Poultry Palace

We have needed a new chicken coop for years. The bird’s old accommodations were an unused wood-shed built fairly close to the house. The shed wasn’t ideal, but it worked well enough. The ducks had a difficult time living there, mostly because they were fat (and Rouen ducks don’t fly) and couldn’t make it up the chicken run into the coop. The poor ducks had to be “captured” every night (imagine if you will, us chasing a couple of three foot tall, 30 lbs ducks around the yard, with all the squawking and quacking and wing-flapping and cursing you can fathom) and gently pushed through the little, wee chicken door.

The pain-in-the-ass that was the ducks, sadly came to an end the morning the fox invaded, and life in the wood-shed slash chicken coop became a little easier to live. But then, enter Lilliput.

Last year, housing Lilliput with the chickens wasn’t so bad, since she was small and didn’t snuffle through an entire bag of grain in a day. This year, Lilliput is not so little, and she still refuses to be separated from the chickens.

Back in December, Diane posted her new open air chicken coop on her blog, over at Speedkin.com. Diane and the family had recently moved from Oklahoma to Missouri and needed all new digs to house the menagerie of life on the farm.

I was greatly inspired by Diane’s new coop. I could imagine both goat and bird living harmoniously in the same structure, with a simple wall between them to keep Lilliput from eating all the grain meant for the chickens. I could even imagine building the coop without it costing us a dime, since the material could be salvaged from our local dump in the Spring. My only real concern was the open front.

Diane’s coop is just faced with mesh “chicken wire on steroids” and at first I thought there was NO WAY this would keep the animals warm enough to survive our hard, Northern Ontario winters. The idea behind an open air chicken coop is that it keeps the birds in better health, less congestion (ever heard a chicken sneeze? Funny shit, that) less bacteria, less illness, fresher air, healthier birds.

I had just decided to construct panels for the front to enclose it for the winter, when Diane sent me a copy of the 1912 book Open Air Poultry Houses for All Climates. Because she’s awesome like that.

Eureka! Here was proof from ages gone by that open air would work! I quickly and eagerly set about designing my new coop according to the specs and sciences provided in the pages of the book. The coops recommended for my area were not built like Diane’s, but the premise was the same, leaving a portion of the front unboarded and open with only a mesh screen to keep predators out and the birds contained. I was faced with a lot of naysayers in the area who said it would never work, but I was inspired nonetheless. All I had to do was wait out the winter until the snow melted so I could salvage my list of materials from the dump in the Spring.

Before the snow melted, life went to shit, Paul had his heart attack and all thoughts of building got put on the back burner. By the time life was normal enough to start salvaging, the construction waste site at the dump had been plowed over.

We talked about waiting until the fall, when the construction season was over and the waste site was again full of goodies, but Lilliput was costing us a small fortune in grain and she and the birds were constantly escaping into the vegetable gardens. I had to replant the carrots three times, thanks to the chicken’s endless scratching and pecking, and there isn’t a corn stalk to be found because of Lilliput’s addiction to the grain.

Sucking it up, we decided the best thing would be to just cave and buy the wood.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that raising a small flock of chickens is a worthwhile financial investment. It’s not. Chances are, when you factor in the costs, the losses and the hassles, unless you’re raising 1000 or more birds, you’ll be hard-pressed to break even. Our new coop and it’s companion pen cost us a dear $1090, not including the donated labor of friends and family and three days worth of bed, BBQ and beer for said folk. Sure, it should last for years, with only minor upkeep and maintenance, but it will take years for my measly flock of 15 to produce enough eggs to pay it off. They barely produce enough eggs to cover the cost of their feed every month.

But, owning Lilliput is as endearing as owning a dog, chickens are fun and entertaining and you just can’t beat the taste of farm fresh eggs, so here it is, our new open air coop…

It’s not complete of course, nothing around here ever really is, but it stands erect. Whether it sustains the birds through the winter is yet to be seen and a huge Thank You goes out to Diane for the inspiration…and the book!

Let’s try this again, shall we?

It’s quite possible that I have figured this out. It’s also quite possible that I will forget the bazillion steps it took to get to this point. The unfortunate thing is that the app is not WYSIWYG, so therefore I’m left sifting through gobbledy-code to label anything or to continue writing between pics. And I’m sure my data plan just blew over the limit for the month of June. It would have been cheaper to just go buy a new modem for my laptop. It certainly would have been easier to install said modem than it was to post all of these pictures.

