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.

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.

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.

All in a day’s…laziness?

Unlike my last unproductive day surfing the weeeb, my ass does not hurt yet. Today, I am smart enough to sit on my big comfy couch instead of the hard wooden chair of old.

I think I deserve this day of random obscurity. Life has been overrun lately with the ails of others, and the endless maintenance of normal life. I’m still in my pajamas, and plan to stay in them all day. I worked my ass off yesterday, trying to get all of today’s chores and responsibilities done so I could have the day “off”. I even made today’s supper yesterday.  I still fed and watered Lilliput and the chickens this morning and I gave the bathroom a wipe down, but other than that, I’ve sat on my butt, clicking to my heart’s content.

First up, I Googled the lyrics to Boomdiada, the catchy song in the Discovery Channel commercials, my earworm du jour. It’s not at all called Boomdiada actually, but goes by a multitude of titles…I Love the Mountains, I Love the Whole World

As as just as many titles, there are just as many versions. A long version, a short version, a Canadian version, American version…phew.

It’s a long song.

I’ve been teaching my little godson Riley a few songs, beyond the typical songs you would teach a 2-1/2 year old kid. Daycare can teach him Twinkle Twinkle and Row Row Row Your Boat.  I teach him things like the Spiderman theme song, Rapper’s Delight and Boomdiada. I’m a cool Auntie.

Then, inspired, I Googled the original lyrics and discovered (HAH!) the old campfire song lyrics.

I love the mountains, 
I love the rolling hills, 
I love the flowers, 
I love the daffodils, 
I love the campfire when all the lights are low… 
Boom de ah da, boom dee ah da

Once the song was firmly lodged in my brain, I feverishly searched for tickets to see Jamie Oliver live in Toronto. I have been thoroughly obsessed with Jamie for more years than I can remember. I actively participate in his Ministry of Food and the “Pass it on” Food Revolution. Tickets are pricey so I’ll really have to ponder my priorities and tickets are limited so there’s a chance I won’t be able to acquire tickets even if I decide to go.

Discouraged, I surfed the WWOOF website for refreshment. No, WWOOF is not a dogwalker’s society, but rather a database of farms who offer working and learning opportunities. It’s strictly volunteer, which is right up my alley. I’m bound and determined to find myself, and maybe the kids, a placement for next summer. My options look good, even if it means it’s time to get the kids passports. I’m mainly focusing on Canadian farms, but would love to spread out into the northern States. The ultimate dream would be to work at an English farm *sigh*.

Much to the shock and chagrin of my family and friends, I am a Jersey Shore wh*re. Really. Sad, I know. Don’t ask, because I can’t explain it. Everyone has their faults and vices. Jersey Shore is mine.  Normally, I think of MTV as the virus that will cause the downfall of humanity, but there’s just something about Pauly D bellowing “It’s T-Shirrrrt time”. So, since Pauly D is a kickass DJ, and I like to club everynowandthen, I thought I’d look for his schedule..Ooooh, Pandora on Hallowe’en, now THAT would be a party! (sorry, I lost the link!) If you make it, take pictures for me ;P

As always when I spend the day cruising the web, I found myself at the Current Events portal at Wikipedia.com where I found a brand new galaxy, read about Typhoon Megi making landfall, and viewed a couple of pics of Expedition 25, which to be honest, I don’t fully understand.

No day of random obscurity would be complete without some time spent clicking the Random Article link at Wiki. My first click took me to North Shore, Ontario, which was boring because I’ve been there, actually been there, a bazillion times. I went to more soaring heights with a Gondola Lift, which brought back shaky memories of travelling up Sulfur Mountain in Banff. I then found the title of my next film noir,  B-movie purchase, starring Boris Karloff.

All in all, a day well spent. Not quite as educating as last time, but fun nonetheless. And lest like last time, one might think I’m going to get off my ass and get productive, you’re sadly mistaken. I’ve just found my way to WordPress and have some blogs to catch up on!

