The goslings have hatched!

We have successfully incubated Uncle Waldo and Abigail’s first set of eggs!  Four goslings were set to hatch today, and they all made it out of the shell, although one needed a little help. One more will hatch in two days, we hope.

Two days ago I noticed when I candled their eggs that they had internally pipped into the air cell. Yesterday evening when I got home from work they had all started to externally pip through the shell:

The penciled-in cross shows where the air cell dipped down to:

This morning they had enlarged their pip holes quite a bit.

First one out!

It’s lonely being the first one out, so she cuddled around her sibling’s egg to take a nap while waiting:

They slowly worked their egg tooth around in a circle to create a hinge at the top of the blunt end of the egg:

One little head poking out of an egg:

The empty egg shell:

This little guy just wasn’t making much progress so we gingerly began to crack away little bits of the eggshell.  I put him back in the incubator like this and he made the rest of the trip out by himself:

We made a video of one popping out of the shell:

Everyone is now snug in the brooder:

The two girls have the dark grey bills; the boys have pink bills.


Abigail, our 11-month-old Pilgrim goose

I just cannot believe our good fortune!  God certainly is blessing us in the poultry area at the moment.

She’d built her nest awhile ago and had been laying an egg in it every other day.  I collected some for the incubator and had been storing the rest in the basement because the nights have still been dropping below freezing and she wasn’t sitting yet.

But today I put those eight eggs back in her nest because it isn’t supposed to freeze again, and shortly thereafter she commenced sitting!

I was surprised that Uncle Waldo wasn’t with her and is instead spending this lovely sunny spring day out on the pond.

He kept close tabs on me while I was busy planting a new Stanley plum tree and a Red Haven peach tree, but he didn’t try to attack me.

I put food and a bucket of water in the duck-n-goose house with Abigail and quietly closed the door to keep the chickens from pestering her, as they seemed determined to do.

Here is some helpful information about broody geese from Domestic Geese by Dr. Chris Ashton:

“More females are lost in spring through lack of care than at any other time. It is essential to make a note of the date when the goose first sat seriously, both for the sake of her health and that of the goslings. Females that have been left to sit for more than 32 days off and find it very difficult to revive their appetite, and sometimes die.

First of all, the goose and gander should be wormed when she is definitely broody. The gander also tends to lose his appetite when the goose is sitting. The advantage of worming for the goose is that she does not lose so much condition while she is sitting and, if she becomes ill, one possible cause of disease is eliminated. Also, both birds will be free of worms when they lead the goslings out.

 The goose must be fed and watered once a day. This should not be too hurried an affair, as she will want to carefully cover her eggs with down, so that they remain warm in the nest for some time and are camouflaged. Wheat in a bucket of water is suitable, and the goose should be encouraged to swim if the weather is hot and dry, as this will give the eggs the correct amount of moisture.

If the birds are tame, the feeding and watering procedure is not a problem, as a tame goose will allow you to look at the eggs and left her off the nest, and a tame gander will not attack. In these circumstances, a goose can be fed twice a day if she is losing too much condition. With fierce birds it is much more problematical, and it is best to drive the gander to a place out of the way when you want to drive the goose off the nest, otherwise smashed eggs will result. Geese that are accustomed to sitting will probably look after themselves, but you must check. Young birds need more attention because they have not been through this process before, and can become very run down by sitting too tightly.” (Ashton, pp 131-133).

Provided she stays on the nest and the eggs are viable, the goslings should hatch on May 8th!

Early morning phantom in the woods.

I woke up just before dawn and got up to take the dogs out.  The 6:00 a.m. air was frosty and clear this morning, the woods very still and silent.  Suddenly a man’s voice began to speak in the woods just off the driveway, causing me to startle and sending the dogs into paroxysms of howling; luckily I had leashed them so as to avoid an early morning deer-chase, or they would have lunged into the dark woods in search of the intruder.

Continue reading

Social Justice Warriors, small towns, and Trump rallies…let’s talk about my poultry instead.

Chelsea is a small town with a bit of a multiple personality disorder due to its rural location not far from the Evil Empire of Social Justice Warriors, also known as Ann Arbor.   Continue reading

God never made an ugly landscape.


