Sunday, March 04, 2018

Donald Dennis Carew 1933- 2017

A few days after my last blog post, my father died.

I loved my dad.  He was a good father.  I always always felt loved.

I am desperately sad that he has left this world. Ever practical, he requested no funeral.  He was cremated.  He also didn't want his ashes interred anywhere.  "It's too expensive.  Flush 'em for all I care."  With no funeral to go to, no arrangements to coordinate, I was left adrift with my grief.   For a while, the sadness threatened to overwhelm me.  In the end it just made me short tempered. I apologised to the family members living at home for my irritability.  I have all this grief and I don't know how to make it not suck so much.

With nothing to do, I just went back to work after two days.  There was no point in staying home and wallowing in sadness. What I did find very helpful was gratitude.  I was so lucky to have such a loving father.  I thought the world of him and he thought the world of me.  I had a father in whose eyes, everything I did was terrific.  I was smart, capable and talented.  Who wouldn't love having that in ones life?
Dad on his last visit to me
My dad and I shared a lot of the same interests.  Love of nature was the big one.  He used to take us on nature walks when we were really little.  Probably to get us out of our mother's hair.  We would look for wild asparagus in the spring.  Identify animal tracks in the mud and listen to bird song.  He taught me how to identify a lot of North American birds by song alone.  I was quite adept at that by the time I was grown.

He taught me how to fish and how to tie a fly for fly fishing.  He showed me how to read a river and identify spots where trout were likely to be hanging out.  If we caught a fish, he would slice it open to see what the fish had been eating.

If the fish weren't biting, we entertained ourselves in other ways. We scooped the beds of rivers and he showed me the little stick and pebble houses that caddis fly larvae made for themselves.  We caught little sticklebacks.  I remember bringing one home with me and keeping it in an aquarium for  a bit.  He taught me how to catch crawdads.  I got really good at that. It turns out that if you come home with a bucket full of crawdads you will not have the hero's welcome you think you'll have. 

Of course there were a few times when our relationship was tested, but I think that happens in many relationships.
The last photo of us together.
 I called him on Sunday.  I sometimes couldn't wait to speak to him and would call him in the middle of the week but it was rare for me to fail to call him on Sunday.  Sunday evenings now suck a bit because I still catch myself thinking I should call him before I go to bed.

I am enormously grateful that I had you as my dad.  Most of the time the gratitude wins out over the grief I feel.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Farewell Polly

Last month we said a fond and tearful farewell to Polly.  You may remember her from the first blog entries I ever did. 

She was a lovely, loyal dog and was always full of joy.

In the end she got very thin and didn't enjoy anything anymore.  She didn't want to eat, drink or go on walks.  She just wanted to sleep somewhere warm.  She was telling us that it is her time.

My lovely companion of eleven years has gone.

She was a delightful dog and never showed a bit of aggression her entire life. 

We shall miss her loyal face.  Rest easy faithful hound.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


This will be their last weigh in as chicks.  They seriously don't like it and it is harder to get them to stay bloody still long enough to take a photo that includes the leg ring.

While some are considerably heavier, they are all putting on weight.

Snowball 1

Snowball 2

Snowball 3

Snowball 4

Snowball 5

Snowball 6

Snowball 7

Snowball 8

Snowball 9

Snowball 10
Now they're under the workbench and they can stay there until they have all their feathers.  Some are really being quite aggressive.  If start to show aggression toward me, they'll be first on the chopping block.

 I can't have chickens that will peck humans.  Not if I have small visitors coming.  In the meantime, they're still cute.  They can enjoy their youth. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Moving on up!

The chicks were a week old yesterday.   In celebration, they all got coloured leg rings.  I still don't know which ones are male and which are female, but it doesn't matter.  The Snowballs are doing well.

Today after dinner, I found one of them had found its way out of the box that is on top of the workbench onto the floor.  Okay. . . time to move them to a safer space.

Thinking quickly about WHERE they can go, I devised a plan.  I cleaned out the area under the workbench, blocked the area off with scrap plywood and hey presto, we have a safe place for the chicks.  The heat lamp is suspended for them.  They have food and water and much more room!

The back half of the tool shed is now off limits for a few weeks.

When the chicks no longer need that heat lamp, they will move outside.  I will make a week long introduction to the four remaining elder hens and then their life as full on chickens will have started.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Weighing in

The chicks have been growing well.  True to their name, they are starting to develop a bit of attitude.  When I put my hand in, I will get pecked.  It doesn't hurt as the chicks are still less than a week old.  But some are making a "challenging" pose and square up to my hand - even though they're only little.

