Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus – One of These Things is Not Like the Other

All of these carrots came from the same seed packet and the same row in my garden within the space of about six inches. Curious.

In case you’re wondering, they all had the same great taste.

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Chicken Love

DSC_0037 (2)The ladies have arrived  and are settling nicely into the “summer cottage” as my friend calls it. We picked the three of them up last Sunday evening and so far so good.

They are laying hens that we’ll keep through the summer and fall after which they may return to their winter home at my friend’s farm. Or we’ll build them a coop more suited for a Canadian winter. For now the (cute!) little coop put together by my son and I is working like a charm.

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The three hens are currently nameless but are certain to end up with a moniker of sorts as most things do (animate or not) in our household…we have a TV remote control named Norman.

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My friends in the know, and the folks at the feed and farm materials store have been wonderfully patient and generous with advice and recommendations as I learn the world of chickens.

Here’s what I do know so far.

They love watermelon and are not keen on the three dogs milling around. After seeing how intrigued our Boston Terriers are in the hens, I quickly realized that keeping things out is far more critical than keeping the birds in. I’ve now purchased sturdier fencing for the pen. 

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I’ve also learned the ladies make the most beautiful noises. I didn’t know how lovely and soothing their gentle clucking and squawking would be.

They generally seem quite content in their new digs. 

They’re productive too. We’ve already had six eggs in four days which is right on what we were expecting. The first egg was truly exciting. I thought the ones that came after would be less so but not the case. I am equally thrilled each time I check the next boxes and find an egg. I carefully grasp it in my hand – not too firm but not so loose as to risk dropping it while I carry it back to the house.

As you see here, Egg Number One and Egg Number Two were objects of great delight in our house  and yes…they did feature in a bit of a photo shoot on my kitchen counter. 

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Also admitting a little lunacy here – I actually had a picture of Egg Number One on my phone and asked someone if they wanted to see it the other day. Sort of like baby pictures…but weird. Thankfully they turned out to be equally passionate about chickens they used to keep so I was saved from the embarrassment of an exceptional awkward moment.

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You will be glad to know that I’ve not gone right off the rails though and I do happily use these delicious fresh eggs.

A few nights ago I whipped up a batch of muffins and the result was magnificent. I’m sure in no small part due to the wonderful bounty produced by our new ladies in waiting.

The Oak Tree Came Down (and Why My Dad Never Needed to Do Crossfit)

The Oak Tree died. I had to accept it. And accepting it meant it had to come down. I had wanted to wait to see if it would survive. I was advised it wouldn’t.

This is all because something had to be done about the driveway…people, including us, didn’t much enjoy getting stuck or having their vehicle slip and slide into the mini hummocks at the bottom of The Hill. Eventful – yes; exciting – yes; but potentially costly. Although we’d become masters of getting up and down it in the winter, when the company that delivered our heating oil said they’d no longer do so on account of the driveway, well really, something did have to be done.

So a change of slope to the driveway and re-grading of the yard meant The Oak would likely have to go. Convinced it would survive, I argued against cutting it down at the time. I hoped The Oak would become accustom to the dirt up against its trunk. It didn’t.

Now, two years later, The Oak is showing signs of rot. There’s hardly a leaf bud on it and the carpenter ants have moved in. We’ve got to cut it down. A decision encouraged by the fact that the new garden needs to be planted and the agreed upon spot is near the base of The Oak. If we leave it standing and build the garden we’ll eventually be felling it on top of our lovely plantings or it will fall on its own.

Today was the day. With the inevitable accepted we got on with the work involved in felling  (yes – that is the correct grammar) The Oak. Chainsaw checked and fueled-up; felling zone scoped-out; objects within felling zone moved; base of tree notched; felling-cut made; tree felled.

Okay, here comes the exciting part!!!

Today I finally used my new chainsaw! Decked out in all required safety gear (as you’ll see by the glamorous photos below) I was ready to go with my hard-hat, visor screen, ear protection, chaps and steel-toed boots.

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I admit I did delight in the fact that my hat, chaps and accessory – if you can call a chainsaw an accessory – were all in this Spring’s palette of vibrant and vivacious orange. Eye-catching; possibly even breath-taking when you throw in the buzzing, rattling chainsaw. Be sure to watch for it on the runways of Paris, Milan and New York. My only fashion faux pas was the lack of matching orange gloves…really, that was my only fashion faux pas… (Sidenote:  If you look closely in the background of the above picture you can see our recently built – and really cute – chicken coop. Chickens still to come. Post on progress raising chickens to come even later.)

Dressed in my finery my husband couldn’t resist helping me start the saw. (How could any man resist this look?) After a basic lesson on what to do and what not to do, with quivering chainsaw in hand I began de-limbing.

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I’ve been around people cutting up trees all my life. I grew up in a pulp mill town in Alberta, my Dad worked in the bush for many years, and my husband is darn handy with a chainsaw too, so none of this was particularly foreign to me. In fact, once I got going it was all quite second nature.  I “bucked” up the canopy end of the tree with my smaller saw while my husband did the bole of the tree.

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Our boys threw the branches and broken bits on to a brush pile for burning on a rainy day. Larger chunks were moved by tractor to the wood pile. The long straight bole was cut into three beautiful eight-foot sections to be milled up later. The whole process took no more than an hour. At the end of that hour however, I felt like I’d just done a 10 km run or relived the grueling crossfit workout I did (okay, attempted) a few days ago with some of my crazier and slightly self-flagellating friends.

Workout was an understatement. I finally understood why my Dad was always in such good shape and never saw the need to “hit the gym”. As I type this my forearms and shoulders are reminding me that my “little” chainsaw is really not that little or light. And every time I get up my lower half reminds be that picking up chunk of tree after chunk of tree equates to countless squats and lunges at the gym.

Now, aside from my aching arse, all that’s left of The Oak is a 6-inch stump at the bottom of the yard. I’ll miss its whispering green leaves in the summer and it’s leathery brown leaves in the fall. I can attest it provided us with many things: shade for the picnic table; trusses for many birds in their nests, support for swings and hammocks and an anchor for the dog run for a while too. Although gone from the yard, The Oak will continue to be a part of our days. The boards to be milled will likely be used for our closet or a table and the firewood will be warm the house this winter. I’m even thinking the left over bits will make nice cutting boards for gifts so The Oak can provide housewarmings of another kind for friends and family too.