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I always assume the best when I find broken robin’s eggs like this. I imagine a fat baby bird in a nest somewhere, getting stronger each day.

I came across multiple nests this spring. I have learned a few things while watching them. Most excitingly, I can now identify the species of parents of those gorgeous blue eggs with brown spots. All three nests I found belonged to Dark-eyed Juncos. I see the Juncos all the time at my bird feeder. I also learned that Juncos have a habit of building their nests on the ground, and that it is just as bad of an idea as it seems to be.

I told you about the first one: I was cutting very tall grass with the trimmer and accidentally exposed a nest that had been built into a blackberry bush inside the grass. I realized immediately that I had exposed it, and picked up the tall grass and stacked it all around with only a tiny entrance hole. But it didn’t work. Three days later the branch was bent over and the egg was gone. It looked like the work of a raccoon.

The egg I accidentally exposed while working one evening.

Same nest, the next morning. I couldn’t tell if the parent had come back or not at this point.

Next I was pulling weeds by hand beside the house and vaguely aware of an angry bird flitting from the rooftop to the ground, to the garbage can, and back to the roof, all the while chirping angrily at me. The bird was on all sides of me, harrassing. I was getting closer and closer to a great big burst of weeds and tall grass beside my house when the bird finally got through to me, and it dawned on me that I was being scolded for my behavior. I stopped just in time, and peeked carefully into the weeds I had not yet pulled. There was a beautiful nest.

Perfect nest with gorgeous eggs, right next to the foundation of my home.

It was my opinion that building a nest on the ground in this forested area was simply not a good idea. But of course, Mother Nature is most times wiser than me. I gave the spot a wide berth from then on. For the next several days I tried to stay away, but sometimes had to be in the area and that’s when I would see the Dark-eyed Junco fly off the nest and resume scolding me. The Juncos are very common here.

The ground below my bird feeder. Two Juncos are there, with the black heads.

Sadly one day, not even a week later, I saw all the weeds trampled. I hurried over to check and there were no more eggs on the nest. Again, it looked like evidence of raccoon. So sad. I really had hopes for her, or him, whomever had been scolding me anytime I came near.

The worst nest location choice of all was the nest I discovered on the ground while mowing the lawn on my riding lawn mower. I happened to be looking at the ground beneath the mower as I was backing up and turning around in a wide open area. Somehow, I had driven right over the top of a nest twice – once forward, once backward – and it had survived. But now the freshly cut grass exposed it completely.

See the nest in the bottom left, out in the middle of my lawn?

I picked up the nest, trying to decide what to do with it.

There were no trees above that it had fallen from – it had been built right there on the grass. There were no trees or bushes close enough that I was sure the parents would find the nest if I moved it. It was a very bad location with no camouflage. At a loss, I laid the nest back exactly where I had found it. The very next day the egg was gone. I had known it would be.

It’s always a fight out here in the country. We are all battling each other for the same piece of land we believe is our own land.

While everyone else is battling for their lives, I have the luxury to sit here, sheltered from the rain, and think about it.

I’m most aware of my personal battles. I fight the deer that eat everything I plant, the raccoons that eat my chickens, the worms that are building webby nests in my apple trees, the moles that tear up my grass, the rats hoarding chicken pellets, termites in the wood pile. It’s not just me though. All I need to do is look around and see that the fight for a safe and comfortable life never ends. The heron eats the fish in my pond. The raccoons eat the Juncos. Opposums eat the frogs. The cougar eats the deer.

It isn’t personal; it’s just what life looks like.  It’s all about the battle to make a home and keep it. The critters aren’t targeting me, just doing what they can.

View of chicken pen and coop from my bedroom window. Look at that pretty little spike deer.

Remember the Hussies? My chickens are still with me. Only three remain (Lacey was hit by a car, and I ate Gimpy), and I love them as much as I ever did. It was high time I demonstrated this.

A friend of mine needed a place to stay and he is not able to pay but is the handiest of handy men. I live alone in a three-bedroom home on a big property and work full time so I don’t have extra time left over to take care of my big property. Obviously, this was a situation that could help both of us.

Josh moved in the end of March and started helping me. (You may remember Josh from our hike last October) The list of improvements ranges from finally having a towel rack installed in my master bathroom to constructing new buildings on the property! One big change is that my chicken Hussies finally have a decent home.

At the beginning of March, I began some work before Josh showed up. I hired some professionals and had a new chicken house built. My poor hussies have been living in a tiny chicken house designed for chicks. For two years they huddled in that tiny house and roosted and nested in the same space.

Original chicken house, soon after I moved here.

The beginnings of the new house lit up by morning sunlight, while the old house remains. You can pick it out behind the workman in blue.

Walls go up.

Roof and siding on.

One of the first things Josh did when he arrived was to finish the chicken house. He installed roosts and nesting boxes. Installed moisture-repellent flooring for easy cleaning. Covered the walls with tar paper (again, for easier cleaning). He painted it. Josh had the idea to cut a little hole in the side and install the old ramp from their little house, so there is a special chicken-sized access door. Now they have a chicken palace, and they roost on the opposite side of the room from where they nest (translation: no more poop on the eggs).

