Another one down

Monday, the hens all seemed to disappear. The day was warm and usually they are hanging out in front of the house or in the back garden, but not one to be seen. Upon investigation, I found this.

A lovely but lethal Cooper’s Hawk in the run with a dead Buff Orpington hen that was at least twice as large as the hawk. The hawk had managed to get in through the partially opened gate as the run is covered. It must have followed the hen in as it was chasing it. Once in and fed, it couldn’t figure out how to get out. It has been there a while as the hen was already cold. There was no way I was going in the low netted run to try to chase it out and my efforts to frighten it out by moving around the outside of the run to force it back near the gate were agitating it to try to fly up and into the fence repeatedly. Once it found it’s way out, it flew only a couple of feet and sat on the grass. When I approached from behind, it flew a few more feet to the top of the wood pile and sat until with me arms waving and shouting, it flew across the yard to a huge maple tree and sat to recover. Five of the remaining hens were in the coop very afraid, the other five remaining hens were no where to be found. I searched all of their usual hiding places and thickets, but could not find any of them.

The hen that lost the battle was removed from the run for disposal and the wait began to see if the others would return. It was raining hard by late afternoon and still no hens. By dusk, the missing 5 reappeared and were lured into the enclosed run and locked in with the 5 that had been hiding out in the coop.

Yesterday they remained in their run with the gate closed, and unless I took scratch or scraps out to them, wouldn’t even leave the coop. I don’t like keeping them confined in the small enclosed run because when they are penned up, one becomes an egg eater. That behavior doesn’t seem to happen when they can free range. This poses the dilemma of risking more egg loss by egg eating or egg loss by losing hens to the hawk.

I always thought it was the Red tailed hawks that were getting my hens, 3 this winter, but research indicated that they rarely attack poultry, but the smaller Cooper seems to have a propensity to catch and kill a chicken. My flock is down to 10.

Spring? or …

On our walks, the daffodils, crocus, pussy willow, and a low purple daisy like flower I can’t ID are blooming. The forsythia, even in our hollow is beginning to bloom and yesterday, the white blooms of our plum began opening. This is good for the early bees, though I have no active hives at the moment, but it will be terrible for fruit production if we have a freeze which is inevitable this early in the season.

The longer days are upping the egg supply. At least 9 of the 11 hens are laying as I got 7 on Saturday and 9 yesterday. There will be fewer today and tomorrow, but last week there were more than 3.5 dozen which delights daughter and a friend who benefit from overabundance. Three or four hens would likely produce way more eggs than I would use in a week, but there is safety in numbers and as long as there are folks that want the extra, I will keep the larger flock.

And the variety of color is a treat in a bowl or basket on the counter top.

The coop needs exterior maintenance come consistent warmer, drier weather. The hens have pecked a small hole in the siding that is not large enough for most predators, but large enough for a snake or mouse. It needs to be filled with wood putty or a framing strip nailed over it. The exterior needs to be stained again, a job I abhor as it requires a lot of over my head reaching which my shoulders object to strongly. Maybe a sprayer would solve that problem or a long handled roller instead of trying to brush it on like I did summer before last.

The spinning challenge for February was to “Dare” yourself to a challenge of your choice. Some chose to try to spin a different weight or style of yarn than they usually do, some to just commit to a daily amount of time if they had not been spinning as much. I want to knit a real Shetland Hap, the traditional shawl of the Shetland Islands, usually square with a simple center and a lace edge. But I also want to spindle spin all of the Shetland wool necessary for it. My challenge was to spin enough yarn for the center square. About 10 days into the challenge, I changed the pattern which made deciding how much yarn was needed a difficult calculation. The original pattern had a solid color center square and concentric bands of lace of different colors around it. The new pattern is a solid color, but knit from the center out with eyelet lace bands that then create the concentric bands for the outer bands. My math skills were never great and disuse of more than basic calculations make it even more difficult to figure it out. I ended up spinning about 43% of the yarn needed for the entire shawl, and since I am not knitting it in a single natural color, using two other naturals for the outer bands, concluded that my goal was met. I succeeded in spinning and plying 409.5 yards of fine Shetland for the month. I had purchased 200 grams of the Moorit color for the shawl and used just about 100 grams to spin the skein.

Last night, I began the knitting, which wasn’t part of my challenge and will continue to spin more of the Shetland Moorit, White, and dark Brown. At this point, I am unsure how many bands will be the other colors, and if the Moorit is enough to do all but the Birch Lace outer most band, it may be done in the dark brown and the white saved for another day and another project.

Since ending the cottage business, any spinning being done is being done with a specific project in mind for me, for the household, or as a gift for a family member or friend. And with that in mind, only spindles are being used for spinning. With 6 Turkish spindles in 3 sizes, there is always one available and they are so portable with a few grams of wool roving or combed top to carry in my bag in a small tin or zip case to have when there is time away from home to spin or to pull out when sitting in my chair at home.

Life goes on one day at a time, seasons change, though this year not in a normal average pattern. Perhaps hoarding some of last year’s apple sauce, apple pear sauce, peach Sriracha sauce, and pear marmalade might be in order. There may be no fruit this year except figs and grapes (I hope).

Sometimes we err!

Being one who avoids single use plastics and recycles everything the single stream recycler allows, I purchase the necessary paper products at the local natural foods store, packaged in a paper wrapper that along with the cardboard core can both be recycled. Purchasing 6 at a time fills my reuseable bag even without other purchases, so it occurred to me that perhaps purchasing a case was a good idea. Questions were asked at the check out about this option and how many rolls were in the case. The young worker/owner that was assisting me said he thought it was 24, maybe 48, so a request for a case was made. A few days ago, the call came that the case was in and to ask at the front when I arrived and it would be grabbed from the back storage area for me. Much to my surprise and chagrin, a huge box was hauled from the back, too large for me to comfortably carry, and containing, not 24, not 48, but 96 rolls, a lifetime supply. Having made it a special order, it didn’t seem right to refuse the order, so with help, the carton was loaded into the back of the car, wrestled out at home and slid across the floor to sit until a decision could be made on how to store it without potential water or rodent damage. The downstairs bath has a built in storage space with shelves, but they all contained other items such as spare linens. One shelf was cleared and this…

Less than half the carton. One of the guest bedrooms also has built in shelving on one end that contained much of my cottage business signage, baskets, and other accoutrements before the business was closed last December, so another shelf in there was filled.

I am not hoarding like was happening during the early days of Covid when such supplies were limited and you were lucky to be able to even find it, but maybe someday, it will become a good barter item, or certainly keep us supplied into eternity.