Monday, December 28, 2015

Nearly the new year

We're kinda snowed in here, during the last week of the year. I don't have to work until Jan. 4. Outside, the snow lies deep and mostly undisturbed. It's heavily quiet.

Tomorrow I'll wallow through 18 inches (or more) of snow and ask the Subaru to start, trek up the buried driveway, through the giant plow berm and onto the gravel road, the paved road, the highway.

So I exaggerate when I say snowed in, but it'll take some little effort to get out. I've got a Sube and a shovel, and that's generally enough. I have stops to make at the pharmacy, the grocery store, the library – then we'll be good until the fourth when I discard the robot jammies and wear shoes to the office. (NOT just shoes.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015


So Em and Richard are fostering five 7-week-old dachshund-mix pups, and are out of town overnight. We're baby sitting. They're installed in a pen near the wood stove, except when I pull one out and play for a few minutes.

 That's Stretch, the tall red one there, with the fluffy one in the foreground. The two brindle ones are the girls. They are all fierce, with needle teeth and needle claws. They eat, they poop, they growl and wrestle, they sleep. We don't turn them loose, because Annie is way too excited about them and might eat them. Plus, they poop. A lot.

 I held all five while C. changed the bottom of the pen. They were like eels, or monkeys. My face is scratched, my glasses licked, my lip bitten (not hard). I lost one temporarily down the side of the chair. They were on their best behavior, though – there was no pooping.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

October in the garden

I think of the garden as all dead now since the tomato plants are black and frost-blasted, but it's still green in places. The greens are still producing a little, the sun chokes are tall and green, the beets are guinea-gnawed but still growing and the kale is unfazed (the rabbits don't like it so it's spared the daily picking).
That's sunflowers up near the entrance, sun chokes at upper right, the last few cabbages at middle left, some shallots or leeks at middle right, the skeletons of volunteer dill everywhere, tall and brown, and the shriveled remains of a frosted tomato front and center.

What is left of Tomato Alley, with chewed beets in the foreground.

Autre the chicken is in the bathroom now after another attack by her sister, Satan's own hen. I left a gate open. I don't want to talk about it.  The teenybopper guinea with the injured leg is still in there, along with the two rabbits. It's becoming a petting zoo.

Funny, she doesn't look evil.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Coif sisters

Caught the debutants dusting in the garden.

They're so weird.We think they're hens. I called them Beardie and Buzzy for a while. Maybe Coif and Do? C. votes for Lenny and Squiggy. I'm tempted to make a little headband for the black one, and chop the grey one's beard off square in a ZZ Top tribute.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The tail-end of September

The days are shorter, and the garden is frost-burned around the edges. Nearly all of the cabbages and winter squash have been cut and rolled inside. Hundreds of green tomatoes are out there, slowly blooming toward pink, or orange. Pink or orange is good enough for us – we snatch them off the vines and pile them to ripen in bowls and pans and boxes all over the kitchen. C. keeps a huge pot of tomatoes cooking down on the pink stove, canning them as salsa or spaghetti sauce or plain tomatoes, then filling the pot again. The house smells delicious.

The hay guy came.

His truck didn't fit into the barn.

He says three people can move one of those 1,200-pound bales. We're hoping the children will be up soon to wrestle those things inside – I'm pretty sure they'll fit through the door.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

End of summer

And the beginning of Indian summer, right? Yeah!

Washington continues to burn. It's still smokey here, though a storm blew in today and actually rained some.

Dr. M came out and attended Autre, the unlucky chicken. I don't know what the hell happened to her, but one morning this week I found her all bloody, huddled in the chicken yard, the door to her cage in the chicken house hanging open. That's a heavy door, and she must have been under horrific attack to have pushed it open. Her chicks were hiding, but OK.

Something snatched her head bald, ripped off half her comb and left her at least half blind. Only her head was injured, and M said it looked like burns. Weird. A pecking assault by her jealous sister? A raccoon with a flame thrower? A carnivore would have bitten or killed her, not just attacked her head, and there's nothing on her cage that would trap her head. I found a place along the rock foundation where something the size of a guinea or a cat could squeeze into the cage, and blocked it.

That's not gatorade in the jar - it's a farm antibiotic mixed with water. M slathered Autre's poor head in Neosporin, gave her milk and oats and a big drink, and tucked her in. She's a good doctor.

Autre's leg is improving. She's got that going for her.

C. chipped away at the 44 pounds of cucumbers she's picked lately. Half went into a crock in the girl's bathroom, more into the stainless steel soup pot (we think of it as a crock at this point), and the rest will go into jars.

