Saturday, June 28, 2014

My unwindowed wall

Before the sky split open and pissed all over my weekend plans, I pulled the vinyl window and framing out and worked to get the first section of old windows framed in.

Earl watched me for a while, then went to see what Annie was doing. He thinks she's right – there is some sort of furry varmint in the ground here.

Got the first three windows in. The areas with pink insulation are part of the inside wall. I'll trim them down after the windows are in. That dark red vertical at the right is a steel beam.

Went up on the roof and looked for obvious holes. Nothing up there. I patched a spot where a nail was poking through, and a side wall with a loose lap of sheeting. Called the local roof guy and left a message. This is a job for a pro.

The leaky roof has left me bummed. Didn't get much done.

Caught a gorgeous, healthy deer approaching the garden at dusk. She moved away slowly, and finally walked up the hill.

It's raining inside

Big storm out here. Lightning in the valley below, thunder, rumbling wind, pouring rain. Leaking roof. We put all the buckets out, then went to bowls and pans. It's leaking where it used to leak before we had the roof fixed. It's leaking where never leaked before. Good thing C. unblocked the drain in the girl's locker room or we'd be afloat by morning.

The storm pounds outside, the rain pitters on the roof and dings in the buckets. It's like a waterfall in a junk shop. Kewpie is hiding behind the big chair, her big round eyes even bigger and rounder. I run out and dump most of the pails, then wrap my down pillow over my ears and try to sleep. It's like trying to sleep through a rock concert – a long drum solo. I hate drum solos.

I do sleep, though, and in the morning we are still here.

Goodbye, Isabella

Em came up and took Izzy home. She had been here a week, and was fitting in pretty well. We'll miss her. OK, Annie won't miss her, but I will. Nice little dog.

We'll get her back if she can't behave at Em's place.

It was fun having two wiener dogs!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pushing back the deer

We've had some deer damage in the garden so I've been beefing up the fencing. Yesterday C. found a whole bed of beans gnawed, and Plumb Bob's favorite giant broccoli taken down to stems. Time to get serious.

We had no deer damage last year. But the garden was fenced on all sides and the big animals were right next to the garden. This year I moved them back toward the barn and turned their pasture into "the orchard." I put quotes on there as it's not much of an orchard now that the deer have done major pruning on the baby apple trees. Lo.

Anyway, I researched deer deterrents on the web. There are all kinds of commercial and homemade contraptions, from 10-foot-tall fencing to motion detectors connected to sprinklers or to motors turning flappers hitting garbage-can lids, not to mention the Japanese shishi odoshi, the charming fountain that thumps periodically. But running power or water out there would take time and engineering. I found a guy on YouTube who swears by his tin-can alarm. His unfenced garden has no deer damage at all, thanks to the alarm. So I put one in on the unfenced north side, open to the orchard. It's fishing line strung low, with loops of tin cans propped up on buckets. When a deer (or a gardener) bumps the line, the cans fall and rattle.

The fenced sides got taller with sticks, string and plastic flags. 

No, it's not pretty, but if it works I'll prettify it. It's an emergency, dammit.

Monday, June 23, 2014


I hate these cheap ugly too-small vinyl windows, plus these were busted just before we moved in. They're in my studio. (You know, the room I use to store piles of my crap.) And I really want to create some order and get in there and make stuff.

I pulled out the four broken windows in this one. The cheap crappy things
seemed to be held together with chewing gum. Seriously.

The other unit has only three broken windows. Wahoo.
Peeling out the broken panes. Each one consists of an inner pane, an outer,
and a soft metal spacer. It's all held together with ├╝bersticky putty and double-stick tape.

I was going to rip 'em out of there, take out the white OSB, and fill the whole space with salvaged wood-frame windows, kinda like this: 

The Glass House from, and

Yes, it's funky, but I like it. And it is reversible (ethical remodeler's rule: make only changes that can be undone. For instance, if you want to replace the lovely old original steel casement windows with cheesy vinyl, SAVE THE ORIGINAL WINDOWS. Not that I'm bitter).

