Thursday, June 30, 2011

I've Fallen and I Don't Want to Get Up...

I'm familiar with this feeling in the winter - when I manage to land on my keyster three or four times.  But this morning, I managed to tangle my feet up in the unruly pile of twine (thank you, BOYZ) I was using to reinforce my bean trellises, and landed, face up, next to the bean plants.  And it was actually very nice to be there.  There were lots of puffy clouds in the sky (I spotted a dog, a cow and an airplane cloud), the sheep weren't bleating, there was only birdsong.  It was not too hot, a little breezy, low humidity.  I waved at the dump trucks as they trundled by, just in case they thought they should stop and help the crazy woman.  As if.  I really and seriously thought about staying there.  But, then I remembered I had promised to drop something off to a freecycler, I had to take a shower, I had to change the chicklets brooder paper and water, I had to get dressed for work, I had to .... get up.  So I did.

Just thought you all needed to share in that moment...hehehe.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Meet "X" and "X".

I need help!  I had already decided on names for the two adorable Nigerian Dwarf goats that arrived on Saturday and then...they arrived.  And the names just don't fit.  The wether, the sweetest (and loudest) thing this side of honey, is cuddly.  The doeling, of course, will have nothing to do with me.  Does it seem that these things always turn out cockeyed?  She is the one I will be working with (as in milking) and she is the tough nut.  (Please excuse the bright green markings - they got their ears tattooed and the wether took issue with it - ergo, he is liberally sprinkled with fluorescent green dye.)

Noise and wariness is warranted, as they were ripped out of their birth home, the only familiar place they have known (he was born in January and she in April), placed in a dog crate in the back of my car, were driven through a monsoon complete with thunder and lightning, then transported across my bumpy yard to the alien barn.  It is enough to put anyone off their feed.  The wether had collapsed in my lap by late afternoon, apparently thrilled he was not going to be killed.  She is not so convinced.

I had sectioned off a nice part of the hay barn and put up a roomy fenced in yard for them.  After being doubly careful that I had closed off any cracks they might squeeze through, I was working on the barn door when, to my shock, the doeling appeared in front of me.  On the wrong side of the barrier.  I quickly ushered her through the gate to her bellowing brother, only to find her staring at me five minutes later.  She had squeezed through a space at the end of one of the pallets forming the wall and popped out in the back.  Did I mention they are tiny?  I wedged my post pounder in the hole and that seems to have worked for now.

They need names.  I cannot keep calling them the "Goaties".  And I know y'all are endlessly creative, sensitive, smart, and funny.  So put your name choices in your comments and I will choose their names by the the weekend.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Challenging Weekend.

My sister was visiting my parents in Vermont this weekend, so that freed me up for a non-stop weekend.  And boy-o-boy was it!  Peaches were purchased (say that five times fast) so peachy-type desserts followed:  peach clafouti and a rustic peach tart; eggs were gathered, washed and toted to the farmers market; the guest bedroom was stripped down, washed, vacuumed and dusted and the flannel sheets were washed (can you tell how often I have overnight guests??); my bedroom was similarly treated; Flora's fleeces (5 x fast) were consolidated into one giant paper leaf bag; brooder was re-papered; weeds were weeded; rabbit cages were cleaned; letters were written; the infamous chicken tractor was thrown together and rouge poulets were released onto clover (twelve feet doing the happy dance); and a long-awaited trip to New Lebanon was accomplished (more on that in another post). 

The day started as a warm, sunny day with just a touch of humidity.  As soon as I got in my car for the half-hour drive, the skies opened up.  So I drove along, wondering if the heavy flannel sheets I had hung on the line would be dry by August.  I drove back with my precious cargo and unloaded it in .... a monsoon.   By the time I slogged into the house, I looked like I had jumped fully-clothed into a pool.  A complete change of clothes later, I was out working with the rabbits - who were scheduled to go to Bunny Heaven (seriously, it's not what you think) on Sunday.  Fifteen minutes later I was, again, inside for a complete change of clothes.