A big ole snapping turtle laying eggs in the sand.

Fitzgerald Bay sandbar, at twilight.

Opium, anyone? I’ve got lots.

Any idea what this is and what it’s used for? Friends of ours are cleaning out their 120 year old storage barn (think American Pickers style) and found this buried in there. Roselle grew up on and inherited the farm, but can’t for the life of her figure out what it is.

Almost every morning there is a Luna moth on the wall of the garage.

A brand new turtle.

Bleeding hearts in the garden.

So, how does this post look for you? Is it warped? Is it excessive? Comments and critiques are required. The future of my Blackberry Blogging depends on it.

Spring pictures and a test of sorts.

I have not yet replaced the modem on my computer, so I am still blogging from my cell phone. Curious endeavor that. I’ve not really explored the word press app much, mostly due to a lack of time, which leaves me at a loss when it comes to uploading links and pictures. This here post is a test, I have zero idea how this is going to work, so I apologize in advance if something blows up.

A lovely spring storm stirring up.

Screaming Update: This is more of a pain in the ass than it’s really worth, to be honest. Must. Explore. App. Further.

Rewind…

Before I throw myself back into the foray of blogging, I thought it would probably be best to recap where I’ve been for the past six months, what I’ve been up to, and the general goings-on in my world. I warn you, it’s not been the best of times, tragic and morbid more like, but since I’m a glass-half-full kind of gal, I’m looking forward to the second six months of this year with great anticipation.

I debated with myself for days over sharing recent events, because really, I’m not looking for any sort of sympathies, but I figured over the next several months I’d make references that wouldn’t be understood without explanations so it was probably best if I let you all in on the details in advance.

So here we go, in the best chronological order I can remember…

The year started off with a bang the moment my daughter and son in law walked in the door on New Year’s day with the news that they were having a baby. So much excitement! We were overwhelmed with joy and Paul and I quickly set about deciding what our monikers would be as grandparents. He was pretty content to settle on “papa” although traditionally, he should be a grand-dad, but I struggled. I really wanted to be known as “Nan” but worried that it would be stretched to “Nan-a” which just wasn’t going to work for me. I just knew that I didn’t want to be grandma or mee-maw, or god forbid, granny.

Shortly thereafter, we suffered our first financial strike in years. We are not overly wealthy people, but we ain’t broke either, which is a good thing because Paul faced a layoff for the first time in his life. More than the money woes, it was a rather sudden kick in the teeth. Paul filled his time being overly productive in other ways, renovating the fire hall and logging wood for the next several winters, while I sorted out the finances and came up with a way to make it work.

And then a family member was killed in an off-shore accident, which completely sent us all for a loop. Followed by our dog passing in the night.

February tumbled down the stairs like a drunk on a rampage. I suffer a mental illness that I have spent twenty years over coming, but February brought a relapse like no other. Two weeks of separation and some serious introspection brought all of the pieces of me back together.

As mentioned, by oldest was expecting. Now, this is a girl who was adamant that she was never having children. In fact, at twenty two years old, it’s the one thing she was positively sure of in her life, no question, she was not having kids. It took some time, but she opened up to the idea, and actually became encouraged by the prospect of being a mom. But once her brain and her heart settled into her new role, the medical testing began. Things were not right, things were not progressing as they should. When the doctors decided nothing could be fixed and that she needed to contemplate surgeries and alternatives, she decided to look back on her roots and let nature take its course.

Nature made her decision at the beginning of March, several long weeks later. We look on the experience as nature’s way of feeling out Kay’s choices about being a mother. Although she won’t be one soon, she will be one in the future. A dry run, so to speak. Extended family were distraught over the loss, but Kay feels she’s learned some valuable lessons about herself and her future. You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, right?

Next up, murder. Yep. The daughter of a very close friend was murdered by her father in law, shot in cold blood in her home. Murdered by a work associate of Paul’s, which became a bit of a double edged sword. I don’t have the wits about me to elaborate much.

