Monday, July 29, 2013

The first big tomato is... Stupice

Those smaller ones are Ukranian balcony tomatoes, and the big convoluted one is a Stupice. (Dumb name for a good tomato.) Below, a garden shot from the roof. I was up there today talking to a hot-tar guy. My other roof bids have been for installing a membrane roof, and I'd prefer the traditional tar. We'll see if we can afford it. I hadn't realized that tar, being a petroleum product, is not cheap these days.

That's me and the roofer looking down at Savannah looking up at us.

Earl's Bad Day

Earl want back to the vet today. We thought he'd broken his broken leg again, considering the fuss he made after being ejected from the couch Saturday night. But noooo. The vet was very diplomatic. She said he was sensitive. The big baby. He'd been chewing his splint and toes, though, so they rewrapped the leg and sent him home with... the cone.

C. put it on him and he took off yelping and immediately got stuck in the dog door.

I maneuvered him free and he stood on the steps feeling pretty low. I carried him in and put him on the couch, where he humped up sulking.

Just after I took this photo he barfed all over.

He hopes we've learned our lesson.

In other news, we're watching M's two Sulcata tortoises. They're installed in the boy's bathroom. They are fierce and animated creatures who zip around their pen and ram each other. Check out Dewey's spiked legs and jagged shell, below. He's about the size of a bike helmet, and quite heavy. If I were a carrot, I would be afraid.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


I'm a private person, so it's a little unsettling living in a formerly public building. Nearly every weekend this summer someone has stopped at the gate to peer at the old place. and tell me a little about their school days in the 1930s or 1960s. I'm standing there sweaty and dirt-streaked from hauling rocks or pounding fence posts, but I'm interested in what they have to say. I love this place, too. They are always very nice and stay for just a few minutes. If the place was in better shape and I didn't have biting dogs I'd give them a quick tour. I can see they'd like one. Maybe next year.

Last week it was Elsie and Dave from Portland. She went to first through third grades here in the late '30s. She's 81. She said the place was in much better shape the last time she was here, in the 1970s. It was still a public school then.

Today it was Shane and his wife, from Sacramento. He went here in 1966 and '68. He says we should hold a reunion for all the folks who went to school or worked here. That would be awesome! Maybe everyone could bring photos from their school days. It could be an annual thing (that some outgoing person would organize).

We have a whole lot of work to do before we could hold any kind of event here.

In the meantime, I'll keep an eye out for folks stopping at the gate, and go over and chat with them. I should get some kind of guest book so they can leave contact information or recollections. And some kind of sign that says "Elk Primary School, 1936-1977. Now a private residence." And if I start to get uncomfortable I'll close the gates.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Late July

Annie the dachshund killed two of the guineas. Connie White-Wattles and Connie Middle-Wattles. My fault – I failed to protect my birds.

Annie is now required to lay two eggs a day, eat grasshoppers and cry, "buckWHEAT!" I am trying not to hate her.

We have pickles! C. has put up the first batch of bread-and-butter pickles, made with our onions and summer squash. And we should have lots of cucumbers coming on, so it might be a pickle year.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Flock member

He's made a great show of standing guard and leading the way, and they've decided he can stay. But the Connies are twice his size and brook no nonsense, so he'd better be respectful or they will eat him like a grasshopper.

Weekend is done and there's still so much to do. Working to keep up with the garden. C. has another batch of pesto in the works, and is drying all kinds of greens for winter. (The rabbits like dried beet greens, which suits me because I like beets.)

The sheep and the camel (we forget what he is sometimes) are lonely since I moved them. They liked to hang out in front of the school near the dogs and the garden. Tricks liked to tease the dogs, too. It's quieter with them on the far side of the garden, and they still see us nearly as often. They're OK with it as long as the grass holds out.

The sheep get grain at dusk, and they are greedy little pigs. Savvy (on the right) has become really friendly over grain. She's quieter than Tricks, and less flighty and puckish. She really likes to have her chest scratched.