And what garden posting would be complete without mutant vegetables?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Blue sky

Yesterday was lovely - clear skies, yellow sun and white moon and breathable air. I even smelled the dairy farm at dusk.

 Today the smoke is back, though we're not completely socked in. There's a little blue above, but smokey around the horizons. It was good to have a respite.

We made and canned salsa yesterday, spending hours chopping, seeding and roasting tomatoes, onions, tomatillos and peppers. It takes five pans of roasted tomatoes to make four quarts of salsa. C. filled the rest of the canner with dill pickles.

I made four loaves of zucchini bread, but the lower oven element seems to have gone out so they were less than successful. Edible, but not great. I hate to waste ingredients and time and expectations, and make a HUGE mess for so little return. Kewpie says it is delicious, though.

Autre seems a little better. She and the chicks are really enjoying rolled oats soaked in milk. C. took her out of the Johnny Jump Up as she kept getting tangled up and had trouble reaching her water.

Autre's little grey daughter got stuck badly in the cage wire and C. had to cut her loose with fencing pliers. On a farm, it's always something. The chick was limp and shocky but seems to have recovered.

I stand poised to name the chicks, but C. says we have to wait for the crow, or the lack of a crow. (How do you know when you've heard a non-crow?) No idea what sex they are until they start making noise. Calling them hens is just magical thinking, I know, but can't help it. I'm an optimist.

I'm working on the pantry today, adding some shelves and hanging racks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Northwest is on fire

and the sky is a sick yellow-grey, with bits of ash drifting down. The air-quality people keep changing Spokane's rating from "unhealthy for sensitive groups" (would that be psychics? interior designers? redheads?) to just plain "unhealthy," and back again.

The great outdoors smells like smoke and tastes like ashes.

We're a long way from any active fires, but the topography around here tends to hang onto dust and pollution. It's pretty smokey out there. It's maybe the worst fire season in Washington history, and three firefighters were killed in Twisp today. We're all hoping for rain, and soon.

So the little guineas, just three weeks old today, are sleeping on roosts just like the big birds.

Pretty cute the way this little guy is sitting on papa.

The little pied guy is having trouble getting all the way up there.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mid August

The house is full of tomatoes. Big ones, small ones, ripe ones, not-quite-ripe ones. C. spent hours yesterday peeling them and poking them into jars and canning them. I made rolls again and am sitting here with tomato dribbles on my shirt from a lovely toasted tomato, pesto and parmesan sandwich. I love those things, but no matter how many I eat the kitchen is still overflowing with tomatoes. We struggle to keep up. It's a good struggle.

Our habaƱero peppers are ripe, so C. can can some salsa soon. And spaghetti sauce. And veggie soup.

And the cucumbers! She has a six-gallon crock full of salty cucs turning into pickles, and probably 30 quarts of new dill pickles in the pantry.

Autre the chicken is still limping badly after her two weeks of confinement in the chicken house, so I made her a "chicken chair" out of a fishing net, some fiberglass screen and a banana box. It's a little like a Johnny Jump Up, only with a pissed off chicken inside instead of a cute baby.

Chicken legs are slow to heal and splints are not helpful, so we'll just let her bounce there for a few weeks and hope for the best. I figured the two chicks would want to sleep under her, so made some holes in the box for them. No, they want to sleep ON mama. Idiots.

In other weekend news, I made a two-floor rabbit tower out of a sonotube. We're making more bunny shelters so Marty can safely go back in with the group. We moved him in with Smokey after the other guys beat up on him, but he has refused to become civilized. He says only sissy rabbits use litterboxes. I say piddle on the floor in your own room, you little long-eared butt-monkey. The sainted Smokey will stay in our bathroom with his sissy litterbox.

I hooked up the new (to us) washer.  Made my new version of no-bake cookies with peanut butter in the middle. And the ultra-secure chicken yard has been tested (and definitely NOT approved) by those roving little keets. They are not pleased at their confinement. I put a little hatch into the garden so we can easily let them in there, and maybe keep them from roaming too far from home.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Millet craze

I put some millet out for the keets, and they came right over and stuffed themselves. They make a funny little churrip noise while they eat, and their little heads bob up and down like sewing machines.

It's hard to believe those pretty brown feathers will be replaced by black-and-white polka dots.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Early August

The little guineas are still finding ways out of the chicken yard. I'm working on it. They're not quite two weeks old, and real feathers are already replacing the fuzz on their wings. I found them sunning and dusting in a striped heap on the old compost pile, while their parents worried a few feet away inside the chicken yard. Confident little fellows.