Brand new chicken palace.

Roosts, chicken, pellets, and poop

I can walk right inside! Open the window, fill their feeder, marvel at what a mess they make.

Eggs in the nesting boxes.

Newly painted.

Stay tuned for updates on the landscaping, the pump house, the upcoming kitchen remodel… and more.

Working in a dense and unkempt flower bed, I spotted a solitary egg out in the rain.

Working in a dense and unkempt flower bed, I spotted a solitary egg out in the rain.

Over the weekend I found a nest.

A little background: I have not yet built a proper fence that is high enough to keep my hens penned. They simply lift like multicoloured Harrier jets and launch over the four-foot fence. They roam far and wide, doing their own thing, and get into enough trouble that I have been calling them The Hussies. Only one of them comes home to lay, and till recently, I had no idea where most of the eggs were laid.

My good friend was visiting from Boise and stayed with me for four days. Sunday we were in the mood to do yard work. The weather was wholly uncooperative, and the heavens opened up and poured all day long. We donned hats and jackets and boots (my friend was shocked I did not have Wellies) and went out anyway. We raked muddy leaves and hauled heaps of wet sticks and branches and built up two new slash piles for burning at some future date.

Why did the chickens cross the road?

Why did the chickens cross the road?

My friend doing yard work in the pouring rain.

My friend doing yard work in the rain, in Wellington boots.

The Hussies like it when I do yard work and particularly when I dig, because whenever I come across a worm I make sure one of them gets a crack at it. The ladies were hanging around, clucking, pecking, scraping their beaks across stones in a manner that suggests wiping their chins of grime. They did not alert me to the discovery I was about to make, of a treasure stockpile of which at least one of them was well aware.

As I untangled dead sticks and blackberry brambles from ferns, I spied an egg on the ground, exposed and lying atop some coals discarded from a long-ago fire in the woodstove. I hollered at my friend to come over and see.

He was dripping wet head to toes, with hands stained yellow from the dye leeching out of his sopping wet calfskin gloves. Happy for an excuse for a break, he came over to where I was working, and I walked closer to the egg to show him where to go.

I walked closer and got a new view. Something pale-coloured beneath the ferns. Something light in the dark. I bent down and spotted the motherlode of eggs! There were NINETEEN eggs piled up! Carefully tucked into a nest of decaying pine needles and ferns, was a pile of eggs, laid one at a time in patient confidence. It looked like a turtle nest. I was so excited I was hopping around with glee.

Wait, what is that in the ferns?

Wait, what is that in the ferns?

The motherlode

The mother lode

Look at these brown and beautiful eggs!

Look at these brown and beautiful eggs!

Lacey! Are these your eggs? Thank you ma'am!

Lacey! Are these your eggs? Thank you ma’am!

Egg farmer

Egg farmer

For anyone curious, eggs are laid with an antibacterial membrane, an invisible coating called a bloom, that seals the eggs and protects the freshness as well as holds in moisture. Eggs can be stored at room temperature for weeks like this, as long as the eggs are not washed. Eggs can be refrigerated for months unwashed, and will stay fresh. The weather around here has been in the 40s and up to around 50 degrees some days, so I call that refrigerated. However, with all the rain, they may have been “washed.” We used the egg floating test. Put an egg in a bowl of cool water. If it lies horizontally on the bottom, it’s very fresh. If it tips up, but stays in contact with the bottom: still fresh, but less so. If it floats: no good, throw it out. All my eggs were good! As of this morning, we’ve eaten them all.

The blonde chicks are Rhode Island Reds, and the other two I don't know. But I have time to figure it out before they come live with us.

The blonde chicks are Rhode Island Reds, and the other two types I don’t know. But I have time to figure it out before they come live with us.

We finally have the house. The purchase closed on Monday.

Things are topsy-turvy here, so this won’t be a real post, but I wanted you to know why I’ve been absent. Also, I know several of you are wondering how it’s going. 🙂

The seller is still living there for a few days, so Tara and I have not moved yet. We will spend the Independence Day weekend hauling boxes and lifting furniture.

Good things have happened in the last week: 1) The seller agreed to let us begin moving in before our official move-in date. That is so generous of him. 2) The person who now owns the home we are renting agreed to let us stay 5 more days since we can’t move yet. Wow, talk about generosity. 3) I have lots of friends who have been helping us move! 4) The Uncles have loaned me their pickup to haul stuff, since all the local moving companies are booked through July (it will save money anyway, so that’s nice too). 5) Even though the house is in disarray, our kitty, Racecar, seems only mildly irritated. I think she is still doing ok, and that eases my heart.

6) And just this morning I was able to hook up the old washing machine and do a load of laundry. We have been using my machines, but since they have been moved, I wanted to re-install the old machines. I had to purchase a new bilge pipe since the old one was cracked (like me!). I got the hot and cold water mixed up at first and we dropped about a gallon of water onto the floor while we got that unhooked again. Tara was filling cups with water while I ran and dumped them into the sink. It was pretty funny.

The Uncles have been raising baby chicks for us so that by the time we are ready with a coop, the chicks will be large enough to live out there. Just imagine: fresh eggs. Isn’t that a delicious thought?

One of my many guises

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