Earl is still in the splint, and sounds like Pegleg Pete the pirate coming down the hallway (step THUMP, step THUMP). And one of his ears is sticking up and looks like it will stay that way. He's so full of quirky personality he could do standup. If we encourage his bad habits maybe he could get a reality TV show.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's Mr. Boynton

Meet guinea No. 5. He hails from Chewelah and enjoys grasshoppers. He is a Scorpio and a team player. Connie was suspicious of him – he looks naked and is a stranger – and ran him off, but he hung around and made protective noises and eventually they accepted him on a trial basis.

He is people-shy so my photo is lousy, but you get the idea. Angelic rodeo clown. We're thinking of painting him camo style so the owls don't get him.

In other news, the sheep and Azul have been moved to a new tiny pasture near the guineas. There's a little decent grass there (plenty of knapweed, too) and I'm going to seed the old pasture with a mix of grasses and grains. We'll have to water it - it's been 90 degrees for what seems like a long time - but anything we can do to improve grazing and fight knapweed is a good thing. I'm glad we have only a few animals. The sheep will eat some knapweed, but the alpaca says no. I see buying hay (and maybe sprouting fodder) in our future. Next year we'll fence more and start earlier.

Housewise, we continue to unpack boxes and improvise shelving in the gym and studios. Still can't find the cheese grater, among many, many other things.

The garden continues to grow green and tall. C. put some Chinese cabbage in the freezer for winter stir fries.

I need to work on the vandalized electric system and install the central vacuum, but it's too hot. Feh.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Maybe we should call him Lucky...

Poor boy. He has carpal valgus, a deformity of the front legs where the two long bones grow at different rates, leaving his legs crooked and painful. We won't know how crooked and painful for a few months – the bone growth might even out and he'd be fine. BUT he's also broken his right front leg (jumping off the couch). So now he's in a splint for a couple of weeks. It's awkward and makes a thump as he walks. 

And he gets car sick. He drooled all the way to the vet and back. It's hard being Earl. Second breakfast will cheer him up.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Poor Earl

There's something wrong with his front legs. So much for hybrid vigor! The vet is working on a diagnosis (birth defect? old injury?). Meantime, he limps around and his front legs (especially his right) are painful and swollen. He is a handsome 15-week-old. I want him to go bounding through the fields, like a normal puppy.

We turned the guineas out into the garden for the first time, and I watched to make sure they didn't wipe out the crops. Yes, some bean leaves were eaten, but for the most part they pecked at seeds in the mulch and looked for grasshoppers. That's Mrs. Davis on the left looking creepy (it was getting dark).

I've got the chicken/guinea house nearly done - we put the weird skylight/roof units up this weekend. We scrounged them from an old greenhouse in the lower field, along with a bunch of the framing. The siding is recycled cedar from Craig's List (free is good). It's not beautiful (I practice bad, slow-motion carpentry – and despite the practice, never get any better. Or faster.) but I think it has a funky charm. I'll get the yard fencing up and move the girls in, maybe tomorrow after work. A shed-roofed leanto or porch will go at front right. And I'll build doors for the front and the wide clean-out opening toward the garden.

(Jack was supposed to pose nonchalantly on the stool, but decided to do a headstand instead.)

Azul settles in

He's really very sweet and calm. I like him.

He enjoys being fed grass, oats and alfalfa pellets. He has an excellent big nose. He comes over when I call or shake a can of grain, but he won't let anyone touch him yet. He seems to like the sheep OK. He generally goes about his business, grazing or sitting or looking off into the middle distance. And he hums!

And, interestingly, he has made this spot his toilet, and goes only here. Weird and wonderful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Meet Azul

He's a rescue alpaca, and he's unhappy. His owner got sick and couldn't take care of him, so he and his alpaca buddies went to stay at a rescue. But he's a Suri and they are the other kind so he ended up on Craig's List all alone. Suris have beautiful fiber and we're into fiber animals and we have fencing and fiber sheep and fiber rabbits and poor impulse control, so here he is.

I have to say he's pretty dorky. I know he's not at his best. I thought he'd be smaller. And more handsome. And less goofy-looking and moth-eaten and depressed. I've been around llamas a little, but never an alpaca. (What is with those awful lower front teeth? Are those normal? How can he eat?) 