When they were three days old, I thought I'd weigh them. The heaviest was 65 grams and the lightest was 50 grams.  I was surprised at the variance. The average weight was 58.0 grams.

I weighed them again today - what a difference two days makes!  The smallest today was 60 grams and the heaviest was 83 grams with a group average of 72.4 grams.  Average increase in 14.4 grams.  The largest chick gaining 18 grams in weight and the smallest gaining just 10 grams.

I wish I had leg rings for them so that I could check the progress of each individual chick. . . .but that window has passed.  I will just have to work on averages.  I would love to be able to chart the growth of each chick.

I have no idea which chicks are male and which are female at this point.  I am just guessing that the heavier chicks are male.   We'll see.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Confession time.  The second batch of eggs didn't hatch either. It is crushing when that happens. When the hatching day comes and goes without a peep, you know that all have died in the shell. The eggs were infertile, damaged OR I suck at incubating eggs.

As I wasn't going to throw good money after bad and buy more eggs, I took the decision to not get any more eggs for the incubator.  I will wait until I have a broody hen and increase the flock that way. But that is for next year.

Shortly after my second incubator failure, there was an add on a Facebook poultry group I belong to for day old chicks.  Just the balm I need to soothe me after incubator failures. I bought ten chicks and picked them up yesterday after work.
A box of 10 day old chicks
Little yellow peepers!    They are one day old but if you look in the corner, there are two that are still a bit damp as they have JUST hatched.  Sold down the river on the day they were hatched.  Life is tough when you're a chicken.
Light Sussex (not my photo)
The breed is Light Sussex.  A really good domestic breed for a garden.  The Light Sussex is a handsome dual purpose chicken.  Hens can lay on average 200 eggs in the first laying season. They aren't too scrawny to eat after they've finished laying.  If one of the hens goes broody, they are known to be good mothers.
lining up for breakfast
As things stand now, I don't know which chicks are male and which are female.  They are therefore all named Snowball.
an indignant Snowball
They are named in honour of the Leghorn rooster we had when I was a small girl in North Dakota. His name was Snowball, (The Hammer of Bismarck).  He was one bastard of a mean rooster.
Snowball, the Hammer of Bismarck 
My sisters and I have stories of being terrorized by this very dominant male chicken.  If we wanted to play outside my sisters and I would walk out the back door.  Moving quietly to the corner of the house, we would call for Snowball.  In my childish memory, Snowball would come running full speed at us, flapping his wings and squawking.  We would dutifully run squealing back to the kitchen door and claim sanctuary.  My mother would shut Snowball up and we were free to enjoy the outdoors without fear.

Snowball had to be tough.  We lived on the edge of town where there were coyotes on the ground and owls in the air.  He had to protect his flock - which consisted of two skittish hens named Phoebe and Alice.

Back here in SW Scotland.  I have managed to keep the chicks alive for an entire day.  The chicks are small and vulnerable with many enemies.  Anything could eat them. They have no natural defenses.    It is my job to keep them safe, warm and fed until they can fend for themselves.  It has been noted that they are already a little bit faster and brighter today than they were yesterday, so three cheers to me.

Nature Walk

A favourite walk is up to the duck pond.  Polly is growing too old to enjoy walks up there.  One of her legs hurts so I won't make her do anything she doesn't want to.

The Man of the Place and I went up and were astounded by the devastation!  The trees are gone!

Trees in Scotland are quite often planted as a crop.  This means, that after the trees have matured, you have forgotten what the place looked like before they were big and the creatures of the forest start living in them, they get harvested.

It looks like a war zone.

There are still signs of spring.  They didn't harvest the gorse

One of the remaining Larch is sprouting needles

A dandelion

and of course, frogs  :-)

Just so I could prove to Polly that even though we went up to the pond without her, we didn't have a good time.  I fell in the mud.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Waiting for Spring

Taking part in the next Red Squirrel survey means that I get to go walk around local woods on a regular basis.

The trees are so beautiful.

The squirrel feeders get checked on a regular basis.  The food level is checked and the sticky tape that is underneath the inside flap of the feeder is swapped for a fresh one.

Today when the feeders were checked, all the sticky tape had small bits of red squirrel fur on them!  

After four sets of samples have been collected, my portion of the red squirrel survey is complete.  The samples will be posted away and scrutinized under a microscope.

Meanwhile, we wait for spring.

The fuchsias have overwintered successfully.  New leaves appear.  I will remember what happened last year and not let them get frosted.

It will be the vernal equinox on Monday and Tuesday, the 21st the second batch of eggs are due to hatch.  I am hopeful but actually more fearful than I was last time.  I know the heartbreak of a failed hatch.  The eggs are in lockdown now.  No more turning.  Just waiting.