First Base

*DISCLAIMER: Over the next little while I am going to attempt a series of posts regarding my faith. Some will find what I write to be an offense to their own thoughts, faiths and religions. Please know that I mean none. It is not my intention to convert, nor enlighten, just simply educate those who’ve shown an interest or an understanding. It is not in my nature to judge my beliefs to be more worthy or correct than any other. My apologies if my explanations seem vague and incomplete, I’m going to try to do this without forsaking my own beliefs and Tradition, which still stands by the sense of secrecy for what we do.  On that note, I’m always, always willing to answer any questions, so don’t be afraid to ask. Any honest query is completely welcomed.

For Lisa, who continues to press play.

And Willow, who likes to get a little “witchy” every now and then.

And those of you who practice according to your own beliefs.

I am a Witch. But I am so far removed from the stereotypical idea of what a Witch is that even other Witches have argued against my right to practice. In umbrella terms I am a Solitary Eclectic Hereditary (this is the common name for my Tradition)  I say umbrella terms because unlike most Witches, who call themselves Dianic, Gardinarian, Wiccan etc., I don’t actually believe in religion of any type. What I do is called Witchcraft,  because that is the only word in the English language that comes remotely close to describing what I do. My beliefs are considered a religion by others, because often those others cannot wrap their heads around the ideas without there being a word to define them.

So for clarity, I do not consider myself a part of any religion, but for ease of understanding I’ll use the word. Some will call me a Pagan, some will call me a Druid, some will even call me a Heretic. Some will say I have Buddhist beliefs, still others will find Hindu traits, Muslim traits, Catholic traits. I would be tempted to tell you that those religions found their traits in mine, hundreds of years ago, and made them their own, but really, it’s not important. My tradition has been around so long, that it really doesn’t matter what umbrella terms others need to give it.

Unlike most religions, Wicca included, my beliefs are void of a God. I do not worship a god or goddess as a great creator or “higher” power. I do use the words Gaia and Mother Earth to represent those things which I  “worship” but in essence, they do not represent an individual entity in my world.

The base belief is that we are all connected, everything in existence is connected in one degree or another to every other thing in existence. You are directly connected at this very moment to several thousand other people whom you will never meet. How you ask? By the computer you are reading my blog on.

Sit for a moment and wonder how many other hands touched your computer during its manufacture. Think beyond its fabrication to the hands that manufactured the products that were used to build your computer. Don’t forget to considered the hands that manufactured the machines used. Go even further back, to the compounds that were created, the plastics, the metals that were used to manufacture the products that were used to fabricate your computer. Don’t forget to consider the hands that built the machines that processed the compounds that went into fabricating your computer. Follow it all the way down to the Earth, from where the petroleum used in the plastics and the ore used in the metals were retrieved. You, by virtue of viewing this weblog, are connected to the Earth and all of the people involved in putting this very moment together. Not only the people, but the Sun, the Moon, the Waters and everything in between. Without any single one of them, you would not be experiencing this moment exactly as it is happening right now. This is the core of my beliefs. We are all connected, we are all a piece of the whole, we are unified. This is what I worship. In a nutshell.

For me, Nature (the Nature of things, not just leaves and bees and wildlife ) is the be all and the end all, there is nothing greater.

The “how” is another story, for another day.

In the near future : Round and Round and Round We Go, The Cycles of My Life (or something along those lines)

Fabulous Fall Fungi

Mushrooms and fungi are members of one of my favorite kingdoms in nature. They’re a world all their own, unlike plants, animals and humans. The cellular structure of fungi is individual from other kingdoms and is fascinating all on its own. There are about 100,000 species of fungi, some edible and some poisonous enough to kill with a single bite. I took my camera on a walk around the property with Sara this morning and we found some really great fungi. It would be nice to learn more about them, to be able to identify them and harvest them for food, but it can be a really dangerous endeavour so we’ll leave it to the professionals for now.

Mother may I?

In the circle of life, you end up back with your Mother. At least that was how I was raised. We’re borne to a mother, we live, we die, we return to a mother.