Poor boy. We hope he'll bond with the sheep (they have beautiful fiber, too, so they've got that in common. And Tricks is kind of a dork.) And if he's still unhappy we'll look for another Suri. It's only his first day. I should be patient. He ate some oats, and went back to grazing and looking longingly at the gate, making soft little sighs. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Creamed peas and new taters

We've had salads from the garden, but this was the first real meal it provided. Mmmm. I'm so looking forward to tomatoes, too.

In other news, M and Richard came up to fence the back yard for their two dogs. We'll be dog sitting for them for a few days – and tortoise sitting as well. They'll set up turtle quarters in the purple bathroom, which has working lights and outlets (oooooo!). They have two Sulcata tortoises.

I worked on the chicken house framing some. Reusing the old greenhouse structure is a pain. I probably should have dismantled it and used the boards instead of whole walls. It's patched together with new lumber and is a little funky. I suppose chickens won't care, and the old tiny-pane windows will make it shabby-charming. That's my look – shabby-charming.

I let the guineas out into the old sheep pasture for an hour or so in the evening, and call them home with millet and sunflower seeds. We're having four-egg days lately. I think they're content.

And C. has bought a rescue Suri alpaca on Craig's List. He'll be arriving Wednesday. He's about 5, just had all of his medical/dental/toenail stuff done, and is white with blue eyes. He'll hang with the sheep, and we'll look for a companion for him. Suris have long, silky corded fleeces, expensive to buy and dreamy to spin.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sheep Tricks

Yep, that's her. Tricks the sheep. She says her recent adventures, rampaging free all over the neighborhood, have made her a bit peckish.

Early July on Old School Acres

Well, the hot spell is over – for now. I've been up on the roof showing it to a couple of roofer guys. (I'm hoping their estimates are really, really low.) Here's the view from the south corner toward the gym and smokestack. Our living area is under the silver metal chimney at center left.

Below, a long shot from the roof of what used to be the front lawn of the school. At top is the garden, then the first sheep pasture, the second, and at the bottom, the edge of their current buffet. The steps that kids used to climb to enter the schoolyard are at left in the shady spot. That's where the sheep escaped. (Not that I'm bitter.) The guinea pen (formerly the rabbit yard) is the wire structure with plastic on top at upper center. You can glimpse the pumphouse roof through the trees.

The garden is looking great – and we have peas! There are some edible-pod types in the freezer already, and these non-edible pod ones are just a day or two away from being ready to eat.

Below, KC the grandson working on cleaning up one of the original window frames.

And below, another job in progress, the chicken/guinea house, made from parts of an old greenhouse from the lower field (the old school ball field). It's just outside the garden gate. We'll let the birds free range through field and thicket in the afternoons and eat 'hoppers and seeds and greens.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Annie at the Elk Park

The grandson and I took Annie to the cool local park on the Little Spokane River today. It's a sweet little place, run by community volunteers, and has rills for kids to tube, a dammed-up shallow swimming area, a ball field and a simple grandstand. Annie charged everywhere (except into the water) and found some stinky things to roll in.

At the end of the park, a fence with a no-trespassing sign runs across the water and up the banks. It's a fair-sized little river and you'd think the state would have made it a public waterway, but no. There's a seven-mile stretch of the Little Spokane near the city that's been made into a nature preserve, but the rest is all privately owned. I guess if I owned a bit of it I wouldn't mind so much. Maybe. I'd let folks paddle through, though.

In other news, the sheep escaped and spent a whole 100-degree day rampaging around the hillsides. I tramped up and down in the heat calling, "Mmmeeeaaaaaahh," for a thousand years. No answer. The kids, bless their hearts, came out and helped scour the neighborhood. We did get to meet many nice folks up and down this road and the next, including a fellow who taught third grade in my schoolhouse in the 1970s. And his neighbor caught them in her barn, put them on leashes and sent another neighbor on a lawn tractor to let us know. It was awesome. K. got to wrestle a sheep into and out of the station wagon, and Richard took a butt to the stomach. With sheep back in pasture (fencing fixed), we celebrated my 55th birthday with smoked salmon and other goodies.