Monday, March 31, 2014

Goat combing deaux

Here's a tip for you folks planning your future homestead: test-drive the animals before you stock your barn with them. Visit a goat farm or alpaca farm or whatever you've decided on, and touch the animals. COMB the animals, if they'll let you. And if they make your head swell up like a balloon,  walk on by.

I like the little goatlings. They're friendly, only slightly mischievous, and produce lovely manure for the garden. But combing them, or holding them while someone else combs, makes my head swell and lungs wheeze. Good thing C. can comb them on her own, because next year I'm staying inside. A mask didn't help.

Em and Richard came up to help with the sheep and goats. We didn't get tot he sheep, who were slightly damp, anyway. We saved them for next weekend.

And the greenhouse is sealed up tight and ready for little plants. It's 26 degrees outside, 36 in the greenhouse.

Friday, March 28, 2014

This is why it takes so long

to clean the bunny room. The little varmints are fascinated by the dustpan. You go sweeping along, and suddenly there's a rabbit in there. And Crystal likes to attack the broom and chew on it.

The little guys are getting big – they'll be three months old April 7. I know that because then they'll be old enough to go to the vet for tutoring. Rue, the white one, has the absolute softest fur. Both Bob and Fondu are developing silly hairstyles. And Marty is starting to look like Wolfman Jack.  They're all friendly and interested in people (and dustpans).

Fondu and his weird hair.

Hairy Marty

End-of-March gardening

C. started tomato seeds today and yesterday. She's always convinced that it's too late and I always say there's plenty of time. Somehow the planting date never gets recorded – until now.  So if we have a poor showing in tomatoes, we'll know who was right. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? (Not really. Maybe a little.)

She's been digging up quack grass and hauling manure for some new potato beds. Our two pounds of Yukon Gold seed potatoes arrived this week, but none of the other varieties came. Apparently C.'s evil twin, Skippy, took them off the order form. Or something. I don't think I did it. Anyway, we'll pick up some Kennebecs and Red Lasotas at Northwest Seed next week, after payday. And maybe some random others to try. All the seed places are stocking "fingerlings" at five times the price of regular round seed spuds. I think we'll pass – apparently they are no different in taste and texture than ordinary spuds, just smaller. And trendier. Smaller spuds are more work to dig and wash. Trends are stupid. (Who sounds like an old person?)

C. planted six pounds of seed potatoes last year, and we didn't get that many and they stored poorly. So we probably need to plant 10-20 pounds of some that store well. Well, we kept them in the pantry with the canned goods and a small electric heater, so we can do better on our end, too. I'm thinking the boiler room, or the coal room in the deep-deep basement. We need to check the temperatures and humidity levels down there. We do know it's too damn cold here to leave them in the beds over winter.

We were planning to shear the sheep and comb out the goats this weekend, but it's rainy. My Weather Bug computer widget has a big splash over the next several days. So maybe we can do the goats and wait on the sheep. I'm happy to postpone trying to wrestle those two wily ewes with their sharp feet and hard heads. They've knocked me on my ass before. Maybe I can rig an ass protector.

C. made rum-tum-diddy for dinner. It's kind of like goulash – noodles and canned tomatoes and corn and onions and mushrooms and such. Delicious. It's either her mom's recipe (shout-out to Betty Lou on the other side!) or from the girl scouts. I can never remember.

I'm off to feed the dogs – except for Jasmine. She got rum-tum-diddy, with the onions removed. She is the Yeti princess. I'll stir in a little for the other guys, so they won't hate her for being beautiful and delicate.

Monday, March 24, 2014

32 cups of flour

C. made a giant batch of bread the other day. Usually she loads the bread maker up every day, and we share a loaf with the dogs (they like theirs with peanut butter). Lately she's been making it old-style, a week's worth at a time. She is like a bread goddess. I come from good solid Wonder-bread people, and I've tried (and failed) to make real bread, so it's like a miracle to me.

So the other day I see this monster blob thing on the counter.

32 cups of flour, she tells me. It's hearty whole-wheat dough with rolled oats and all kinds of good stuff (she doesn't use a recipe). It turns into these eight loaves, a batch of rolls and six giant breadsticks, (supposedly for dog snacks but I like them, too). So we have bread in the freezer and on the counter and I'm happy. It's nothing like store-bought brown bread – it tastes more alive, and interesting. And just plain better.

Earl, bless his heart, is doing fine. His legs are a bit lumpy but very sound. He gallops everywhere, and is a little too excited. I hope he'll settle down someday. He's a little less cute now that he's fully grown. Sometimes he's a LOT less cute. Here he is sleeping on the couch, on top of a goose-down comforter.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Three eggs and an asymmetrical guinea

I worked a little on moving some fencing after work. It's kinda fun to get out and do something physical after spending the day in a chair in a cubicle.