And then, on March 29th, just when things were simmering down, Paul had a heart attack. He thought it was strep throat. He suffered all night, before finally deciding the next morning that he needed a doctor. You know all those symptoms they teach you are signs of a heart attack? Numbness in the arm, clutching chest pain? Yeah, forget all that, because they aren’t what a heart attack looks like. Seriously, Paul thought he had strep throat. It wasn’t until the emergency room doctor plopped on the bed and said “So, you’re having a heart attack” that we realized it was something serious. He’d had two in fact, and the left side of his heart was in the process of shutting down completely.

Here we are now, almost two months later after a stay in ICU, an angioplasty, stent insertion and more life altering changes than I can wrap my head around, on the road to recovery. Do you know how difficult it is to come up with a “healthy” diet for a man who eats healthy in the first place? Lettuce has become his main food staple.

And money? What’s that?

Turns out, it was a blood clot, a fluke, let loose on a particularly strenuous training night with the fire department. One that for some reason didn’t dissipate, but rather, chose to lodge itself into a blood vessel in the left ventricle.

Add to those experiences the fact that I have still not replaced the modem on my computer and am therefore typing all of this on my blasted Blackberry, and you’ll see why I’ve not spent much time in the blogosphere.

What’s new with you?

To die would be an awfully big adventure…

Didn’t the “second coming” already happen, three days after the Crucifixion, for forty days before the Ascension?

Thankfully, there are only 140 corpses in our local cemetery, so the Zompocolypse should be short lived in our town.

No worries, I’ve got big shoulders

Being a Witch is much more than spells and hocus-pocus. Mainstream society has a very clouded view of Witchcraft, and we as a tradition often contemplate the when and why’s of that clouded view. We’re all well aware of events over the course of history that contributed to our persecution, the arrival of a certain Saint, the Burning Times etc., but what usually causes confusion is why it all happened in the first place.

There was a time when the Witch was the go-to gal of society. A time when lords and kings held a Witch or two in their court. Their purpose was to heal and inform and all manner of authority turned to them for advice and direction. Farmers planted crops by the word of the local Witch. Magistrates collected taxes and Kings waged war, often based on what the Witch saw in Nature. Because let’s face it, Nature is never wrong, Nature never makes mistakes.

It’s Human nature to place blame and responsibility on others, and for the most part, we as a tradition, believe that’s where our persecution began. Along the way, society learned to manipulate, learning new and treacherous ways to place the burdens of responsibility on others. Those who didn’t understand the virtue of Nature then began blaming it, and a game of “shoot the messenger” ensued. Suddenly, anyone who had spent a lifetime learning the signs and sharing them with others was held accountable for every indiscretion and maleficence known to mankind.

Here’s where the irony of it all kicks in, as much as Witchcraft was laid to blame, society continued to feed on the skills of Witches, using the knowledge they provided to further its own endeavors. It’s not fair, dammit! *stomps feet* Just kidding! I know, I know, every culture/religion/race has taken their fair hit from humanity at one point or another.

So what does that mean for a modern day Witch? It means we get a chuckle out of watching society continue to use the skills of the ancient Witch to further its own advancement. It means we sit and watch science and politics and religion claim our talents/rituals/rites of passage as their own. It means our practices carry on, even if only through the unknowing manners of the descendants of our original persecutors. In the end, it means we are an audience to society using Nature to destroy itself one step at a time, piece by tragic piece, in ways Nature never intended.

And when Nature strikes back and affords us a brutal beating, I being a Witch, sit in thankful wonder, while others find someone to blame.

To You and Your’s

Just a quick note to wish you all the best during this season, no matter what you celebrate.

At this very moment, I’m typing on my new Blackberry. Yes, exactly. You all know how I feel about cell phones. I’m betraying my species. Not my choice, although I could just put it down, my husband sees it as a necessity and therefore surprised me with my newest gadget.

Anyway, don’t tell Paul, but there have been moments when I’ve found the damn thing useful. Such as now, being able to let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking.

Oh, and as to why I’m not posting to my blog with any sort of regularity, we had a massive storm which consequently blew the modem on my laptop. And I refuse to buy a new one. For the time being.

So enjoy the holidays and I’ll try to catch up with you all through the coming weeks.

Leaves, and acorns, and cookies. Oh, my!