I've got all kinds of miscellaneous windows, been collecting them for years. I know it'll take several weekends to rip out the ugly, then plan the layout and install everything… frame with wood, or get Tom to weld me a frame to hold it all together? So I don't know. I'm tempted to just pop glass into the broken holes and call it good. It'll still be ugly, but functional. It'd be a waste of new glass, though. And time. Might as well do it right, right? But it seems like self indulgence to spend so much time on my own art space. 

This is the reason I'm such a slow carpenter. The decisions kill me.


One of the guineas (Tiny Wattles?) has decided to set. I got the eggs last night, and she pecked the crap out of me. C. has left her two eggs, marked with Xs, but everybody else lays in the same nest so you have to pull all the eggs out, look for the marks, and put hers back in – while she puts holes in the back of your hand. Guineas are generally terrible mothers, but she seems to be very competent. We don't especially want more noisy guineas but she sure does. We could deal with two more.

Annie and Izzy are kind of getting along. Annie only tried to kill her twice this weekend. Over food, of course. I like her. She's a goofball, and very sweet. I guess Em and Richard miss her and want her back, which is fine. She can come visit, though.

Izzy in the ox-eye daisies.

Annie has worn her toenails down to nubs digging after gophers in our rocky soil.

And the gophers have done some garden damage. C. found tunnels and dirt piles in the potatoes. She filled the tunnels back in, and tamped the ground down hard with the spud bar. All of her work was reversed the next day. She's getting pissed. Speaking of pissed, I left the chicken window unlocked and they had a great time digging up squash and asparagus plants. And something – a deer, we assume – has done some "pruning" in the lower garden. Half a dozen tomatoes, beans and sun chokes have been chomped pretty badly. 

Filling the tunnels up again.

Nibbled tomato plant.

But in good garden news, the maruba santoh green that C. planted is excellent. It grows quickly, and is delicious in a stir fry. We has some last night with cashews. Mmmm. And the non-heading broccoli is making huge leaves that the rabbits really like. C. picks them a giant bowl of greens twice a day. They get broccoli, spinach, chard, kale, maruba santoh, arugula, mustard, typhon, beet greens, leaf radishes and fun jen. And hay and alfalfa pellets. They are all silky and shiny.

A non-heading broccoli leaf. It's huge. C. watched Plumb Bob eat a whole one:
back and forth across the bottom, up and down the left side, the right side,
and finally, the stem all the way to the end. No, he didn't burp when he was done…
because rabbits can't burp. Or fart or vomit. Just a little bunny trivia for you.

Maruba santoh. The leafy bits are spinachy, and the stems are crispy.

I spend some time with the big animals, moving some fence to give them more grass, and scratching Savvy the sheep for a long time. 

I brought Azul a bouquet of alfalfa.

And he peed in his special pee spot. He and I share special moments.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The sun!

At last, the dreary rain is gone. The forecast is for 75 or higher for every day for the next week, a little too warm but I'm not going to complain. Yet.

Isabella, the other wiener dog, is visiting. It's really a test drive as Em hopes we'll decide to keep her. She isn't really housebroken. And she's spoiled. And manipulative. And as stubborn as any dachshund. Annie, our REAL dachshund, doesn't like her, and makes damn sure we maintain the petting/pecking order. So it seems unlikely we'll have seven dogs unless Izzy works hard at learning the rules (potty OUTSIDE, suck up to Annie). We'll see.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rain, rain, rain

Another rainy day, very gray and wet. Nothing exciting to report. Overslept. Worked. Hauled a load of wet oak and maple prunings for the animals. Built a small fire in the stove to take the chill off. Baked potatoes in the oven and slathered them with cheddar and cottage cheese and butter: comfort food on a gray day.