We need to give the big animals more pasture soon, and the goats would love to thin some of those scrubby thickets around the edges of the former lawn. So I'm taking down some of my early fence work (wobbly and poorly placed) near the garden, planning to move it to the area behind the barn, up by the front gates. It will be well supported and tight, if I have to stretch it with the car. Dammit. Fencing isn't hard, it's just exacting. You can't half-ass your fence. And half-assed is my style, so it takes a little extra effort (and the memory of chasing two loose sheep all over the hill last summer).

So I took down some fence and dug out a couple of T-posts. The third post was impossible. Time to quit.

The funny guinea (with one up wattle and one down) that C. calls Winkie came over and squapped politely, so I got him some grain and took photos. Those mismatched wattles are pretty weird. Was he injured in a keethood accident? Or did they just grow like that? See him winking his transparent eyelid at me while he stuffs his face? In the bottom photo you can see his wacky wattles – and his party hat that looks just like a walnut from that angle.

Enough rambling. C. is making a pie from some of last summer's frozen huckleberries. I like to sneak bits of pastry when she's not looking. And I like pie.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Another perfect (chicken) day

Three eggs again yesterday. The chickens are more companionable than the guineas,  coming over and making pleasant twerp sounds. I wish the two black hens would lay in the chicken house, but noooooo, they have to hike all the way around the building to the barn so we have to hike all the way over there to collect eggs. Roz, the red hen, is happy to lay her big brown egg in the dog crate in the chicken house. Bless her heart, she's a bit of a dim bulb.

Yesterday I heard the guineas buckWHEATing and chucking from the neighbor's place, all the way down the hill. Earl and I went down and attempted to drive them home. (No, not in the car, though that might have been easier.) Basically, I stand, arms outstretched so I look really big and scary, and flap directions with my fingers. Earl helps with the border collie eye. We got them up the hill, but lost half at the barn. J 'n' E led his half around the barn to safety, but a group of Chucks split off and started back down the hill. They follow well enough, but if the leaders get out of sight the others have no idea where to go. Fortunately the smart half flew up to the top of the school and squapped and chucked, giving the lost fellows some bearings. Earl and I left it to them.

I've been studying them, trying to learn one from another. We have 11, one white and one purple and the rest in matching polka dot outfits. C. noticed one has an upward curving wattle and a downward one, so I'm trying to learn to spot her and see if she's a hen (only the girls buckWHEAT.) I can't think of a non-intrusive way to mark them, so will have to learn the wattles. Trouble is they hunch down and skuttle around, and wattles from the front look entirely different from other angles. They're all related, too, so are similar, at least to my ignorant eyes. I could paint colored spots on their party hats maybe, unless that would make them peck at each other.

And stay out!
I left the door open, and the guineas sauntered in to investigate that
delicious grainy odor wafting from the feed sacks just inside the door.
They'd be inside watching TV and swilling beer if they could. With the goats.

C. is posting some of her lampwork beads in her Etsy shop The Hokey Pokey. She found some cool live moss to use as a photo background. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A three-egg day

And if you have three chickens, that makes it a perfect day, no? At least chicken-wise.  

So we got the loose rabbits moved out of the bathroom. They seem happy with their bigger space, and the babies were interested in their old nest box. Smokey is still in a cage in our bathroom. I called around about the cost of rabbit neutering, and boy! it ranges from $80 to $200. Each. 

Yesterday was cloudy and dreary, then the skies opened up and poured rain, and the sun came out and it was lovely. I worked on the greenhouse some. Revamped the foundation wall. The guineas were tootling around, going "BuckWHEAT!" and looking for grain or bugs. I can't tell them apart, except for Mrs. Davis and Johnny-and-Edgar. No idea how many are hens.Their wattles are subtly different shapes and sizes, and only the girls buckwheat. Below, straight red wattles, and at the bottom, scooped wattles. I'll try to pay more attention, but tend to get sidetracked by polka dots and party hats.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Combing the goat

We had visitors today. A former owner of the school came by (he owned the school before the guy who sold it to us). He did a bunch of the renovations that the guy we bought from took credit for. Funny. And a neighbor brought his fir Christmas tree over for the goats to munch. I chatted with them both, learned some stuff about the place. C. decided to be a recluse.

We did not get the rabbits moved, dammit. Yes, they are amazingly cute, but they get into stuff and knock things over and leave marbles everywhere. It's getting old.

And while I was in there communing with them, I noticed that all the babies except Rue have fluffy sideburns. Just like their father. Uncomfortable epiphany! So I grabbed them up and got personal, and now that they are nearly grown, I can, with certainty, tell the boys from the girls. (Pathetic. Maybe it's the bifocals....) So, anyway, three boys and one girl, Rue. We don't have to change Martin's name after all. But we do have to have all the boys neutered if we want to keep them in a colony.