Sunday was a much better day and I built a door for the barn, did more weeding, planted a few things, and worked on rabbits.  The woman who took my rabbits will provide them with an amazing home - they have a covered run with real grass!  And dandelions!  She is just starting out on the exciting journey to spinning and knitting with your own fiber.  I am so happy we found each other and that the bunnies are not here in her capable and loving hands.

Then, all of a sudden, it was Sunday night!  How time flies when you're busy...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's like building a boat in your basement.

Safely outside, waiting for its chicken wire cover.
Or, in my case, building a chicken tractor (don't look, APG) in my living room.  I have never lied about my complete lack of building skills.  I have a very limited sense of space and dimension.  It took me years to be able to parallel park even a tiny Toyota MR2 (gawd, I loved that car!)  When I decided to provide my Red Rangers a change of venue, I dug around in my 'construction pile' - aka, leftover bits and bobs of prior projects - and found enough 1" PVC pipe to make a tractor large enough for my six birds.  I drew it up, made a list of PVC joints needed and hit Home (away from home) Depot.  Full disclosure here:  it took a total of three trips to get it right.

I pulled out my handy PVC cutter (WHAT?  You don't have one???) and I carefully pieced it together whilst watching a "Murder She Wrote" DVD.  Then I pulled out the super glue and began welding it together.  Well, thank goodness I took a break and mulled over the project before I finalized it!  A little late in the game, I decided to measure it to make sure I would be able to get it out of the living room and out of the house.  NOT.  It was a full 2" too wide to make it through even the sliding glass door.  What to do?  I jacked it over on its side, pounded off the bottom braces and cut each leg 3" shorter.  Then put everything back together again.  If that doesn't work, it will be a neo-modern-classic entertainment center.  Especially when the chicken wire is added....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Dance!

At 9:00 P.M. Eastern time there were 50 bales of freshly baled hay in my barn!  More to come.  Frabious day!  It's better than my birthday!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So, who's the dummy?

I have been raising chicks and integrating them into my flock for five years.  I follow the same routine (more or less):  get chicks; brood chicks in my laundry room until they are feathered out; move them to the chick nursery (aka, the small coop); brood them until it's warm enough outside to put on their screen door; open screen door and introduce them to the WOS (wide open spaces); have them safely meet the big girls through the chicken wire; move them into the big coop.  Start all over again. 

This system has worked wonderfully.  Except for the brooding in the laundry room part, because chicks are very, very dusty and noisy.  But I have limited space and that seems to work best.  Every part of this system has been tested, tried, streamlined.  It works like a charm.  Or, I should say, it had.  This batch of youngsters have been the monkey wrench in my gears.  Things were going along swimmingly until I opened the screen door to widen their horizons.  Getting them out into their little enclosure wasn't the problem.  It was getting them back in.  As the sun set, they would LEAVE the coop and wad together in a corner outside.  Every bloody night.  Then would set in what we referred to as the nightly rodeo, where the large, clumsy, slow-moving person (moi) would run back and forth, trying to corner the buggers.  One night it got particularly exciting as Bernie managed to get inside and "help" me.   I finally gave in and unearthed my butterfly net.

For one whole week, this ocurred every night.  I cursed them as the most stupid chickens on the planet.  I cursed aLOT.  Then, a small, dim bulb of fuzzy memory popped up.  These chicks were started later than I usually start them.  And the temperatures were much higher than usual.  So.....I had taken their brooder light out.  When the sun set, the inside of the coop was darker than outside.  I put their brooder light back in the little coop and turned it on just as twilight began.  They all trooped up the ramp and into the coop. 

I will have to say that, after securing their door for the night, I get some sorry little pleasure yanking the plug on their light.  Dummy, indeed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's all those "extras" that make living in the country fun.

Ah, life in the country.  Fresh air, wide open spaces, mice.  I took my car into the garage this morning knowing full well I had a mouse nest in the fan housing under the dashboard.  How?  When I turned on the fan it sounded like the local logging trucks, downshifting around the corner.  And then there was that delightful mousy aroma when the engine got warm.  Mmm-mmm-mmm.  They told me it would be an easy-peasey job - under a half hour, so I made the appointment to give myself an hour.  That would be an hour during which time I arrive with the car, they fix it, I drive to the office.