Em and Richard came up yesterday, delivering a teacher's desk and staying to haul the last of last year's beets and carrots from the basement. We shelled peas and talked about Em's Grandma Betty, who was an accomplished pea-sheller and a big nut. We miss her. They left with veggies for tortoises and for people.

C. canned a batch of dill pickles and two of green beans last night, and more beans and some carrots today. The pantry shelves are slowly filling up.

Pea and bean picking is a daily chore. Those vines are out there pumping out pods and seeds every day.  Little today, big tomorrow. Amazing.

The deer continue to nibble here and there, but nothing catastrophic since we flopped chicken wire over the cabbages and the lower row of pole beans. And recent rains have greened up the grass a bit, so maybe we'll get to harvest most of what we planted.

I've got rolls rising, and hope to have the first melty-parmesan-and-tomato sandwich of the summer before I fall asleep tonight. Mmmm.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Some days we are stupid

Or at least ineffectual.

Autre and the chicks managed to escape their pen in the chicken house. OK, it was a lame pen. So I slowly pursue her around the chicken yard, trying to take it easy on her poor leg. She freaks out, runs past me one way, runs past me the other way. I am not winning, and she is limping. I finally wave her into the chicken house, and close the little chicken door. I go around into the human door, corner her, reach down… and she goes through my legs and out the human door, which I had neglected to pull closed. So the chicken I'm trying to protect is limping and loose in the wide world full of predators. Good job.

She gives me this sharp, disappointed look – "What the hell is wrong with you today?" – and limps off down the hill.

Later I find her outside the chicken yard, talking to her chicks, and shoo her in. I beef up the pen, and close the little family up tight when they come in for bed.

The little guineas keep sneaking through the fence and boobling off with their irresponsible uncles while mom fusses and calls from the chicken yard. In a few more days they'll be safer, too big to squeeze through the wire, but I worry about them injuring a foot or wing on the fence. Ot getting eaten by the neighbor's cat, who is fond of tender young striped-ass birds. Or stepped on by a goat.

One of the little pied guys spied a big old grasshopper in the yard today, and snatched it up and ran off with it. All the others zipped after her, trying to grab it away. The hopper would struggle and she'd drop it and try to peck it in to submission, then have to take it up again and hustle away from the other little birds. I don't know who won. Fierce little birds.

We picked peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and greens for the bunnies. C. has the fridge full of carrots to can.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday – and August

Another 100-degree day. C. is working on her second batch of pickles. I picked beans and peas, and greens for the rabbits. Filled up the Subaru dehydrator with typhon leaves. Boy, if times got tough and I had a lot of people to feed, I'd grow typhon and sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes). Easy to take care of, and very, very productive. Not real exciting to eat, but hungry people are easy to please.

We got a little deer damage in the garden last night. White-tailed bouncing bastards.

Autre is limping, so I cordoned off part of the chicken house for her and the two chicks so she can get some rest away from the guineas, who give her a hard time.

The little keets are growing, and are now almost too big to squeeze through one-inch chicken wire. I had to boost a little pied one through the wire where she'd gotten stuck. And we discovered we have 13 of the little guys. Had to count them in a photograph – it's impossible to get an accurate count with them darting around after mom.

I bought eggs and milk from Rose today, and met her new red border collie pup, Fritzie. She has five now, all with better manners than our six barbarians.

I'm recovering from a tough week: a four-hour workshop thing at work where I had to interact and share with my office mates, and a medical test that involved fine needles and electric currents.

It's good to be home. Really good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A dozen little goobers!

 The setting guinea has done very well and hatched 12 little guys. And Johnny-and-Edgar has done well also, because three of them are pied, and he's got to be their papa. They are cute as bugs and just as quick.

We've penned them in the chicken yard. Mom is pissed, but it's the only way they'll survive to become adults. I think the neighbor's cat got the last batch.

This little guy is tired of following his mum around, and is catching a few winks on his feet.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Making pickles

It's a cloudy Saturday. Rained a little. This big old building really amplifies the noise, so we could hear the rainstorm woosh up the hill. Pretty cool.

C. is making the first batch of pickles of the year.

She puts dill and spices in each jar, then crams in as many cucumbers as possible (green Parisian pickling cucs, top, and miniature whites, bottom), then ladles pucker juice in and puts them in the canner for 15 minutes of boiling.

As you can see below, it looks like a cucumber year. Look at all those blooms!