The cashmere goats are starting to shed, so we spend an hour or two combing Mo. He put up with it pretty well – it must feel good. We gave him a little grain and dried apples, and more when we finished.  We probably are a third done with his coat. Pants, his brother, is next. Below, you can see the coarser guard hairs and the cloud-like cashmere. Some of the guard hairs come off in the combing, and you have to remove them, either by hand or machine, from the fine stuff.

Azul gets in on the goodies.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What snow?

So the snow is gone. I can't deal with all this change happening all the time. – No, I can. I'm so ready for spring – lovely long warm days, nothing freezing and flooding, every room warm... There is still some ice over toward the barn, but, basically, the snow is gone. 49 degrees outside.

C. is starting plants all over the place. There's a big bin of seed-starting mix (garden dirt, rabbit/alpaca/goat poo, organic commercial potting soil) in the kitchen, and a stack of flats and pots. She says she might have started too many cabbages, below. You think? And she dropped a chunk of stove wood on her toe.

Yes, the rabbits are still in the bathroom. We're going to move them tomorrow, maybe. Below, I've cut some heavy-duty pallets (free!) in half to make a new foundation for the greenhouse. Should have it reassembled tomorrow, ready for cabbages.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bunny pellets in my bathroom!

Here's an installment of bunny cuteness, which we've been lacking lately.

C. took the first four shots in the bunny room yesterday evening. The bottom photo is what I found in the bathroom this morning. C. moved the little fellows at 2 a.m. when their old room started to flood. (It's always something here.) This time it was rain from the patio pushing through the north door. The grate in front of the door was frozen, and the melting snow and new rain kept  mounting up. She woke me up to help, and I found myself bumbling around in the snow trying to get some drainage going. I failed. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a dream, as bunny poop in the bathroom is real, and so are the bunnies.

This summer we address drainage around the building! Among many other things.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Plumber's surprise

Ah, a Sunday afternoon surprise. Like finding a Brussels sprout in your chocolate pudding. I was poking around in C.'s studio for an extension cord, and heard a funny noise... like water running. I hate it when that happens. Poked my head around the corner and saw water shooting out of a copper pipe, surrounded by ice spatters and cascades. So the old washer hookup, in the main electrical panel room off of the classroom with the stairs, had frozen and busted in the last few days.

I tried mightily to figure a way to patch it. (With plumbing epoxy, which I still can't find? With an old inner tube and pipe clamps? With a rainbow and jelly beans?) No, I have to go down into the crawl space and find a shut-off valve.

Man, I've grown to hate the crawl space. And it isn't really a crawl space. It's less than a crawl space. I call it that because I don't know the name for the kind of ground-covering action that is dragging yourself on your belly with your elbows. It's that kind of space. Plus there's asbestos, so I have to wear a respirator which makes my glasses steam up so I can't see a damn thing. And dragging myself along by my elbows is pretty much the exercise my doctor wants me to do to improve flexibility in my arthritic back, and it hurts like hell on the living room rug. It's worse in the crawl space in the dark with steamed-up glasses and Darth-Vader-respirator breathing and the floor joists just over my head and the sound of water escaping. I expect to have the old back freeze up, and, eventually, when C. notices I'm gone and finds me by the tiny pathetic tapping I've been making for hours under some far-off room, the paramedics will have to cut out a section of the floor to hoist me out in that Stokes stretcher. Of course, I'll be frozen to the foundation where I've wet myself, and they'll have to use the jaws of life to extract me.

So I put on my filthy crawl-space outfit I have hanging in the gym for just these occasions, and worm my way to a valve and shut it off. And worm my way back out and peel off my filthy crawl-space outfit and hang it up for next time.

The fire is warm. I have a hot cup of tea. One of the zucchini loaves has chocolate chips. Tomorrow I have to go back to work. The end.

More freakin' snow

It's cold, about 15 degrees, and small dry snowflakes are falling steadily out there. It's supposed to snow all day (3-5 inches worth). Then tomorrow, it'll be 40 and raining, if the weather nerds are correct. Crazy, capricious March. On the heels of crazy, capricious February.

We got wood yesterday. It was damn cold and took a while, since most of the wood was frozen hard to the ground. I smacked logs loose with other logs. We made pizza again afterward – C. did the crust and gathered the ingredients and I assembled. Delicious. Those funnel mushrooms we gathered last year are wonderful in all kinds of dishes.

Got a hankering for zucchini bread this morning, and found some canned zook in the pantry, and some dried, as well. I made four loaves, but it's not wonderful. Not much zucchini flavor (the pecans are good, though). Have to freeze more squash next summer as frozen makes better bread.

C. is cleaning the bunny room. The little guys are getting huge, nearly half the size of their ma. And soft... Papa Smokey is still on antibiotics and in our bathroom. He seems fine. It's good having him here – I chat with him, scratch between his ears and feed him goodies. He's friendly and appealing. We'll put him back with the others in a week or two.

Two eggs.