Monday, May 20, 2019

Country Living

Ah, the country. So peaceful. So beautiful. So full of $@&%! mice.

Our truck, which sits in the car port all winter, suddenly had a musty smell when we turned on the vent fan. Keep in mind that we've been using the truck all winter and it was fine. 

Trying to get to the vents is a nightmare of bolts, tight spaces, and removing the entire glovebox. At least we didn't have to pull the whole dash.
Tight fit
Once it was fully disassembled Chris pulled the fan housing and exposed the guts. Guts that were chock full of shredded paper and fabric. Oh, and two fresh mouse carcasses.
I'll spare you the disgusting bits
Now it's all cleaned out and put back together and, most importantly, doesn't stink.

But I much prefer this version of country life:
Happy chickens
See that one Buff chicken in the background? The one that looks like a feather-mop? Yeah, that one. She's not dead. Just dust bathing. Still startled me when I walked up there though.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bringing home the bees

Now that Chris had a new hive it was time to get the bees. The first class taught how to build the hive and the next class taught basic beekeeping - and they gave you a box of bees. It wasn't creepy at all driving  home with many thousands of bees in a box.
Step one was to put the box up by the hive.
A man, his dog, and his bees.
You don't want too much room in the hive at first so Chris removed the upper deep and the honey super.
Cooper is extremely interested
Next you remove the bung and let the bees do a bit of exploring.
Carefully letting them out
Not many come out at first since they're in a new place. And you just leave them up there for a couple hours to settle in a bit.
Just checking things out
After they've been up there a couple hours it's time to move the frames from the box to the hive. A bee suit seemed like a good idea for this job.
Not many bees are out of the box
Prepping the space
Letting Cooper get a final look
I didn't even have to call Cooper off - as soon as Chris went to lift that box lid she retreated to a safe distance. She's been stung before by "wild" bees.
The lid lifts (the suspense is killing me)
Oh my. That's a lot of bees.
You lift the frame out of the box, do your best not to smush any bees, and set them in the hive.
Clumsy gloves don't help
You also inspect each frame so you know what it looks like healthy.
Carefully inspecting the frame

Surprisingly calm
Inserting the frames
The queen is in there somewhere
Almost finished
There were a few stragglers in the box that Chris gently shook into the hive.
Then he set the box at the hive entrance and left them to find their way home.
They should relocate on their own
Then the lid goes on, the entrance reducer is put in place, and you leave them alone to settle in. When we looked at the hive the next day some bees were flying in and out and there was already pollen staining the entrance ledge. So far so good!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Sewing Fun - A Vest

One of the Twig & Tale patterns that I bought at Christmas was for an outerwear vest called the Trailblazer. It's fully lined and can be made with a button-up or zipper closure. There is also a wind flap you can add but I opted not to do that part.

Here are the pattern pieces all printed and cut.  
That's a lot of paper!
I opted to use salvaged materials for the outer wool sections. I have a box full of men's suit coats and sport coats, all them 100% wool, that I've picked up from thrift stores or from Hubby's "I don't want this anymore" pile. I found a gorgeous grey toned houndstooth with a dark blue stripe running through it, tossed it in the laundry to shrink and heat-set, then got to cutting. Do you know how little fabric you can actually get from what seems to be a huge blazer??? The tailoring that goes into these coats is impressive and frustrating. I ended up needing two jackets to get enough. Fortunately I found a nice coordinating solid grey that I could use for the back. Then I hit up my fabric stash for a suitably fun lining - pink plaid flannel! Woot!
All the pieces cut out and ready to assemble
I'm pleased to say the directions were clear and this was actually a fairly straight-forward sew. I'm still wicked new at this whole sewing gig so it took me many days to complete but I'm happy with how it turned out.

I did make one major error. I wanted to visually tie the front and back together so I made piping out of the houndstooth and sewed it into the princess seams of the back piece.

