Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Winter in the Hen House

It's winter here in Canada.
Oh boy is it winter.

Our girls have it pretty good though.
They have an insulated coop, its a recycled 7' x 8' shed.
It's our first winter with chickens, so I wasn't too sure what to expect.

Luckily The Chicken Chick Kathy Shea Morino has been a HUGE help!
This gal has a helpful blog all around...but some GREAT tips on wintering your flock.

Here is Eagle posing oh-so awkwardly in front of the thermometer.
I like to check on it...now and again...just to keep track of how conditions are in there.

For example...today was -10 degrees C with a windchill of -19 degrees C.
Inside the coop...it was -5 degrees C.
Not bad!

We go for thick bedding to keep the cold from coming up through the floor.
I also added an indoor dust bath for the winter.

Oreo checks the weather through the window.

Yup...these girls are doing alright!


Our only issue is water.

We didn't want to put out too much money on a heated waterer...
but our metal waterer freezes up like you wouldn't believe.
In the meantime...I have been rotating the plastic waterer with the metal waterer out a few times a day.
Not the most efficient method...but I don't mind.
It gives me a chance to check for eggs before they might freeze.
Perhaps I'll save up for a heater for next year...or unless this winter cold gets out of hand.


When there is a mild day, we do try to let them outside.

They love getting out...but don't like the snow or ice on their feet.
Strong, cold winds also keep them from making it back to the coop on their own.

They love eating snow.
(We discovered that they love to eat the snow off your boots)

These chickens love getting under our deck and making a great big dust bath.
Guess its like going to the spa...
There are three hens in the above photo...go figure.
They love snuggling while bathing.

How are your animals this winter?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Year in Review 2014

2014 was a great year for us and our garden!
I know everyone seemed to be grumbling about all of that rain.
And we had a LOT of rain.

Going into this year was a bit of a worry.
We had doubled our garden size from last year.
I was afraid the weeds would take over.
I worried that I wouldn't have the time to do all that must be done.


original garden area - 2012

Doubling the garden - early spring

We worked very hard all spring.
We made 14 slightly raised beds to contain our rows.
That turned out to be brilliant!
It kept the veggies out of the water.
The walkways in between the rows collected all of the excess water.
Plus the walkways were wide enough to mow!

spring garden - all planted and ready to grow

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.
I was so busy with the garden that I forgot to take a summer time photo!


winter squash

So there were a few shots I got of some of the veggies when they were growing.

early fall

By fall, we were exhausted but exhilarated.
We had put so much food away...while also eating the freshest foods all summer long.

We prepped the beds in the fall to prepare the soil for next year.
We have a couple of people who supply us with food waste for composting.
But we really love the fella who brings us leaves.
He drops them right off at our door!!!
(we just have to return the paper leaf bags)
We spread leaves on each bed, as well as creating a couple of new beds at the end.
At this point, I have no idea how many beds we'll have next year.
I'll have to let ya know...haha. 

next day in November

Winter came early this year.
So here is our sleepy garden patch.
Patiently awaiting next year...to be awesome!
We already have 100 garlic cloves planted and asparagus will be in its second year...
so close...

How was your year?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Channels for Small Purse, Big Garden!

I'm celebrating 2015 with two new ways to interact with this blog!

First is my new Instagram account.
This is a wonderful new outlet for you to see
the natural beauty where this blog happens.
Not just food photography.
Not just vegetable imagery.
But even more images of the wilderness that surrounds our home.

Think of it as a taste of life in the woods.
Something a little old timey.
A photo posted by Lisa Pedersen (@small_purse_big_garden) on

Secondly, I'm so excited to announce my first YouTube channel!
Here is a way for you to see the live action around the homestead.
See and hear our chickens...in all of their diva glory.
See the wild life that live around us.
A sample of what you'll expect to see and hear on YouTube:

Pretty cool eh?
All shot by me...in our home environment...

Stay tuned this year for more additions to both pages, as well as more amazing content
on Pinterest, Facebook and of course right here!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Once there was a boy... ***WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT***

Back in the beginning of November, I went to visit my friend in Omemee.
Her and her fella live on a 55 acre farm and raises beef, chickens and has a landscaping business
called Green Side Up Environmental Services.

She told me all about her struggles trying meat hens for the first time.
She went on to explain that she lost some of her laying hens during a cold snap.
Let me clarify here.
She didn't lose the hens because it was cold.
She lost the laying hens because when they all huddled in together...the meat hens squashed the layers.

So she did what most farmers would do.  She ordered more laying hens.
As her new laying hens began to grow...she noticed a few that stood out.
Stood out because they were HUGE!
Their feet, beaks and bodies were twice the size of hens bought at the same time.
They also had very beautiful long tail feathers.
She suspected they were, in fact, ROOSTERS.

While a rooster can be a very good addition to your flock 
(for a variety of reasons, such as breeding your hens, flock protection, managing the pecking order)
my friend's flock already had a rooster.
Here is where we get into the nitty gritty of farms and homesteads.
My friend has a working farm...and the cost prohibits the owning of more than one rooster.
You only need one per flock - and why would you spare the expense of feeding more than one?
She suggested that we try to take one of them...and if it doesn't work out, throw him in the stew pot!
That being said, I figured it was either her stew pot or ours.
Up until now, we considered our flock as pets.
I was so excited to introduce our girls to their new boyfriend.
I was so excited that I just put him in the coop.