It was a good thing I decided to pick up donuts for the garage crew on the way there.  They put the tallest, biggest guy to work under my dash.  An hour later, he comes in the waiting room looking pale and the worse for wear.  "I took TWO POUNDS of mouse nest out of your dashboard!" he managed to choke out.  "It was full of grey dog hair.  You must have grey dogs with long hair."  I do not.

"Let me see that mouse nest," I say.

"Oh, lady, don't make me touch that stuff again."

"I don't have grey dogs and they don't have long hair.  This is costing me $75 - I want to see the nest."

He comes back looking even paler - gingerly holding a sheet of newspaper in which lies a huge pile of WHITE RABBIT FUR, assorted sheep wool, leaves, twine, twigs.  Nary a grey dog hair in the lot.

I mollified the poor city boy with donuts and a reassuring pat on the back.  But, really, I drive my car every blessed day.  When are these little buggers building the condo?  Do they have night vision goggles?  What gives???  This is the second and far worse mouse nest in the same place.  I intend to inundate cotton balls with peppermint oil and festoon the inside of my car.

This is war.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Endless Medical Loop.

Maybe it's the middle-aged-me talking, but does it seem to anyone else that your entire year can be taken up with one doctor, doctor-related, specialist appointment after another?  And add to that the interspersed veterinary appointments and I swear I am in some waiting room every month!  Did my annual check up, to be followed up by mammogram, annual dermatologist body check, eyes checked, gyno check, dentist check, Scrappy check, Bernie check, Boyz check, Cookie check, etc.  And, although I am very lucky to have insurance, the co-pays are popping up all over.  I never had to pay a co-pay for the bloodwork for my annual exam.  Do now.  Never had to pay a co-pay for the mammo.  Do now.  And...because I couldn't get in to see my actual doctor for my annual exam, I am expected to come in for a six-month follow-up.  I say - if you don't trust your nurse practitioner, go hire someone else.  Once a year is waaay plenty enough for me.

Just my two (and growing) cents on the subject.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is it just me?

Or is society having a mental collapse?  A friend told me over the weekend that her granddaughter's school brought in grief counselors in order to help the middle school kids "deal" with leaving their teachers and moving to the next level.  And this is in a school where BOTH middle and high school is housed, so it's not like they will never see their favorite teachers ever, ever again.  Is this insane?  Apparently, in dealing with their "grief" over this, all the girls got extremely emotional and were crying.  I feel like going over to the school, taking the administrators, counselors and teachers, grabbing them by their ankles and shaking them upside down.  Maybe some blood will make it to their brains!  Another victory for homeschooling.

There.  I feel better.  Thank you for allowing me to rant....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Work on the garden continues.

Despite monsoons, storms and locusts.  Kidding (I hope) about the locusts, but this year has been a real challenge if you are trying to grow your own food.  I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but what is up with this weather?

Yesterday was pretty much a washout, although Mother Nature was nice enough to give me a half hour break so I could unload the feed from my car and get it into the feed cans.  I had planned on getting the babes (aka little pullets) out for the first time, but not in that downpour.

I think that having raised beds has saved what I planted this year.  Most of the water has drained out, but  even raised beds have their limit.  Yesterday, I spent the day running errands and did some clean up work in the hayport and in the house.  Today, I put the second level of tires on my potato plants and conjured up a soil mix to finish them off.  I finally have blossoms on my peas, who seem to the the only ones enjoying this soggy, cool weather.  The beans are coming along, but I realized that my tidy little string trellis will not be up to the job, right, Erin?  I have a plan for trellising the Chinese red beans that should be sturdy enough.  Pack rat that I am, I have a store of 1-1/2" PVC that I will use as cross supports.  If it works, I will take pictures.  If not, I will never mention it again and hope you forget and don't ask what happened.