“On a drive into Hereford I take the cross-country route, hoping to avoid the traffic bottleneck.  (Some hope.)  Despite the sparsity of population, I count at least five houses where the inhabitants have strimmed their roadside verge to within a centimetre of its life.  Internally I rail at the suburbanity of such an aesthetic (why move to the country if you want to turn it into Hyacinth Bucket’s Blossom Avenue?), and rather more honourably deplore the ecological holocaust.  Roadside verges are often remnants of ancient meadow – and in some areas, the only remnants of ancient meadow – and are flora rich, and the sanctuary of wild animals.”

From Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel


Yes!  So many times I have railed against this same thing!  It’s not that I don’t think people have the right to do what they want with their own private property, it’s just that I am so mystified by it.  I don’t understand the thought process that causes someone to look for land in a rural area, pay a lot in order to live in a natural area, and then mow it all down flat and install a 3-acre ChemLawn.  It’s one thing when it gets mowed down and turned into gardens, fields, or pastureland.  Yet it seems suburban refugees come here to the rural areas and then go for the exact same sterile look.  It’s really a mystery.


As for me, I’m in accord with John Muir…


“God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”



How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee; How great Thou art!
How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

All photos in this post copyright 2015 by Philip Thiry

Shoo, Deerfly, don’t bother me: making a deerfly trap hat.

I love living out in the country, amid the forest…


Driving down our road at dusk



The land across the street from us, which is still for sale…

…peaceful farmland…


One of our neighbors’ farms

and cute livestock:


One of my favorite local sheep red angora goats

But I don’t love the deerfly:

Chances are that if you live anywhere east of the Mississippi, you’ve encountered deerfly…most likely when you suddenly felt a sensation like having a lit cigarette bumped against your bare arm and discovered one of these little horrors lapping up the blood from the hole it just made in your flesh.

A little information about these dreadful creatures:

Deer flies (also known as yellow flies, or stouts in Atlantic Canada) are flies…that can be pests to cattle, horses, and humans. A distinguishing characteristic of a deer fly is patterned gold or green eyes.

Deer flies are a genus of horse-flies (Tabanidae). They are smaller than wasps, and have coloured eyes and dark bands across their wings. While female deer flies feed on blood, males instead collect pollen. When feeding, females use knife-like mandibles and maxillae to make a cross-shaped incision and then lap up the blood. Their bite can be painful, but many bites are not noticed at the time, especially if the victim is distracted. Allergic reaction from the saliva of the fly can result in further discomfort and health concerns. Pain and itch are the most common symptoms, but more significant allergic reactions can develop.

They are often found in damp environments, such as wetlands, bogs, or forests. They lay clusters of shiny black eggs on the leaves of small plants by water. The aquatic larvae feed on small insects and pupate in the mud at the edge of the water. Adults are potential vectors of tularemia, anthrax and loa loa filariasis.

I started noticing these loathsome vermin while I was working in the garden around the beginning of July.  Because deerflies range over several miles, trying to get rid of them with chemical sprays is pointless.  There are (very expensive) traps like this that you can buy:

But that doesn’t help you if you walk out of range of the trap, as I do every single day when I walk our dogs. I decided to look online for a solution, and I found this guy’s instructable page on how to make a deerfly trap hat.  Here are the ones he has made:

deerfly hats

The required products are a large blue disposable cup or bowl, some tanglefoot paste, a putty knife, and something to attach the cup or bowl to.  Apparently research has shown that deerfly are very attracted to blue.  They approach the hat and become stuck to the tanglefoot paste, where they eventually die without ever biting you.

Several commenters on the instructable posted pictures of their own fashionable homemade head gear.  I thought the foil tape was an especially nice touch here:

Just in case your teenagers aren’t already embarrassed to be seen with you…

But this other guy’s caught my attention because he used velcro to attach a disposable blue plate to the back of his hat, making it easy to remove and replace as needed:

I decided I would make such a hat for myself.  I bought the blue bowl, I already had a garden hat and the velcro, so all I needed was the tanglefoot paste.  This product, which is used to keep pests off fruit trees, was invented by a Michigan company and produced for the last 100 years or so in my old hometown of Grand Rapids.  However, it seems that several years ago it was sold off to a large national corporation which has seriously scaled back production because I could not find it anywhere.  I looked online, I looked at all the big box home and garden places like Home Depot and Lowe’s, I checked the local Family, Farm, and Hearth, but no one had it.  On a whim, I stopped by the Dexter Mill – from now on, I’m just going to start with the Dexter Mill and then go elsewhere if they don’t have what I need.