Mama guinea No. 2, Tinier Wattles, is still sitting (or is it setting?) on her dozen+ eggs. I worry about her, especially after Tiny Wattles lost her four keets to predators. So I figured I'd move the nest and eggs into a crate, give her a few days to acclimate, then shift the family, crate and all, into the chicken house. Then the little guys would be safe and they'd sleep sheltered, rather than down past the garden where she built the nest.

So I went down to the nest, crate in hand. There she was.

All I had to do was sneak the eggs out from under her and into the crate.

She wondered where I got this damn-fool idea, and hissed at me. That means, "Back off, child-thief! I will wear your entrails around my neck like a pink feather boa!"

I kept coming. She sounded the hideous CHI-CHI-CHI! alarm, and the other birds joined in from the chicken house, and flew down to help her kill me. (If death would stop that noise, it would be welcome.) Then she flew up in the air and smacked me in the head with her claws. That means, "I will wet my wattles in that gelatinous stuff inside your eyeballs."

I was sure this was a great idea, though, and shooed her off, taking a few scratches to my hands. I made a very nice nest of straw in the crate, and transferred those little warm eggs into it with my left hand, waving her off with my right. Forgot to count them, dammit. I poked the crate into the old nest spot, then backed off. The whole polka-dotted group stood there looking at me.

She was puzzled. She went in the crate, and out, and around the back. Huh. In, out, around again. Then she wandered off and pecked at grass seeds. I could feel the eggs cooling. I scratched around under the crate and brought out some soft grass and downy feathers from the old nest, and draped them across the eggs.

She liked that better, and settled on the nest. As I left, she was making the happy-setting-guinea sound, like crazy drunken laughter. My poor neighbors.

But later I saw her rolling an egg out of the crate, and around the back. I gave up, restored the eggs and bedding to the original nest and slunk off with the crate.

Where do I get these damn-fool ideas?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pretty good day so far

It's in the mid 80s with a light breeze. Pleasant. We've been over in the bunny room, plucking Rue and Bob. C. is working on getting their angora fuzz listed in her Etsy shop, Ovinia. She is a perfectionist, though, so first we have to have great photos of each rabbit, and great shots of fuzz. And they all need plucking right now, so we're doing one or two a day all weekend.

You can see the plucked part there on Rue's back and right butt cheek. And you can see how peevish she is by the set of her ears. She is the least tame of all the rabbits, and will readily bite or claw. Not this time, though.
That's a dirty look I'm getting here.

We're beyond broke this month, so I resurrected my squidglass Etsy shop and relisted a bunch of pendants for $10, instead of the usual $16. I had a thriving shop until 2008, when people lost their jobs and quit buying silly jewelry. I've made a few half-hearted attempts to resurrect the shop since, but now I think I might be back in the groove. We'll see.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cooling trend

It's 70 degrees out! The hot spell has finally let up, and it's been drizzling all day. Glorious.

And guess who I found running around unsupervised outside the chicken yard? The little gray girl. So I scooped her up and played with her.

And I know you're wondering… what's with her hairdo? 

Definitely not normal chick headgear. Are we a greaser – that would make this a DA, no? Or are we a B52? A Sex Pistol? Maybe a member of Flock of Seagulls? Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Early July

It's still freakin' hot. There's suppose to be a thunderstorm this afternoon, which would be a nice break from hot, hot, hot.

The mama guinea and her babies have disappeared. We're bummed. Coyotes? Dogs? Lo.

That leaves us with one hen and seven roosters. She's got a nest with 14 eggs in it, hidden down below the garden. I'm plotting penning her in until the eggs are hatched and keets half-grown, at least.

C. is feeling crummy and is crabby. We're all crabby in this heat.

I've been tinkering with the garden watering "system," which has turned out to be a pain in the ass. The only good thing about it is that I get sprayed with cool water every time the glue fails or a line springs a leak. Which is quite often.


Sunday, June 28, 2015


It's 101 outside. Fleadgh. I darted out to put water on a bean patch that looked a little sad and feed the birds, then dragged my poor wilted self back inside. Ugh.

Spent an hour and a half shelling peas. I love peas. Going to sit still now and read a bit. More peas later.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Moths and baby birds

C. found some wool moths in her studio, so she's been spreading fleeces in the sun to kill the bugs. And Jazzbert found some nice fuzz all spread out in the garden…

Jazzy likes sheep.
Jazzy rolls in sheep.

Jazzy disappears.

I let Autre and the chicks out to roam, and eat bugs. I think they're fighting over a grub. 
While guineas are industrious and generally find their own food, chickens tend to 
wait for somebody else to find something, then steal it. 

The keets are getting tall.

Mom and Le Boyfriend take them all around the field. The four little guys hustle right alongside.