quilt but, sadly, the bed was auctioned when we sold the farm in 1969.

elizabeth-smock-wedding-ring-quilt photo d stewartInstallation of a coal furnace was completed in mid-March. Immediately. the balmy weather changed radically. About March 16th we had a record snowfall. Bill couldn’t even get down our lane in a tractor for three weeks. Schools were closed at least that long. The snow was pristine and beautiful. But, better yet, our farm home now had furnace heat and indoor plumbing.

What more could we want?

Jack-Feb-1966 Stewart photosSometime that spring, Daddy told us about a place in Indiana that raised English sheep dogs. So we drove over there and chose two pups. We gave them the oh so original names of Jack and Jill. Outdoor dogs, but part of the family.

Melody-on-Farm-photo-M-StewartA horse rounded out our boy’s wish list. Melody was a Tennessee Walker. We didn’t know that, or what it meant. We just wanted a nice quiet horse who would teach him to ride. She did that and they became inseparable. Then one day our neighbor, a knowledgeable horseman, came for a visit. He saddled Melody up and together they showed us her full range of gaits.

In early May, the Ohio County Extension Agent made a visit to help Bill evaluate and plan for future farming needs. Naturally I invited him for lunch – a simple meal of beans, cornbread and the usual. Mr. Ridley was very friendly and asked a lot of questions of me. He seemed quite interested to learn I had a degree in Home Economics.

Farm and school

Out of the blue the following day, I received a call from the County Superintendent of Schools asking about my credentials and background. He asked if I would meet with some of the local board members regarding a teaching position in Fordsville High School.

I was enjoying my role as country homemaker but, by now, Bill and I were aware that farming required much more money than we could ever have to spend. The main drawback was that I did not have a teaching certificate. This meant that, if I accepted, I would have to spend eight weeks doing student teaching under Agnes Foster in Hartford. I also would have to pay for my substitute in Fordsville and do double bus duty and lesson plans for both schools. Bill and I discussed the situation and decided to accept the offer.

Thus the real merry-go-round began in July 1960. My first monthly paycheck was net $215.27. I still have the yellowed stub. I probably spent nearly 12 hours a day either in class or preparation for, or duties connected with, teaching. Mathematically, this averaged less than one dollar per hour! But this was not uncommon; teachers were quite dedicated.

The ten month teaching schedule was followed by three summers at Dr Marjorie Stewart OSU 1968 Stewart Photosuniversity in Lexington, earning my MS in 1963. I taught in the secondary schools and supervised student teachers for Western Kentucky State University until the summer of 1966. It was then I left my family on the farm and drove over six hours to Columbus OH for nine quarters of full-time study at the Ohio State University for a PhD in Aug 1968.

What if…?

What began in the spring of 1960 with the casual visit of the County Agent never stopped until I left the University of Kentucky over 22 years later [as Dean of the College of Home Economics]. I do regret that I was gone so much. I was so mentally or physically involved with work, or distracted by it, most of the time that I didn’t take time to be more involved with my son, Bill and our other family.

I often wondered what if…? What if I hadn’t invited Mr. Ridley to share lunch? If I hadn’t accepted that offer and instead remained on the farm, churning butter, planting gardens and joining the local Homemakers Club as my mother did in Daviess County? What if I had never gone on to earn further degrees? What if we were still on the Ohio County farm?

1970 on kawasaki 350 Stewart photosOur son grew up and went to the University of Kentucky. For two summers, he worked as a deckhand on riverboats. Secretly I hoped he might follow the family river tradition. But it was the time of the Vietnam War. He followed his conscience and went to Canada. Looking back, I would not change this but I wish things had been different for him – for all of us.

It still amazes me all the talents my son has, and that so many of the things he learned on the farm he still practices. I’m sure he has a different take on the farm years and those that followed. That’s ok, this narrative is through our eyes.

Next time, the conclusion of Marji and Bill’s story, the years after the farm.

Farm Dog

Being a farm dog is the diplomatic posting of the canine career spectrum. They have to be friend, greeter and protector. They have to be independent but know their place, both geographically and in the social hierarchy. It’s a tough job.

farm dog doing stable roundsThey are not fenced in. They have free rein over their property but must stay within its boundaries. No chasing squirrels across the road just for fun. No chasing other farm animals – cats, chickens, cattle or horses (unless specifically told to round up livestock). Farm dogs learn how to manoeuvre safely around large animals, and be gentle with small ones.

They must protect farm animals, people and property from all predators, four- and two-legged. They must be able to read people and other animals, who is friend and who is foe. A good deep bark and growl is an asset. But they cannot be too intimidating. They are ambassadors for their farm.