As I was out and about yesterday, I noticed that there are a lot more home vegetable gardens this year.  I mean a LOT.  It sure is a tough year to start, but I hope those folks have the fortitude to stick with it.  Food prices are high, gas prices are high, feed prices are high, and nothing is going down.  When I drove by a house in town that was just sold this spring, I saw that the young couple who bought it had put in a nice big garden patch, a chicken coop and a compost pile!  Things are looking up!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sorrow-Soaked Thoughts and Moving Forward.

Yesterday was quite a day.  Besides having to part with my dear Tippet, Bartlett went off to his fate.  I don't want to understate the value he added to my life - besides being a sweet sheep, he was an excellent sire.  Thank you, Bartie.  It's difficult to drag my thoughts out of the teary bog they're in, but I don't see that it does me much good to stay there.  I think I had really believed that she would live as long as I would.  Cleo, Queen of Denial.

Thanks to the kindness of my co-workers, I got to leave the office early - first, I was no good for anything; second, I wanted to spend some quality time with Tippet before her appointment; and third, I was trying to beat the major storm that was coming through.  While I did get to spend some quality time with T, I didn't quite outrun the storm.  It really was quite awe-inspiring.  I was driving parallel to it most of the way but, as is my luck recently, I ended up turning right into the middle of it.  I was buffeted all along the top of the mountain and into my driveway, where I was trapped in my car as buckets of rain and hail held me captive.  I was watching the trees, and the rain came in sheets that were twisted and swirled.  It was quite something to see.  After the hail let up (call me a wimp), I made a mad dash for the house, but ended up completely soaked from head to toe.  The storm was complete with inky skies, cloud to ground lightning (thanks to APG's post, I had remembered to unplug everything important) and lots of thunder.  It was, as my granny used to say, a humdinger.  I am glad that we had had a similar, yet gentler storm the day before, as the ground was softened and absorbed the downpour with less damage than there would have been had it hit the hard pack of a couple of days ago.  Every one of the sheep, lambs and the llama had squeezed into the sturdier hoop house.  Must have been cozy...

I am looking forward to no weather extremes - at least for a couple of days.  And thank you, once again, you dears, for your warm fuzzies.

Farewell, my little Doppelganger.

The hardest part of loving someone, or something, so much is when you have to say goodbye.  Yesterday, I had to say goodbye to a large piece of my heart.  For 16 years, Tippet has been my boon companion, my sidekick, my little doppelganger.  She managed to always look like a kitten.  Which, at times, was definitely in her favor, as she could be a pain in the a-double-ess.

She was born in an alley in Brooklyn - one of five abandoned kittens (probably the mother was killed) found by a kind-hearted bread delivery man.  I adopted her when she was 6 weeks old and her name, at the time, was Wheat Bread.  As if.  She was so tiny and lively and light on her feet that I named her Tippet, after the fine end of a fly fishing line.  As tiny as she was, she managed to break several large, heavy, valuable objects in her first week with me.  But we were best buds from the start and for the last 16 years.

As we both grew older, we became more alike - cranky old ladies.  But every morning we started it the same way.  I'd give her a hug and she'd rub her little face against mine.  Then we'd go about our business.  While I loved her too much to let her suffer, I also really wanted another five years or more of her company.  It's so hard to say good bye.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Working toward my Masters in Domestic Arts.

