26 August 2012

Some bragging about our new tiny back forty retreat

A few months ago, Luc saw the cover of a gardening magazine I'd borrowed from the library. It had a picture of a cute garden shed and a headline about backyard retreats. Of course, the article was a dud, but the seed had been planted. Luc figured we could build a little cabin back in our woods and I thought it was a great idea, so we started browsing books and the interwebs looking for inspiration, and pricing out various options.

We figured out pretty quickly that there are a lot of people who would be happy to sell you a shed. Especially if you're not all that fussy about quality, appearance or price. Luckily, we found a company (Timely Touchups) that sells Amish-built structures in pretty much any configuration you want, for less than the cost of materials at Home Depot. Luc built all the windows, because we wanted wood windows, and we couldn't find them to purchase anywhere. We had to order the cabin as a kit, rather than completely built, because we were placing it back in the woods where a truck couldn't go, and with the 12:12 roof pitch it would have been too high anyway. The cabin rests on skids which are sitting on patio stones that we placed and levelled in advance.

Three weeks ago, our cabin arrived - the floor and walls were assembled and the roof trusses pre-cut. We hauled everything up to our site with my dad's tractor and a utility trailer. After many trips back and forth, and two days later, we started building. The whole thing went remarkably smoothly. It took a couple of weeks, but it's finished. Yay for small buildings (8 x 12, plus the porch)!

We've spent lots of time here just sitting and enjoying the woods in a way we never did before when we were only back here while walking. Sitting quietly allows you to hear and see things that you either miss or scare off when you're walking. Sitting here quietly at night is another experience altogether. The drought has enabled us to sit on our porch until well after dark without being pestered by mosquitoes - a very unusual state of affairs in this part of the world.

The cabin is so far unfurnished except for some folding lawn chairs. We intend to put in a bed, a table, a couple of chairs and eventually, a little wood stove. It is not within range of our wireless internet signal, so it is a true distraction-free zone.

13 June 2012

Monday Forest photo: June 13, 2012

3:00pm 18C sunny
A fresh day - breezy and coolish. Just perfect for a nice long walk in the woods. Most of the new wildflowers this week are in the sunny open areas in the trails, rather than on the forest floor. It's too shady there now for flowers.

It seems pretty quiet here during the day (after the spring bird frenzy) , but at night we can hear all kinds of action through our open window. I don't even want to know what all those sounds are.

Oxeye Daisy

Red Clover

Sow Thistle
Hop Clover
Hairy Vetch

Canada Anemone

04 June 2012

Monday Forest photo: June 4, 2012

3:30pm 16C overcast
A brisk day today. Especially for June, but we've had lots of stinking hot weather already and a bit of relief is welcome sometimes. Last night we had a bear in our backyard, so I was particularly aware of noises in the forest as I walked today. I didn't think I'd see any new flowers today, just because it's been cool and rainy and I was preoccupied, but a few caught my eye, regardless.

Arctic Skipper on Prairie Ragwort

Blue Flag Iris

New England Aster

29 May 2012

Monday Forest photo: May 29, 2012

2:00pm 33C cloudy
Wow, what a scorcher! The air is thick and thunderstorms are threatening. I hope we get lots of rain. My walk was short today because this is mad dogs and Englishmen weather and I am neither. There are still a couple more days in May, but summer is in full swing.

Orange Hawkweed
There are a few new wildflowers this week. I was particularly excited to see the Lady's Slipper. I didn't notice it last year, but it is in a unique micro habitat on a hillside beside a little seasonal spring.

Swamp Buttercup

Large Yellow Lady's Slipper 
Seneca Snakeroot

21 May 2012

Monday Forest photo: May 21, 2012

2:30pm 29C clear
Wow. It's summer all of a sudden. Most of the spring ephemerals have packed up until next year. There's an amazing scent of honeysuckle in the woods, but I have never actually seen any there. The biting bugs are out, but all that is necessary to avoid them is to keep moving, rather than any repellant or netting. For now. My next level of protection is to take a silly-looking ballcap with a fabric flap that covers your ears and neck, and spray it with Deep Woods Off. I'll wear that with a light coloured long sleeve shirt and that will do me until it doesn't, at which point I'll switch to long sleeves, long pants and a hat with netting attached. I'll admit that when the bugs get that bad, a walk in the woods just doesn't have the same appeal as it does now.

Red Osier Dogwood 

20 May 2012

Broody Penny; or Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

A couple of weeks ago, Penny began acting strangely. I noticed her chasing the other chickens away from the entrance to their coop, while fluffing up her feathers in a threatening display. Then she took up residence in one of the egg boxes and made weird noises when I approached. I evicted her, but she'd keep going back. Penny was broody! I figured I'd toss her out of the nesting box a few times and she'd forget about it, but Penny was determined.