The Dexer Mill 3515 Central St, Dexter, MI 48130 (734) 426-4621

Not only did they have the tanglefoot paste that I needed, but one of the girls there told me she likes to go running on the local rural roads and uses Tred-Not DeerflyPatches on her cap to keep the deerfly off:
They were only a few dollars for a pack, so I decided to give them a try.  I stuck one of the patches to the back of the cap I wear while walking the dogs; on the walk from my house down the driveway to the mailbox and back, which is about ½ mile round trip, I received zero deerfly bites even though I was wearing short sleeves and caught four deerfly:
I was happy enough with the patches, so I never got around to making the blue tanglefoot cap.  We’re starting to get some cooler weather at night, so the deerfly population has diminished quite a bit.  However, I have all the necessary tools to make it at the start of deerfly season next summer:
I will wear this while working in the garden, which is right next to our large pond that brings all the deerfly to the yard, because no one will see me, so it doesn’t matter if I look like a total dork.  I’ll use a cap with the deerfly patches whenever I have to go out among other people, like while walking my dogs on our road, so as not to cause my children to die of shame due to having a mother who wears a sticky bowl on her head.

Tree felling and a close call with the wood chipper.

We don’t know the exact history of the land our house is on; previous to our house being built on it in 2005, the land was field and woods, but it seems like very long ago it used to be an apple orchard.  As I walk through the woods, I find a lot of apple trees that are clearly very old, overgrown, and no longer bearing fruit.  There are also several of these old apple trees near the house, and they are all in bad shape, blighted and overgrown.

One of my husband’s goals for the next year was:

Continue to improve his tree-felling skills.  He has cut down several small to medium trees on our property and is learning how to fell them where he wants them and then cut them into logs for use as firewood or in the hugelkultur garden beds I’m working on for next summer.  Plan: cut down old, blighted apple trees.  Cut down larger dead (probably ash) trees.  Acquire chainsaw chaps for safety.  Inventory and sharpen our axes and hatchets and practice cutting down small trees manually with an axe.

Yesterday evening he decided to take down two of those old, overgrown apple trees.

First, he determined the felling direction and made sure the path was clear.  The first tree was within a foot or so of where he wanted it to fall, and the second tree fell perfectly in line with where he wanted it.

Second, he made two notch cuts to take out a wedge of wood on the side of the tree facing the direction he wanted it to fall:


Third, he made the back cut horizontally on the opposite side of the tree from the notch hinge he had created:


Because this wasn’t a huge tree, he was able to stand behind it and safely apply some pressure to push it toward the direction he wanted it to fall.  According to the lumberjack in the above link, with larger trees you can’t safely do this because they can “kick” back, and knock you down as they fall.


Years ago when we were helping my brother-in-law clear some trees on a newly purchased piece of land upon which he and his wife were building a house, I foolishly stood behind a tree that had just been cut and was about to fall.  As it fell, it landed in the fork of another tree, causing the trunk to kick up, and then the entire thing slid backward as if going down a slide.  It hit me square in the chest and knocked me flat.  That could have been a potentially deadly scenario because you can get pinned to the ground by the sliding trunk, though I lucked out and was not pinned.

After felling the tree, he quickly de-limbed it and worked on cutting the trunk into logs and hauling them to our wood pile.


My job was to gather up the limbs and cut them with large pruners to a size that I could run through the chipper:


I worked on this task diligently until a friend dropped by to pick up her kids, who had been staying with us.  I turned off the chipper, set my gloves and hearing protection on it, and went to chat with her for a bit.  After she left, I decided to go inside and finish dinner preparations.

Shortly thereafter, my husband came in and summoned me to come look at the wood chipper.  As soon as I stepped out on the porch, I smelled the acrid smell of something burning:


Where I had set my gloves and hearing protection on the chipper was obviously very, very hot, much hotter than I had realized, and the gloves were burnt up and the earmuffs melted:


But that was not the truly scary part.  My husband pointed this out to me:


That bit of rubber tube had its protective coating burned off and was close to being burned through. Do you know what that bit of rubber tube is for?  I’ll let you guess in the comment section.

So anyway, today I am glad that the good Lord above was watching out for us and prevented a serious and potentially deadly accident.  And I’ve learned a lesson about being careful about where I set things down!