We finally sheared the last sheep today, and she was that mythical, wondrous beast, She-who-roos.  Well, OK, She-whose-butt-roos. Rooing is pulling the loose fleece off a sheep that sheds naturally. Hair sheep shed, and some Shetlands do, too, according to what I've read. Well, we trekked out there lugging shears and tarps and bags and scissors (just in case). We easily trapped the fierce Tricks (who happens to be a Shetland) with oats, threw her to the ground (actually, it was mutual) and started to clip. And her fleece just pulled off. Wow. Turns out maybe a quarter of her fleece was loose, and the rest has to be clipped. And we still can't get the bloody sheep shears to work, so it's scissor time. But it goes along well. I sit there holding the sheep and C. does all the work – though I do get the highlights of the sheep burps.

Here she is before shearing. Or maybe it's a musk ox. I've always wanted to raise musk ox.

Rooing. The fleece pulls off, leaving a short coat behind.

What an attractive, rubbery nose. (No, the sheep!)

Maple leaves for good sheep

Azul is suspicious. What happened to his pal the musk ox?
Her fleece was too large for the bag, so C. tied it in the
sheet we used as a tarp.

So it was a dreary, rainy weekend, but we did get Tricks shorn, and the tomato ladders built and installed. I slept and slept. I tried to roast some vegetables but went off to work in the garden and torched them instead.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pioneer days

I went down the hill this rainy morning to check out the local festival. It's pretty small, just a few flea-market booths, a parade and car show. The parade was unremarkable except for a homemade robot pulling a wagon,  a fine mule and some ponies in fancy harnesses. Add a few antique cars, ATVs, 4-Hers, cub scouts, and some cheerleaders doing dance routines, and that was it. Oh, and the septic-tank pumping truck, a loaded logging truck and some earth-moving equipment.

Small-town parades leave me feeling vaguely nostalgic, dyspeptic, depressed and embarrassed. I'm sure the Germans have a word for that.

There will be live music wafting up from the park tonight.


The guineas have been skulking around the lupines in the flowerbed above the garden. C. found out why yesterday. Aphids. Giant freaking fuzzy turquoise aphids.

We cut the old flower stalks back, knocked the bugs into a bowl, and watched the guineas feast. I hope the remaining bugs stay on the lupines and out of the garden.

I need to get out there and make some more tomato supports, but it's dreary, and I'm afflicted with the post-parade blues. Maybe I'll stay in and eat chocolate.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Another good day for Annie

It's hot out there, and we're laboring in the garden. I'm making supports for the tomatoes. We usually poke poles into the ground next to each plant, and tie the branches to the post as the plant grows. That's a lot of branch-tying, since we grow mostly indeterminate plants and they get six or more feet tall and bushy. So I rummage around online and find Grunt and Grungy's Garden website. Dan and Val McMurray grew 4,000 pounds of tomatoes a year in their Ontario garden. They were short on money, long on smarts, and generous with ideas and tomatoes. Here are their adjustable tomato supports. I'm trying a version of that.

The McMurray approach to tomato cages.

I found these packing-crate sides in my pallet pile, cleaned them up, and am wiring them to t-posts. Then I'll attach the twine.

And Annie Banani came out and gopher-hunted while I worked. The nearby guineas are not even tempting.

And check out these gorgeous irises. C. brought them from the Ancestral Home. They never looked this good there.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Brave little beans

I was out in the garden working on the bean trellis (all finished, 8x24 feet) when I noticed these guys pushing up through the soil. They're coco noir beans from seed that C. grew last year. She really likes them. They are dry or "shelly" beans. We've always grown green or string beans, but never dry beans. Harvest is easy – let the pods dry on the plant, shell them by rubbing the pods between your hands, and pop the beans into jars. She says each one is a beautiful little object with a lovely rounded shape and soft patina. So she's planted three beds of these beautiful objects, and they are popping up, big and robust. Imagine the power it takes for these babies to push up through the dirt into the light.

Earl saw his first horse today. Someone came clopping down the gravel road on a pinto. He looked, barked, and ran away home. 

I know I said Annie was grounded, but I let her into the garden while I worked. She was very good – came when she was called, stayed in the garden, dug furiously after gophers. 