Farm Ambassadors

When a farm relies on visitors, the farm dog is part of the public face of the business. At a horse boarding stable, for example, a lot of people are coming and going all through the day. First-time visitors drop in to to ask about boarding or lessons. Horse owners, riding students, veterinarians, farriers, other horse people are there on a regular basis. The dog must assess the person quickly, and make the suitable greeting.

Often visitors bring their own dogs with them. The resident dog must be accepting of these other dogs on his or her turf. The visiting dogs may or may not be farm dogs themselves, so they may know how to act in a barn and with another farm dog, or not. Either way, the resident farm dog must be tolerant and gracious.

Stable dogs must know when to stay out of the picture – like when people are there for serious riding or training or horse business. They must also know when it’s time to be the centre of attention – like farm dog portraitwhen kids want to hug them, dress them up or play games with them. They need to be quietly friendly (read non-threatening) with people who fear dogs. In those cases, they are not only ambassadors for their farm but also their species and, sometimes, for their breeds. I overheard someone say about a farm dog, “I was scared of German Shepherds, but then I met her.”

It takes a special dog to be a successful farm dog, and they live in memory for generations of their family and their friends.

Barn Cats

Frank Moore, a farmer north of Belmont who my parents knew, always had lots of barn cats. He said one year, years before, there had been an explosion of cats – so many that 3 barn cats on stepsall the farms were overrun. So that year he, like the other farmers, got rid of many of them. “Then the next couple years, it just seemed like there weren’t any cats. Some died, some just disappeared, kittens didn’t live. Mice and rats were everywhere, and you couldn’t find a good mouser in the whole county. I never got rid of another cat after that. They come here, they’re all welcome.”

A good life in a good barn

His barn and house cats were well-treated. They drank milk straight from the cow, all lined up in a semi-circle, waiting, at milking time. He’d shoot milk out toward them, and they’d lap it up then lick off their faces.

Being a barn cat, in a good barn, is a pretty good life. You can chase all the mice you want. You’ve got cozy places to sleep. There’s always something to do. Barn cats have to learn to navigate around animals much larger than themselves. Some don’t, so there are always some losses. Most horses like cats and take care stepping around them. Cats sometimes will sleep right in a stall beside a horse or cow.

It used to be that few barn cats were neutered. With a high attrition rate, due to large hooves and farm machinery, the farmer wanted to be sure he always had enough mousers.  barn cats looking at henBut many farmers now get their barn cats fixed. There are generally cats available if you need more. Usually more than enough. So each farm does not have to be a “cat factory,” producing its own supply of cats.

The bane of most farmers are people who dump off their unwanted pets at their gates, assuming they’ll be taken in by the nice farmer. Then the “nice farmer” has to pay for the spaying and neutering of these additions or look for other homes for them.

St. Thomas Barn Cats project

The City of St. Thomas has started seeking farm homes for some cats at the Animal Control Centre. The idea is to neuter suitable cats and adopt them out as barn cats. It’s an innovative way to decrease the number in the pound without euthanasia and, especially for semi-feral cats, provide a well-matched home.

Some cats prefer a life more or less on their own; they don’t want to be housecats kept indoors. They want to mouse and explore. It’s always saddened me, seeing those ones in shelters. Looking out a window if they can get to one, or sitting sullen in the back of a cage. You know they would rather be outside living life according to their own rules. And that’s what barn cats do.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 27/11

 

Hens movin’ on up

Hens movin’ again. That’s what happens when you’ve got wheels on your coop, you get itchy claws.

hens movin and coop pulled into garageThere has been some awfully cold days and nights the past couple weeks. The girls are hardy, but I’ve worried about them at night despite the insulation in their coop. They still like to go out in their run during the day. But the wind whips around our windblocks. And the ground gets sodden.

One freezing night when Sadie, the outdoor-by-choice cat, came in out of the gale and sleet, I said to her “I wish the chickens could be in with us too.” Then I thought hmm, there’s a great big garage right beside them, wonder if they’d like to be inside it. Nah, I’d get laughed out of town if I suggested putting them, coop and all, in the garage.

“Probably too crazy, but…”

positioning coop in garageA day or two later, my brother said, “It’s probably too crazy, but I was thinking…” Yes indeed, he too had thought about moving the chickens indoors for the winter.

So last weekend, the girls were packed up inside the coop, the lawn tractor hooked on to it, and the whole works moved into the garage. Boards were put down under the run to protect the concrete floor and give the girls a less cold ‘ground’. A bale of straw spread out for them to peck in.

MINI parked by coopAfter they got in position, the MINI was put in beside them. There was one night of snow last week, not a lot but enough to let you know it was on its way. So time for MINI to go to sleep for the winter, for the very first time right beside some chickens for company.