Houndstooth piping in back
Unfortunately I mixed up my right side/wrong side and sewed one seam in backwards. Argh!
Well that's not right.
I patiently unpicked the seam, pinned it in properly, and tried again. Got it right that time. Also - note the center seam running up the back - that's the suit coat's original seam. I decided it was a nice design element so I used it (plus I had no choice - I didn't have enough fabric if I didn't keep it). 

Here's the big reveal:
Houndstooth front
Collar shows houndstooth nicely (and the peek of lining at the arm is cool)
Bright pink lining
In-seam pockets
I had a small breast pocket on the suit coat that I wanted to utilize. I positioned it in the front side piece and it fits my phone perfectly.
Phone pocket
I've got more wool coats that I want to use to make another vest. I love the look of this and it's wonderfully warm. I made a few mistakes that I'll be better able to correct now that I've done one.

For my notes:
Sewed up a size F, should do F at shoulders and grade to D through waist and hips. Remove 1" at lengthen/shorten line.
Piping resulted in odd bulge/wrinkle at bottom. Learn how to properly sew piping into seam line!
Flannel lining is perfect - soft and cozy. Doesn't "stick" when putting on/off. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Just how many lives does a chicken actually have???

Bunty is our largest chicken. She was supposed to be a Black Sex-Linked but I think she got put in the wrong trough at Tractor Supply. She's large, assertive, and top of the pecking order.

The first out to explore the new coop
Bunty on the left
Gorgeous coloring
Looks more like a pheasant, doesn't she?
In addition to a great personality she's a wonderful layer. Her eggs are dark brown and extra-large so they're very easy to identify. She was the second bird to start laying and she laid virtually every day thereafter. This winter when we were only getting one or two eggs per day, one was typically hers.

This is a rather long lead-up to why we think she has 9 lives - like a cat. 

On Christmas morning I found blood drops in the coop. None of the birds were behaving strangely so I started trying to get a good look at them. 

Were there bloody footprints in the snow? No. A torn and bloody comb? No. Everyone looked fine.

Then I saw this:
Look at her beak.
If you enlarge the photo (it's kinda icky - actually, there are rather gross photos coming up so you may want to stop now if you get grossed out by this kind of stuff) you can see that although she is sort of looking to the side, her beak is pointing straight at the camera. Yeah, it shouldn't do that.

With a bit of effort (i.e. a sunflower seed bribe) I caught hold of her and brought her down to the house where we could take a better look at her. We found that her beak was virtually torn off. It was in fact hanging by one small piece of flesh on the left side and every time she tossed her head or rubbed her beak on something, it would bleed. Hence, the blood drops and smears.

Hanging by a thread on the other side
Some googling did not lend us much hope that this was fixable. One poor woman actually paid for surgery (!) to reattach a beak (it didn't work). The few successful beak issues we saw involved chips or minor breaks, not a full tear off. I admit my first instinct was to cull her and have chicken for  Christmas dinner. Chris was a calmer head and suggested we move her into the garage where we could keep her isolated and see if she ate and drank. 

We couldn't leave that hanging beak on her though so we snipped the last bit holding it in place and removed it. Now she had raw cartilage (not sure if that's what it actually is but it looked like your fingertip when you get a nail totally ripped off. Ick again) but at least it wasn't bleeding anymore. The good news is that she was immediately more comfortable and even started trying to peck around. Not that she could - it hurt any time she banged that raw flesh against anything. I gave her some water, some warm mash, and put her in a large kennel to keep her confined. I didn't want her running around the garage and getting more injured.

Do you know she laid an egg the next day? And continued to get better. The raw flesh turned sort of yellow-orange and firmed up. There was no "beak", no hard casing, and the top flesh did not meet up properly with the hard lower beak so it was tough for her to pick stuff up off the ground. But she tried and she ate/drank and continued to lay eggs. Finally we reintroduced her to the flock and quickly found that she'd lost all of her status. She was now the lowest of the low. And the chicken that had been on the bottom? Was really glad to have someone else to peck at now. She'd chase Bunty around the coop and jab at her. Bunty just kept her head averted and tried not to get hit on the beak.