Goat-testing the fence

No fencing job around here is complete until you goat-test. So I tweaked the goat fence last night, giving them a boop-out of new grass and scrub, and swapping out the tall bit for the standard 4-foot fencing (I need the tall bit for the bean trellis). I also put in a real gate on the garden side, since it's been tedious hauling mulch from the barn to the garden, untwisting wires every time. The little goobers obligingly tested the fence for me this morning, and found it lacking. Translation: the dogs woke me up to tell me the goats were in the garden. I was out there in mismatched shoes blinking in the sunshine before you could say, "You little bastards!"

C. would kill me if the goats destroyed the garden. Plus, I would go hungry this winter.

But they willingly followed me back into the pasture when I shook the grain can. I think the breakout was a ploy to get treats.

I do have a name idea for them, though. Terrence and Phillip, after the characters on the South Park TV-show-within-a-TV-show. T. and P. are British, and find themselves hilarious. They mostly fart at each other, and laugh and laugh. Idiots. Substitute a headbutt for the fart, and you have the goat boys. I offer the suggestion to C., and she suggests Pestilence and Plague would be more appropriate. Pesto and Plague-o? No, I think T. and P. are better. There's no meanness in the goats.

Little bastards.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Getting ready for the weekend

Picked up some horse fencing at the salvage place. Going to swap out the stuff on the garden now for this stuff – the holes are 2x4 inches, and that'll keep Annie the dachshund contained. Funny that the same fencing will work for horses and weiner dogs. So Annie will be able to come out to the garden with us and dig for gophers, without the risk of galloping off to the lower road (which she did Monday – strangers brought her home unharmed) or killing guineas (I have no direct evidence, but we did find the remains of Stumpy the guinea the other day). Like most dachshunds, Annie doesn't come when called. Not if her nose is onto something exciting.

So, anyway, fencing is in the plans. Also, building a solar dehydrator. I picked up three fridge racks at the junkyard, and plan to build a plywood box for them. I'll set it up in the greenhouse since it's getting empty as C. has planted the last of the tomatoes. I've snooped around online, and it looks like I want openings at the top of the box for warm air to enter, and a pipe coming out the bottom and going up outside the greenhouse to act as a vent. The moisture of the food will cool the air, it'll flow to the bottom and then be pulled out the chimney. I could add a fan in the pipe if the weather turns cloudy.

I'm kinda excited about building this as the garden is already producing extra greens. C. dries them as "veggie hay" for the animals to eat in winter. We have three or four commercial electric driers, the round plastic kind, and they mostly suck. Plus they cost money to run. And soon we'll have all kinds of stuff to dry – tomatoes, and stuff I can't think of right now.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

We heart the arborist

Will, the arborist at work, gave me access to his tree prunings. It's a lot of material – he's a full-time plant guy on a 200-acre campus. Today I loaded up the Subie and brought home the first of many loads. I've got oak and... crab apple? branches. The goats and sheep are pleased. Azul, the alpaca, was less so, and I picked him some alfalfa.

Whitworth has launched a permaculture program, pretty great for a small private college. They are eliminating chemical fertilizers and making compost tea instead. I saw swales on the hills behind campus there, and even bee hives. I'm proud of them.

I figure to bring home a load of prunings twice a week, which should keep the big animals in munchies and save a little grass or hay.

Thanks, Will!

Studio work

So I have this new (to me) giant plywood bookcase, probably eight feet tall. Ready to hold tons of stuff. (And I have tons of stuff.) I have the Muscle People haul in into my studio (the chaotic storage room with busted windows). And then I have them move it again, because that’s what you do with new furniture. You try it here, you try it there. 

It’s unpainted and massive, not pretty but very functional. Suddenly I’m interested in my studio again. The room is a huge disaster, but if I take this and put it up there, and move those things over there onto this shelf... I could make assemblages on this table, and do stained glass over there. I haven’t made art since the move – too busy digging and patching and unpacking and fence-building – and I miss it. It would be fine to have a space to work in. 