Chances are, one or two of us return to that mother more than once before it’s permanent. No, I’m not speaking of near death experiences, although one or two of my readers has had one or two of those, I’m talking about moving home.

October is my favorite month of the year. October is when the greatest celebration of my faith occurs. I don’t usually discuss my faith on this blog, and I’m not really focusing on my faith, but rather on the cycle one takes from mother to mother.

From the time of the Autumn Equinox until the grand celebration of Samhain, the focus is on balancing life and death, participating in the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It seems a fitting time to return to Mom.

I’m really just sitting in my own little world, reflecting on the poetic irony of the time and the events currently in cycle in my life.

It seems fitting then, that my brother should return to his mother, and my son should choose to as well.

Last weekend I spent with my mother, in her endeavours to come to terms with her oldest child, my brother, returning home. I sat with her while she took inventory of all of the burdens being placed in her basket as a result of her child moving in, jobless, penniless, hopeless. I felt for her, and I grieved with her, for the loss of her freedom, her personal intimacy and for the responsibility as “healer” that was placed on her shoulders.

Yesterday, being October 1st, I dressed the house in preparation for the month’s celebrations. Treats were laid out for guests, candles and concoctions at the ready and my girls giddy with excitement, giggling like harvest maidens. This shall be the best Samhain yet.

Then  today I brought home my own son, brought him home to his mother, jobless, penniless, hopeless. And I share in my mother’s sense of grief, for my freedom, my personal intimacy and the responsibility as “healer” that has been placed on my shoulders.

 Both my mother and I hope we can encourage our sons to come to terms with their darkness, to find gratitude in the lessons they stand to learn and to prepare them for a new beginning as the darkness passes. But we’d also both be remiss if we were not honest with our sons regarding the burdens that are now ours to carry. Neither of us wish to spend our days sorting through the stresses and anxieties our boys have created for themselves, but, being mothers, neither of us wish to turn them away.

I’m a little anxious having my son return home ahead of schedule; I’m anxious of the upheaval it causes within my household, and I’m anxious that his return will interfere with the comfort of things. And I am most anxious that he feels too forlorn to see the opportunities placed before him, to re-group, re-build and move on.

And although I don’t usually post about my beliefs in this blog, I’m inspired by the clarity of the season. This time in my faith, Harvest to Samhain is about balance…life and death, light and dark, freedom and surrender. At a time in my life when I had thought this month would be full of merriment and celebration, the greatest yet, I am awakened to the notion that there must be some sorrow, some grief, to balance my excitement. It’s a fitting time for me, a realization unlike one I’ve ever had before and I’m both leery and welcoming of the experience.

Perhaps it will truly be the best Samhain yet.

Randomness

Just some random photos from the summer, in no particular order of importance…

An angry Thing One, flapping and squawking because I shooed her off the deck

Sunset at the lake.

Storm clouds bringing in three days of rain.

If you're caught running around in nothing but your Wellies, you might be a redneck. This is my 2 year old Godson, Riley.

Hubby builds a new twig fence, to keep the chickens out of the front yard.

At this time of year, the gardens are covered in Monarchs.

A rather spooky fog rolls into the marsh across from our house.

It almost looked more like a bed of snow.

The escape artists get a treat.

I swear, whoever gets out first opens the gate for the rest.

Riley paints a masterpiece...

...On the inside of the chicken coop door, with a corn broom and the mud in the wheelbarrow.

Drew learns to recover the "Topper"

The boys give Sara the lowdown on how to be a working sailor.

The kids take their first independent voyage aboard "The Mandy Patinkin".

Riley and Sara pick blackberries...enough for 16 pints of jam!

One for the mouse, one for the crow. One to plant, one to grow. And one for the chipmunk. They like blackberries too.

The newest member of the family. We deliberated for about a month between a Tundra and a Chevy Camaro. Sensibility won out. But we've promised each other to have a mid life crisis in a few years, and THEN buy the Camaro!

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