Madeleine and I discussed the broody chicken problem and started joking that we might as well let her sit on her eggs, but the problem with letting her do that is that if no chicks hatch, she'd just keep at it. Without any resident roosters, we were unlikely to have any hatching. 

Not to be deterred by a simple lack of roosters, last Sunday (a week ago) Madeleine and I went begging at some neighbours where we had heard roosters crowing. They have a small flock of hens and two roosters and they kindly offered us 9 potentially fertilized eggs for Penny to sit on. We quickly prepared the chicken tractor for Penny's personal use so that she doesn't have to deal with nosy or jealous hens. Kind of like a home for unwed mothers. We told the others she'd gone to stay with an aunt in Toronto for a few weeks.

Once a day, or so, Penny descends to ground level to eat, drink and poo. I took advantage of her absence to check in on the eggs. The observant among you will notice that there are seven eggs, but we started with nine. One egg had a hole pecked in it within hours of being placed under Penny. The other completely disappeared - shell and all, by the next day. Penny had a guilty yolk stain on her face so we can only assume that she ate it. Bad bird.

When Penny comes down to do her business, she becomes the centre of attention. The others are very curious about what she's doing in there.

Penny spends a lot of her short break all fluffed up and warning off the others. Not that chickens normally display a lot of intelligence, but Penny seems to be operating on pure instinct these days. I hope her instinct will carry her through the next two weeks and beyond to caring for the chicks. That may be thinking too far ahead, given her record of egg destruction so far, but she appears to have settled in and no eggs have disappeared for several days.

June 3 is hatch day. I'll post an update - hopefully including pictures of cute little chicks.

17 May 2012

Monday Forest photo: May 17, 2012

2:00pm 18C partly cloudy
 Finally, the leaves are out! Also, mosquitoes, but not too bad. This week had lots of new flowers and even a morel to show.

White Trillium 
Maybe I knew this at one time, but I certainly didn't remember that white trilliums turn purple as they age. I thought they were a different variety. There were quite a few of these elderly purple flowers in the woods today. It seems like there are more trilliums this year than last.

Yellow Morel
I found a single morel mushroom this year. Last year I didn't see any, so maybe in a few years I will find enough to eat.

Small-flowered Crowfoot

Wild Phlox

Wild Columbine

Wood Strawberry

09 May 2012

Monday Forest photo: May 9, 2012

2:00pm 20C cloudy 
I love this time of year. We've finally made the shift from brown to green, but the mosquitoes aren't out yet. It's mild, but not too warm. The birds and frogs are going crazy with lust and I actually spied a couple of woodpeckers in flagrente delicto today. It seemed a rather hasty and furtive affair to tell the truth, but not my business.

The new bloom for this week is violets.

30 April 2012

Monday Forest photo: April 30, 2012

12:00pm 14C cloudy
Well, last week I mused that the leaves might be out by this week, but I didn't account for the week of cold and windy weather we've had since then. Today was the first mild, almost normal day in a while. I'd kind of been sucked into thinking we were having a warm spring, but April was ordinary, maybe a bit coolish, and if things are ahead of where they normally are, it's mainly because of the extraordinary heat we had in March to set things in motion. Perhaps the new normal is that all bets are off.

On my walk today, I spotted the first Trillium flower of the season. I get all Ontario-patriotic just thinking about it. After all, it's the provincial flower and we were all indoctrinated as children that we must never pick them, because they will never grow back and they are very special. I never have picked one and I don't know anyone who has, though I have heard that perhaps they aren't as delicate as all that.

After a brief hiatus for weather, there were lots of Trout Lily blooms today.

23 April 2012

Monday Forest photo: April 23, 2012

3:00pm 4C light rain
Most of the snow has gone, but we woke this morning to a very snowy day. I won't complain, because we desperately need the moisture, and a couple of days of snow and rain should help. I thought the leaves might be out by now, considering the warm weather we've had already this year, but only the poplars and some shrubs have actual leaves so far. As it turns out, it's probably for the best. Maybe next week.

Monday Forest photo: April 16, 2012

Scarlet Cup mushroom

09 April 2012

Monday Forest photo: April 9, 2012

1:00pm 10C overcast
It's an ordinary April day for once. Breezy and threatening rain and not too warm or cold. Things are happening here in Monday Forest, even though you have to look closely still. The wild leeks are up and growing like crazy everywhere, and there are lots of little miscellaneous green things popping up. We're two weeks ahead of last year, but I guess that's no surprise after the incredibly warm March.

Trout Lilies are up.

I found lots of unopened Round Leaf Hepatica. Last year, there didn't seem to be so many, only scattered individuals, rather than the patch of a dozen or so I saw today.

04 April 2012

Monday Forest photo: April 2, 2012

4:00pm 10C clear
Ahhh spring.

The wild leeks are up! This is the season of munching on leek leaves while walking. I come back every day with garlic breath.


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