Everything seemed great...for a few minutes.
Then one girl went at him with a small snip.
His neck feathers puffed out.
Then her feathers puffed out.

Then it was all out war.

Those girls attacked him with a fury I had not seen from our flock.
I decided to give them some extra room and I opened up the door to the run.
The girls chased him out the door...and wouldn't let him back in the coop.
By 8pm, he was still outside sitting on the tire.
I picked him up and brought him into the basement (aka chicken hospital)

Granite (of course we named him) stayed in the basement for 3 weeks.
During that time, I researched on how to introduce a rooster to your flock.
There are many great online resources to check out.
I found a lot of good info right here.

I didn't intend to keep him in our basement for 3 weeks...it just happened that way.
During that time he learned how to cock-a-doodle-doo and generally seemed happy.
I thought I'd try the nighttime trick (placing the rooster in the coop while everyone is asleep).
The idea being that when they wake up, they act like he's always been there.

Sadly, that wasn't the case.
I watched over the course of a week and a half while the girls kept attacking him.
He crunched into a milk crate all day everyday just to get away from their constant assaults.
They kept him from food and water.
It was torture for him....and torture for us to watch.

Finally, we made the decision to end his suffering.


Now comes the graphic part.
If you don't want to read about the butchering part...please stop reading NOW.


My husband is a trained cook.
He has his Red Seal and works in a kitchen full time.
That being said...he admitted that he had never butchered his own meat before.
Sure he filets fish...
Sure he was trained to carve up meat cuts.
But he freely admits they never walked a cow into the kitchen and had the students get to work
from start to finish.
Makes sense...food establishments aren't supposed to have access to live meat.
Their are strict laws to ensure that all meat was butchered in a sanitary environment.

We have only ever butchered a rabbit once before.
(shot in our own backyard)
We watched a YouTube video on how to do it!
After that event, I decided to purchase a book on butchering meat.
(You know, just in case there is no power...or internet connection)

I selected this book because it had a nice mix of meat including wild game.
I thought the section on poultry was decent...but when Ches read the chapter...he felt he needed more instruction.
We searched online for other resources to help us out.

There was one standout site:

Bookmark that site for easy reference!!!
Seriously a great site.

I didn't take any pictures of the event itself...mostly because it was dark out.
That, and I wasn't sure what (if any) pictures I would want to show of the process.

Ches took Granite's head off with an axe and I went out to help with the plucking.

I will say that I was totally torn about this whole event.
I wanted to be a tough country chick.
I wanted to be detached and logical about the whole thing.
I wanted to tell myself that we were putting himself out of his misery and feeding our family.

I also wanted to throw up.

The more feathers we pulled out...the more the carcass started to look like what you'd buy at the market.
The less I felt squeamish.
That is, until Ches started carving.
When he wrenched the legs backwards to break the joint and cut...
Oh...the sound.

Is this getting too graphic?
I dunno...I just wanted to be honest about what we did and how I felt about it.
Perhaps I'm not as country as I thought.
Perhaps I should go back to being a vegetarian.
Perhaps we shouldn't eat meat that we've named.

All I can say, is that we made chicken and dumplings for dinner.
It was a delicious recipe...but the chicken...well...I just couldn't bring myself to truly enjoy it.

Recipe came from Martha Stewart.com

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The creatures who creep through our yard....

Living in the woods has been such a revelation to me.
I grew up in a very urban environment...but always felt drawn to nature.
I sought out nature...even in the concrete jungle.
Bike trails, creeks, green spaces.
It just never seemed right.

Now that I live in the woods...I revel in all of it.

Last year I snapped an image of the raccoon tracks in our yard.
You can see it's wee fingers so clearly!
These tracks are the same size as a cat's tracks, but with a distinct difference.
These tracks have thumbs.
Can you see them?

Rabbits are frequent visitors to our property.
We saw them the first year, playing and dancing in our garden.
Yes dancing.
If you've ever seen a rabbit mating display...you'd say they were dancing too.
Since we beat back the brush...we see much less of them.
I don't blame them...we took away their cover.  
(We also have loads of birds of prey in the swamp)
I still giggle when I find rabbit tracks in the snow.
To me, these tracks are easy to identify.
They look like two exclamation points side by side.

Another frequent trail found on our property:

Little rodents scurrying about...we have mice, voles and other small things.

The above tracks stumped me.
I had never seen anything like them.
Not true...at first I thought the three fingers looked like enormous chicken tracks.
Was this so sort of swamp monster bird???
Not quite.
I followed these tracks from tree to tree.
I found the end of the trail and then I realized what they were. 
All of the trees it had passed, I had wrapped in chicken wire.
The trail stopped at an area with 5 freshly gnawed off tree stumps.
You can almost see the trail its tail left in the snow...like a kid dragging a sled behind.

Care to take a guess at what this track is?

Here is another look:

This animal usually travels in packs...but I only saw one solitary trail.


Next time the snow has freshly fallen...take a walk.
Find a trail and follow it.
Imagine what that animal was doing.
Was it walking?  Searching?
Was it racing away from a predator or finding food?

Here are some tracks identification links:

Wild Things Unlimited - for predators

Wildlife Conflicts Information Website - wide variety of canine, feline and rodentia.