So I spend a few hours moving things and unpacking boxes. I fuss with the metal shelves hanging by chain from an old ladder suspended from the ceiling joists. They’re weird shelves, green-painted metal and pierced with hundreds of small holes. Got ’em an an estate sale (of course). They’re suspended by dog chain from the ladder, and the ladder is looking overwhelmed, sagging under ancient repairs of rusted wire. So I add a couple of new screw eyes and attach the shelves directly to the ceiling, bypassing the ladder. And shore up and level the ladder for good measure. I do this without removing the contents of the shelves, of course. I am Lazy Woman. 

Most of my collection of colorful old tins is up there. (I store stuff in them, and build them – or parts of them – into assemblages.) It’s looking pretty slick. I bring in a box of old clocks and a bin of balls from the gym. The balls, dozens of billiard balls and mini billiard balls and some croquet balls and some just-plain weird balls, I put on the bottom shelf on all of those holes. It looks goofy and great. I’ll need a bigger shelf for the clocks, maybe over a window.

Poor point-and-shoot photos of the hummingbird

Suddenly there is a hummingbird zooming around the ceiling. He’s tiny, with an absurdly long maroon bill, irridescent green feathers and a V on his tail. He goes round and round, resting on the ceiling fan or the ladder, then round again. I grab an old fishnet from the gym, with torn and oversized netting, and wave it at him ineffectually. I prop open the plastic on the windows, and line the opening with bright red and orange glass. He continues to go round and round. I mix up some honey water on a red saucer and put it up on the ladder. He goes round and round. OK, I’m not going to stress him further. I wish him well and go to work in the hallway.

The 10-by-60-foot hall is cluttered with boxes of books, with tools and hardware, with piles of coats, with two electric furnaces and assorted ductwork, with bags of chicken feed, with boards and shoes and magazines. Gah, what a huge job. I pitch in and work until nearly dark. I don’t see the hummingbird, and hope he made it out safely.

Later that night we hear a big weird noise, kind of like a garage door closing fast, or a plastic curtain snapping and flapping. It’s a rustling sussurating kind of sound, with elements of rolling wheels and crashes. “Huh,” I say. C. agrees. The next morning I find my green metal shelves collapsed, hanging limply, and tins lying all over the studio floor, among balls. Dozens and dozens of balls. And there’s a dead hummingbird in Nadine’s room.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Three days mean summer

It's officially summer in my world. I take Mondays off all summer, instead of a two-week vacation, and tomorrow is my first one. So tonight, instead of being bummed, setting the alarm and going to bed early,  I'm lolling here at the computer, eating rhubarb pie, carefree. Take that, you Monday-Friday types. Plus, pie makes me happy.

Em and Richard were up yesterday, with our friend Cullen. They brought all three dogs – Lola, the small black shepherd; Bono, the snaggletoothed terrier mix; and Isabella, the little black and tan dachshund. Em worked on her stone-age final, trying to start a fire with her homemade bow drill. She's nearly got it – the drill smokes like crazy, but she's not yet able to collect a coal and use it to ignite her "tender bundle." It's amazing how patient she is, trying different woods and cords and grooves in the baseboard. The guys moved rocks in the garden and our new giant bookcase into my studio.

Earl and Lola did some big-dog romping, and Bono enjoyed marking trees and shrubs. Isabella is a rather indoorsy wiener dog and wanted nothing to do with gopher hunting, Annie's favorite sport. It's funny to look down and see two Annies, though it only takes a minute to tell them apart. Annie has piggy eyes, tidy little hooves, extra-long ears and a waist. Bella has big eyes, a fat nose, flipper-like feet and no waist at all. And where Annie simply steals food, Bella asks nicely, sitting up on her hind legs and pawing the air with her front ones.

That's Annie on the left, indignant at being left inside. Nice laser eyes.

They tolerate each other. Annie makes sure her people remember who is in charge, and Bella avoids her.

The garden is looking good. I've been unpacking boxes and tidying the house for a change. C. continues to plant tomatoes and miscellaneous stuff, including a great many greens.

Freckles lettuce

Kale and mustard? I'll ask C.

I think these are leaf radishes. I'm not the real gardener here, you know.

I recognize these. Greens. Pretty sure about that.

Lupines and iris in the flower bed.