Checking on them after their first night inside, I see an empty run. Where are they? Had they got out and were roosting in the hens inside cooprafters? Had the Chicken Rapture happened? No, inside the coop, looking at me like ‘oh thank goodness, you’re still here. We’re scared!’ All crowded together, they even let me pet them as I gave them potato peelings. One peel flicked out onto the run ramp, and one was brave enough to go after it. The others looked at her, then me, then screwed up their courage and went out too.

garage at night photo Dorothy StewartSoon they were scratching in the straw and kicking it in the air, pecking and clucking and cooing. Happy girls again. Of course the weather has become nice again so neither chickens nor car need the protection of a garage, but in mid-November it can change any time.

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. (Have Chicken – Will Travel describes the construction of their coop.)

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.

Have Chicken – Will Travel

Some hens need a home. So the first construction project at the chicken coop plan by Allan Anger
house? A chicken coop. It’s just big enough for five or six chickens and their furnishings and for us to go in to tend to them. They need one or two roosts to sleep on, nest boxes to lay their eggs in and a feeder and waterer. Bins to store their food, and that’s pretty much it.

And it’s mobile. A problem with an outdoor pen attached to your coop is that the chickens peck the grass right down and soon they’re base with coop frame on topscratching and pecking in just dirt. They like dirt. There’s still stuff to peck at and they like having dust baths. But when rain turns it to mud, they end up a mess. That’s if they’ll go out in it at all, they’re not fond of mud.

So, with wheels and a tongue for towing, this coop and run can be moved around to different patches of grass. I’ve never had one like that before, never even thought about a mobile chicken coop if truth be told.

Chicken RV

Googling chicken coop design and my brother’s fertile mind produced our one-of-a-kind chicken RV. He salvaged wood and a rod for an axle from behind the garage. He had wheels that our father had given wheels at end of coophim, saying “you don’t know when you might need a set of wheels.” True enough. Years later, they turned out to be perfect for a hen house. Then he and a carpenter friend began construction. It’s a well-built hen house.

The chickens won’t be limited to just this attached 8-foot run. The pen can open into a larger fenced area or just the great outdoors. But this small run, enclosed with sturdy hardware cloth, provides both indoor and outdoor space where you can be sure they’re safe. And, in case you have an emergency that requires traveling with your chickens, well, with this you can do it with ease.

coop with plywood sidingThe hens plan to move in next week. Their new home will be ready for them by them. I looked at coop equipment today. Some feeder designs and ready-made nest boxes that I hadn’t seen before. I haven’t bought anything yet. I need to talk to chicken people about what works best and see the final interior layout to see what best fits.

Although I hadn’t planned to get chickens so soon, these are Phoenix hens. And, well, I did say I liked them. It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the girls seeing their new quarters.

House Deconstruction

Three weeks in our new house and slowly it’s coming together. A new house is like a clothes on line and fieldRubik’s Cube: frustratingly impossible to figure out the parts but hit the right one and somehow the rest fall in place.

I haven’t moved in over a decade. That’s too long, I’ve decided. Move every five years so you don’t have time to accumulate too much. Alternatively, never move so that someone else will have to deal with your lifetime’s worth of stuff.

We moved to a smaller house. So even after fairly extensive pruning, a lot more came in the door than could be accommodated. Furniture was arranged several times before a workable solution was found. You start with a preconceived idea, based both on your perceptions china cabinet with cat in houseof the space and the way you had things before. Then you see it doesn’t work or feel right. There’s too many pieces left over. Or what you need doesn’t fit, and what fits you don’t need.

Throw it all out and start over’ was followed by ‘We paid to move this stuff halfway across the country so it’s all going to fit come hell or high water’. Then a midpoint of sanity: you have to see something in the space to know if it’s needed and rejigging can make things fit. And if something really doesn’t work, replace it. Life is indeed too short to settee and table on house porch photo D Stewartlive around your furniture, accommodating it instead of it accommodating you.

So a settee and coffee table sit on the porch, no place inside for them. Kind of looks like the Clampetts moved in. They probably will go to the attic or garage, or I might leave them there until winter. They just beg you to ‘set a spell’.

Farmland and house

The countryside around here is beautiful: farmland with hay baled or cows grazing, woods. I’m enjoying just looking at my own flower bed and grape arbourland – rosebushes, tiger lilies, grapevine-covered arbour, field with the potential of being pasture, woods. A deer out in the field late one afternoon, turned her head when she heard a voice and meandered on.

An old farmhouse, it’s very different than our previous new-ish suburban house. But this house, with old softwood floors and a renovation job of pine cabinetry, tile and soft sea colours, is of the lineage of houses I have lived in and loved the most. I could line up photos of rooms from this and three inside houseother ones and they could all be the same house. That’s not to say I haven’t missed my St. Thomas house. I liked its space and convenience and straight walls and floors, and I enjoyed just looking at the rooms. But my soul is back at home in this house.