Or, should that be: Working on my Mastery of Domestic Arts?  I am old enough to remember when having a stay-at-home mom was the norm.  What followed was anything but -- flower power, the Sexual Revolution, Women's Liberation, Empowerment, Entitlement and a few other "Ments" I've forgotten.  Brown bread was "common" and "old-fashioned", while white bread (think Wonder Paste) was "IT".  Convenience foods raised their ugly little heads (Morton's TV Dinners; Twinkies).  Women could get out of the kitchen fast.  Our family resisted more than most on my block.  My mother knew how to sew and would pull out her little Singer when there was an event that called for a special dress.  She knitted us sweaters and socks.  She made our doll clothes.  She baked our bread (every Tuesday, I would race home as fast as I could in order to get a slice of warm bread with butter), she packed our lunches, darned our socks, made all of our meals from scratch.  Although we didn't live on a farm, we did live in a bland development in the middle of a very rural area, surrounded by farms.  We got eggs and milk delivered, and our fresh turkey for Thanksgiving.  I remember most dreamily, Charles Chips - great huge cans of crisp, salty potato chips that we took on our yearly Canadian adventure were delivered by the Charles Chips Man.  I learned to knit from my mom and to sew in home economics (although I refused to baste out of principle - why sew something twice?).  We learned to cook when our chins cleared the countertops, and took pride in ironing our father's shirts and our pillowcases.  Beds were made with hospital corners and our washing was hung out on a line to dry.   For me, all these things resonated with well-being.  And, while I may have slipped off the wagon here and there, I have always continued to make my own, cook from scratch, knit, and sew.  My favorite period was the back-to-the-earth-hippie period - I am a great fan of Mother Earth, the planet.  The essence of that time has stayed with me and, in the last 8 years or so, has intensified.  When I read all of the like-minded bloggers, it makes me feel that I am part of a very large, wonderful group who finds value in the "Domestic Arts".  I think that today's domestic arts have expanded to include a more whole-istic approach to life - planting, cultivating and preserving your own food; raising livestock (chickens, dairy animals); creating a home that is self-sufficient, a little island unto itself (solar power, grey water systems, wind power).  I like the direction in which I am presently traveling, not to mention my travelling companions.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I am so fickle.

Rain, rain, go away!  I whined.  Now -- rain, rain, come back!  Well, after the hay is cut and baled, that is.  A busy weekend of yard sale, work on the garden, cookout at the parents, and assorted other non-ending chores.

Alpine strawberries - can you see my huge crop?
Marianne gifted me with some Alpine strawberries that I used to line my front walkway.  They are now flowering and actually growing tiny, jewel-like red strawberries. 
Kentucky Wonder (l) Cherokee Trial of Tears (c) Chinese Red Beans (r)
You'll have to bigify to see the beans popping through the soil.
This year I decided to grow pole beans - three kinds:  Kentucky Wonder green beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans, and a Chinese variety of red bean that grows 18 inches long!  I pre-soaked two of the varieties in water before planting, just to see if it really made any difference.  About a day's worth.  I planted all three last weekend and on Saturday morning I had one Kentucky Wonder bean sprouted (pre-soaked).  By Saturday afternoon, KW and the Chinese (both pre-soaked) were popping up.  Yesterday the Cherokees started to show.  I love to watch beans grow - you can almost see it happening.
Potato plants need to be hilled (aka adding a tire)
Garlic is going great-guns behind it.

I planted four varieties of potatoes in my hillbilly planters - there are enough old tires around this place to put in a bumper crop.  And I like to put stuff to good use, if you haven't already noticed.  I am also trying potatoes in a bag (on the right) just for comparison.  The plants are growing wonderfully, and I am ready to put on the second tires and hill the plants.  Luckily, I don't have to worry about what my neighbors think.  Garlic and onions are in the raised bed behind them.
A perfectly lovely view ... ruined.  On a nice morning (like this morning)
this scene is repeated every 5 minutes in both directions.
My willow bushes seem to be coming along nicely.  I have planted them as a screen between me and the road and the g-d dump trucks.  Even though they paved the road, there is always a tsunami of dust that rolls up the yard.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lambs - with Pictures!

Acacia - Before
 I seem to have overcome my problem with uploading for the moment, so I bring you this year's 'crop' of lambs with the before and after where possible.

Acacia - Now

Linden aka Big Sweetie - Before
Linden - Now (Still the Big Sweetie)

Banyan (l) and Hickory (r) - Before

Banyan - Now

Hickory (r) - Now
Juniper (l) - Before/Now

Hazel - Before (before she found her voice -
I should have named her Ethel Merman

Ethel, er, Hazel (r) - Now
I should have named her Big Butt Ethel Merman

They will probably be the only good crop I'll get this year, given the lousy weather. Linden, Hazel and Acacia will be 8 weeks old tomorrow. Hickory and Banyan will be 8 weeks on the 21st, and lastly, but not leastly, Juni remains my baby boy. Although he's becoming an armful, with his horny head. The breeders' choice(s) have been made, so now I need to put on my big girl boots and make mine.