Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mutant vegetable

That's the bulbous stalk of a big weird Brussels sprout plant there (with Earl for scale). We bought several starts from the plant woman up the road and the others were normal enough, but this guy is just not right. It made those weird little tassels but no edible sprouts. Suits me fine.

The boys and I went rambling this evening. We tried to take Annie, Kewp and Jasmine, but Annie busted out of her harness and went weaseling off to kill guineas (I captured her before she could do any damage) and Kewpie and Jazz kept wandering off unless I reminded them constantly to stay with the group. Walking along calling "Kewp, Kewpie! Jazz! Come here!" is not my idea of a relaxing tramp. So we ditched the girls and wandered down by the pump house and the old foundation of the older Elk school, then up into the old ball field. The grass – must look up that grass – has turned a rich gold, the ferns brown and Oregon grape deep red. Pretty. I'll try to get down there earlier tomorrow and get some decent photos. Jack is sitting on a big old log carved into a couch. I wonder if that was part of the ball park seating?

Caprine Towers

We have soooo many things that need to be done, so I took an extra day off work this week and built the goats a play structure. Probably should have moved the paint to the basement, or worked on the furnace install or glazed some windows, but that's not how I roll.

Below, Mo is testing the materials. The thing is five pallets cobbled together with a few boards. It cost nothing (even the nails are recycled). It is not beautiful, but I hope it keeps Mo out of trouble. A bored goat is a bad thing.

They can clip-clop up the ramp and across the bridge, tap dance on the main tower bit, then do a tightrope walk over to the brick pile where they play king of the hill. Or they could look in the window at us and make snarky comments.

We did get some paint moved to the basement so it won't freeze. I rigged a heavy-duty kid's sled with a cargo box and long rope, loaded it with paint, and slid it down the 20 steep concrete stairs where C. unloaded it into the boiler room. It's slow, but not as slow as stumping up and down those steps with armloads of paint cans. Now just to do that a hundred more times before it gets really cold out there.

Sunday – there's a nasty cold wind blowing outside, and it's supposed to get down to 22 tomorrow night, and 19 the next. Guess who is moving cans of paint over the next 24 hours? The goats! Right. 

I'm wondering why I didn't get more done when it was warm and balmy out. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October projects

It's still Indian summer here – frosty nights, beautiful clear blue days in the 60s. It's the best season of all and we don't get it every year.

Below, C. is simultaneously improving the drainage in the big-dog yard and laying a brick path to the locker room door. Loads of gravel have been dumped along here for parking over the years, making a high spot which sent rain and snowmelt into the crawl space. The new drainage channel will be a huge improvement. And the path will be, too. Replacing all the window glass is on my list, and C. is sanding the door in preparation for paint. I don't know what color she'll pick – maybe her favorite color, cream. (Weird, I know.) Most of the woodwork and doors in the place are faded turquoise over cream. A darker turquoise would look good against the brick, and so would dark green. Or cream. My personal vote is for NOT PURPLE.

So I've been hauling bricks from a pile over on the overgrown patio to the north. Some previous owner was bricking up the gap between the two small vinyl windows that replaced each single 8x22-foot steel-framed original in each classroom. I think the too-small windows, brick columns and white-painted OSB look pretty bad – like shit, in fact – and I don't care how energy efficient they are. Don't get me started! We'll figure out something that respects the building and the architect, and doesn't cost much. So, anyway, I'm hauling bricks after work with help from Earl and Jack. And deep in the stack I find a little pile of seeds (cherry pits?). Interesting. Who would have left those? I've seen no squirrels. We do have pocket gophers. Do gophers cache seeds?

Em and Richard are coming up tomorrow to finish the barn roof. Then I'll extend the pasture fencing around it and the big fuzzy animals will have winter shelter. That'll be great. I sure appreciate all their hard work around here. (Em and Richard's hard work. Not the fuzzy animals' hard work. They basically eat, poop and grow hair. I guess I appreciate that, too, but not as much.)

And the truck is going into the shop. It'll be handy to have it running again – we have a firewood permit, and a whole lot of old moldy drywall to take to the dump.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October at Ladera del Wapiti

Wonder what the Spanish is for elk?

Horns come in handy when you want to scratch your back. That's Mo in the front, Pants in the back. Mo has taken to hopping over the fence into the little-dog yard when he wants something. Annie the dachshund intends to eat him if he keeps it up. It hasn't occurred to him yet to use those backscratchers on his head for defense. Below, that's the harvest moon coming up over the fall garden.

Below, they were hungry! Azul and the sheep dive into our $230-per-ton hay. Poor Azul looks like a cartoon with his weird eyes and doofy teeth. Honestly, he's a very dignified person.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A country "ewww" experience

Annie caught a mouse this week. She had it on the rug in our home room. She's a skilled mouser, as well as an effective kittener (ewww No. 1). So she had this dead field mouse. Then Earl had it, and when C. went to take it away, she found this large, black, revolting grub thing near it. Like an inch long and a half-inch wide and legless and very much alive. A bit like the Michelin Man, if he were a stubble-covered almond, and had fangs but no face. So, of course, we took pictures. That's how we roll.

C. said it had come out of the mouse. That was absurd, and I told her so. The thing was as big as the mouse's head! Besides, it looked clean, not covered in zombie slime. (I shot this video with the USB microscope – now you can see the zombie slime, as well as the spiky hairs that secure it inside the host.)

So I went to the internet. As a childhood bugologist, I figured beetle larva. Maybe pine sawyer beetle? We'd found a couple of those big beetles around the place. They're so big they look like hummingbirds when they fly. But wait, beetle grubs are long and narrow and have faces and legs, and they can move pretty quickly. This was faceless and writhing and pulsating, more like... a maggot (ewww No. 2). I hate maggots. I really hate maggots. Gah.

C. said, "Bot fly." I said, "Nah." Hey, I'm the bugologist here. Bot flies are pests on cattle, not little mice. The adult fly lays eggs under a cow's skin, and the nasty maggot grows there and splorts out as a big ol' fly. They leave holes in cow skin and ruin cow hides. I read that someplace, in the olden days, in a book.

So I look up "bot fly larva" and, sure enough, it's a classic rodent bot-fly maggot. They infest mice, squirrels and rabbits. The big, weird fly lays eggs along rodent trails, the rodent comes boobling along and the tiny larvae climb aboard and enter the nose or mouth. They find a cosy site inside, just under the skin, and grow. And GROW. After a month or so, they pop out of their puffy irritated home site 
(the "warble") on the host, drag themselves off by writhing and hooking their creepy fangs, and pupate into a big weird fly. The host generally recovers, but has nasty dreams. (I've lost count of the ewwws here.) 

Cattle, horses, sheep and deer can also host bot flies. People, too, in Central and South America. But the ones that feed on little mice are just as big as the ones that parasitize us large mammals. 

Nature, she is a big pervert.