After a while, things settled out and Bunty stayed on the bottom of the pecking order. Then in February I again found blood in the coop (this is a horrible way to start your morning by the way). It didn't take nearly as long to find the issue as Bunty was bleeding heavily from a torn comb. How'd it get torn? Who knows - I've had two separate flocks in this coop and never an injury but chickens are awesome at finding something to cut themselves on. 

So back to the house Bunty went. This time the bleeding was quite a bit worse (i.e. constant) and she wouldn't stop scratching at it and shaking her head. Which would send blood flying in all directions. My utility room looked like an abattoir. Since binding a chicken's head isn't exactly possible I decided to wash her up as best I could then I put her in a small kennel, covered it with a towel, and shut her in a dark room. I offered food and water but basically kept her calm and confined and in the dark for two days. And it worked. Her comb went from pale pink and totally flopped over to blushing and starting to stand. Then we moved her to the garage where she could have some room to move around and keep away from the other chickens. She settled in, laid an egg for the first time in days, and kept Chris company whenever he was in the workshop. After another couple days, back to the flock she went. 

She was still the bottom chicken but she was laying well and seemed content enough. I couldn't see anything happening with her beak; it just seemed to toughen up so that she could use it well. The fleshy top part still didn't meet the bottom hard beak, but she was able to eat and peck and forage, so we just let her get on with it. Her comb healed up and turned red and everything looked okay.

Now it's spring and we just took this picture. The hard upper beak has regrown. Which I flat out did not think was possible. And she has regained her spot as top chicken. Shoot, she even chases off Cooper if the dog gets too interested in the scratch feed. It's amazing.
That is a real beak!
Queen of the coop
But that's 2 lives used up so far. Not sure how many more she's got...

Monday, May 6, 2019

New Bee Hive

I mentioned that Chris took a beekeeping course. He'd set up the stump hive a couple years ago but hadn't had any luck getting any bees to spontaneously move in. So it was time to get educated and get a "standard" hive set up.
The new bee suit
The first class was on building a hive and basic beekeeping. They built a base, the lower deep (or brood chamber), the inner cover, and outer cover. They were also given a metal top to make it all waterproof. When Chris got home he put together an upper deep (food chamber), a shallow honey super, and many more frames. Then I got to decorate it. Woo-hoo!
Flower, butterflies, and bees - oh my!
I had a lot of fun doing this. I especially like the many bees I put on the honey super.
Bees in flight!
Each side is a bit different
Chris built a rock base that still allows air flow under the hive. It's very stable and blends into the environment well.
That's the garden rock wall in the background
We placed the hive close to the edge of the woods but where it would get morning sun.
Fully assembled
It's also up near the stump hive in case they decide they'd like more rustic accommodations.
Maybe some day they'll need more room
The hive is near the woods - but not too close. The trees should help protect the hive from winter winds and provide some much needed shade in full summer.
It's so happy looking
As with any new endeavor there is stuff to buy. Such as this smoker.
It works!
The next class is when they'll actually get the bees. We're very excited.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Game Camera

The cold weather knocked out the game camera over the winter but with warmer (ha!) Spring temps, we put it back out. And boy did we get some pictures!

A smallish fisher
A significantly bigger fisher
Regal, isn't he?
And cautious - lots of sniffing around
Not creepy at all...
Two days later, back again!
Incredibly healthy. Great size on him too.
Deer (or dinner?)
Fisher is back
And so is the coyote. Is he looking at the camera?
I think he is.
Wait. Is he lifting his leg???
He was! And still staring right at the camera.
No respect at all.
Turkey bottom left. 
Excellent shot of our local predators and their potential food sources. Fortunately this was on the very far edge of the property so we're hopeful they won't come too close to the house. In the meantime the chickens are safely pastured and the dog is kept close by. Nothing like living in the country!