The cold weather is finally starting to really set in, we’ve even had snow a few days in the past couple of weeks. The push is on to get the land and the house ready for winter. We need to string new roof cables for keeping the snow off the eaves, we’ve just noticed that all of the windows need new caulking on the outside, and all of summer’s bits and bobs need to be put away. On top of that, the greenhouse needs to come down before winter, thanks to a haphazardly blowing wind that tossed a couple of tree branches across the yard through both the roof and the side of the structure. So much for tempered glass, it’s no match for an angry wind and a solid oak branch.

The bazillion trees surrounding the house dumped their entire bounty of leaves in the same windstorm, leaving a hell of a mess to clean up.

We raked for days.  And days. And days. And we really didn’t rake that big of a space, but holy hannah, it was deep. When I walked out to the chicken coop, the leaves came up to my knees. Good compost fodder, though. Thankfully, we were able to get most of it raked before the fall rains hit.

Since then, we’ve had frost every morning. COLD frost, sheet of ice covering the deck frost. Frost that kills whatever’s left in the garden frost. I managed to get some fall sedums out of the gardens for drying and have the bunches dangling around the wood stove. There’s nothing more country then bunches of drying goods all over the house.

In an odd little twist of fate, the cut ends of the sedums have started to bud! The bunches are hanging upside down, as is done to dry any sort of flower, herb, etc. and I guess there is still enough moisture kicking around inside the stems to encourage growth. All of the stems have budded, and rooted into mid-air in a hundred little sedums shoots.

I haven’t decided if I will let them all die off, or if I will separate them all from their host stems and transplant them to a seed tray to overwinter. I’m not entirely sure I’ll be in need of a hundred or so sedums transplants come spring!

I totally gapped in my attempt to gather the last-minute herbs to dry for the winter before the frost, so here’s hoping I have enough to get us through. So long as nobody gets sick…I’m such a lazy little Witch.

This must have been the year of the Oak Tree. Every oak tree on the property shed thousands upon thousands of acorns this fall. We’ve never seen so many acorns fall from the trees. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to walk across a  lawn covered in acorns, but it’s a bit like trying to walk on a treadmill covered in marbles.

We literally shovelled buckets and buckets of acorns off of the grass. It wasn’t all in vain however, the acorns will be put to good use. After a light smashing with a mallet, acorns will make a great  treat for Lilliput and the chickens and I’ll use plenty in future craft projects.

In the midst of all this, and other stuff, I have been spending almost every spare moment working on the studio. It’s amazing how much stuff you forget you had when it’s been packed in storage for a year. How the hell did it all fit before?? The studio, as much as it shouldn’t be, is the lowest “to do” on the priority list. We still need to finish the bathroom which has been under construction for just over a year now. You’ll wonder why when you finally see the before and after pics. It’s a VERY small bathroom.

I’ve had to purge a lot of art and craft supplies. Which isn’t necessarily the problem. The problem is, every time I unpack something new, I get inspired. When I get inspired, I get distracted from the task at hand, and before you know it, I’ve spent three hours priming canvases or coating images in gel medium.

Yesterday, I claimed a day of complete rest. Sort of. I’ve gone back to spending two days a week with my godson, Riley, and yesterday he and I made cookies. Batches and batches of chocolate chip cookies. He was so proud of himself, and it was so much fun. It’s been a long time since I spent time with a 2-year-old baking cookies, and I forgot how much of a blast it is. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon.

Happy New Year!

Today is Samhain (Hallowe’en) the greatest holiday of my Tradition. It is a day for celebrating many things and all things. I had great intentions for a blog post today, but I’m finding myself incapable of finding the words to describe my feelings about Hallowe’en. It’s so much more than tricks or treats. It’s a day to honor all life, in all facets. It’s a day to celebrate the things that have passed, and the things yet to be seen in the future. It is a day of the dead, and a day of the living, a time when both co-exist in harmony and balance.

The year has come to an end and a beginning and we are blessed to rejoice in both. We find ourselves closer to those who’ve passed before us, our thanks  a little more intimate. Today is a collision of celebrations that, at least for us, has lasted several weeks. We are tired, and refreshed, we are settled and excited. We spent the weekend looking back and looking forward, giving thanks for the opportunity to do both.

We’ve had fun, we’ve had merriment, good food, good drink, good times. We’re at peace and that’s most important.
And it was, as predicted, one of the best Samhain celebrations yet.

New days will dawn.

Much of the traditions in my faith are based on cycles; the cycle of the Moon, the cycle of the Sun, the cycle of Life. All cycles have an impact on existence and therefore are cherished for the contribution they make. The Moon, for example, controls the ebb and flow of the tides, while the Sun’s rising and setting has a tremendous impact on life itself.

While my beliefs lie in the laws of Nature, they are also terribly scientific. The chart of cycles was not written as an order to follow, a dogma, nor by that of a holy man. The cycles celebrated in my faith are the ones you can witness with your own eyes, without being told to see them. They are filled with common sense and logic, the Sun will rise every morning and set every evening.

Many religions use the same cycles for writing scripture and mapping paths to Paradise, but since I don’t follow such things, I simply use the cycles for the here and now. Easter in Christianity happens in Spring, symbolizing the Resurrection of Christ. The date for Easter, which changes year to year is calculated on the cycle of the Moon, a fact often unknown or overlooked by Christians. Easter is held on the First Sunday after the Full Moon directly after the Vernal Equinox. Sounds confusing, but it’s not. For 2010 the Vernal Equinox happened on March 20th (its most common date). The following Full Moon happened on March 29th. The first Sunday after that Full Moon was April 4th. Christians celebrated Easter on April 4th 2010. The same calculation is used year after year.

In my faith, the tradition is to celebrate spring fertility and this occurs the same time as Christian Easter. The difference is the Vernal Equinox and Full Moon being held in high regard rather than a holy being. In modern traditions as well as my own, this celebration is called Ostara.  In similarity however, like the Christians we are also celebrating resurrection. This is based on the approach that this is when certain kingdoms of Nature are reborn, seeds bloom, plants sprout, the Sun moves back closer to the Earth bringing forth life…the Earth is renewed with life. It is believed in my tradition that our celebration came first, since it only made sense that any culture, including those before Christ, would have planted their seeds at the same time of year, that the plants would have sprouted and the trees would have budded at the same time 5,000 years ago as they do now. (While many Witches and non-Christians will refute the validity of Christ, my tradition embraces him as another explanation of cycles. But that’s a very long and drawn out discussion)

Let it be said that this is within the Western (and usually Northern) Hemisphere. I’m writing on the assumption that one knows the seasons are opposite in opposite hemispheres.

As a Witch, I keep track of many different cycles, but what makes me a Witch is how I use those cycles to my benefit. And yours. The Moon is of especially great importance to me. It is the tool by which I plant my garden, harvest the fruits of my labours, plan financial actions, engage in social events. It is second nature for me to work around the cycles I’m most drawn to. Some would call this the “woo-woo” aspect, because it might sound rather wonky to plan my whole life around the moon, but, before you judge me, you’d better get to know me. In forty years, it’s just never failed me. Never.

The current cycle, the one that excites me so, began with the Autumn Equinox and will conclude on All Hallow’s Eve. This time is called Harvest Home in my Tradition, or more commonly, Mabon. The actual sabbat was on the Autumn Equinox and most just celebrate on that day, but, for me, it is a celebration several weeks long. It is the time of the year when the darkness overpowers the light. Now, before anyone thinks I’m summoning demons to take down the angels, it’s literally about daylight versus nighttime, no hocus pocus involved. On the Equinox, day and night are for equal lengths of time. Prior to the Equinox, there was more daylight in the day, now, after the Equinox, there is more nighttime than there is sunlight. Easy huh?
Harvest Home signals the passing of summer, celebrating the fruits of labour, nesting in the home for the coming winter. It is a time of rest after a season of hard work, a time to reflect and to prepare for the Winter ahead. And, it is a time of balance. During Mabon we learn to allow change, we open the doors for definition and discovery. We see that the Earth doesn’t resist change, and learn that neither should we. We also learn surrender, for those things that just must be as they are for life to be fulfilled. We can’t stop the night from overpowering the day, some things are worth appreciating just the way they are. We are coming to the end of a cycle, a new year is about to begin. It is time to find balance, in life and death, sorrow and happiness, light and dark.

Oddly enough, some Christians celebrate this time as well. They call it Michaelmas, in honor of the Archangel Michael.

Harvest Home, or Mabon is my favorite time of year…with my favorite celebration, Samhain, just around the corner….

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