Monday, May 30, 2016

End of May

Hurrah,  a three-day weekend! It's partly sunny/partly grey out, with enough of a wind to keep the skeeters off, mostly. The garden is shaping up nicely. C. planted more carrots today. The tomatoes are getting big enough to need supports, and the beds of greens are lush enough to provide the bunnies with a big bowl of salad every day, which makes them pee a lot. (As the person who cleans the rabbitat, I know this.)

We sheared half a sheep today. Which? The left, I believe. Savvy's left. She's looking rather dashing and punk. I'll get a photo tomorrow. If we were 20 years younger we might have sheared the whole sheep, but half was quite enough for me. She was an ass, as usual, lunging and fighting. She kicked me in the face once. Didn't break my glasses, though.

I've built a chicken tractor out of PVC hoops and fencing. The idea of the tractor is to harness the natural scratching action of chickens to clear out grass and weeds and turn the soil. (You can see their natural aptitude for this in the barren dirt of their yard.) Tractors also make use of the chicken's natural pooping power, a mighty force. So we hauled my 3-by-8-foot contraption (christened the Lobster Pot) out to a grassy spot at the edge of the cultivated garden, populated it with Graham and the three newish hens, and sat back to watch our garden expand through no effort of our own.

Progress is slow. The birds mostly pace back and forth, muttering threats.

We have a fresh batch of brownies. The kids are coming tomorrow, with little Liam. And we'll probably shear another half a sheep. Woohoo!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Happy peony and first salad

C. shot some photos of the peony she brought from Spokane three years ago. It likes it here.

She also made our first salad of the year, pretty good for mid-May. We didn't grow the avocado, the cheese or the dressing (but we did grow the arugula, spinach, asparagus, maruba santoh, miner's lettuce, dried tomatoes and onions).

Jazzbert, our little foofoo dog, is secretly an adventurer. And a slob. I like that about her. Jazzy goes into the garden looking like this:

 and gets comfortable.

Sometimes, when the muse amuses her, she makes art, which she brings back stuck to her butt.

C. retrieves it and mounts it tastefully on a bit of wood. This is Jazzy's piece, "I am a Horsewoman." It's my favorite example of her mature work.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Yes, we can all get along

I walked the new boys over to the barn, and now can't get them to leave it. They've tried and approved our grass hay. They've made friends with the goats. Now the four of them are a little herd, and the sheep have split off into their own herd. Flock. Whatever. Bambi, the new sheep, is now a real member of the group. I was beginning to feel sorry for her, eating lunch by herself and walking home alone. Now she has besties.

I spent most of the day making hats for cabbage heads out of chicken wire. You'd call them cloches, if you were French. Toques if you were Canadian. Ski hats with pompoms is what I say. C. wore one around the garden for a while and declared it satisfactory. Just the thing if the chickens develop a thing for purple hair.

We took a trip up to the backside of Mt. Spokane and cast around for mushrooms. No luck, but Earl and Annie had big nose fun.

The chicks are getting bigger and weirder. This girl looks like a bald eagle, but probably won't after her beard and goofy headgear come in. Note the feathers on her legs.

This one has a row of silly feathers on the top of her head. I think she wants to be a cartoon bird.

Tomorrow I go back to work. Sigh.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Meet the boys

Yes, we've decided to raise ostriches.

The bigger one in the blue halter is Apollo, the little guy peering out of his bangs is Phantom. Apollo spits, and Phantom kicks, according to the nice couple we got them from. So far they are well behaved and sticking close to the the gate of the pasture, trying to understand what the hell has happened to them (and now for something completely different…). Their former owners had cats. We have… other than cats. The boys find the guineas interesting, Earl the dog threatening, and the other big animals disturbing. We trust they'll feel comfortable enough soon to spit and kick.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday at home

I have a four-day weekend, and it's fabulous. So far I've done something, and something else. Whatever those things were, they gave me a nice glow of accomplishment. The weather is hot, with a good breeze to keep the skeeters off. We have Mexican pineapple pop and vanilla ice cream. Life is good.

We've been working on a job list for the hired man, a nice young fellow who is a friend of someone in the garden club. I want him to take the tall ladder and tack up some plastic over the exposed insulation in the entryway. So I go to the gym to gather materials. Roll of visqueen, check. Staple gun is harder. We have six or 10 of the things, and boxes and boxes of various sizes and shapes of staples. We have so many because I collect tools because I lose tools and because I like tools. (If you have a dozen hammers, you can probably find one when you need it even if the idiot who last used it didn't put it away.) I buy them at estate and yard sales because cheapness is wired into my genes, and because hippies never buy anything new (it's just wrong).

The red staple gun, our top machine for probably 20 years, has thrown a spring and we can't find the spring. OK. The hammer stapler died during the reroofing of the barn. Can't find even the carcass. There's a big silver one that looks good. It's an Arrow, though, and I don't see any Arrow staples. Plus I can't figure out how to put the staples in. If you've ever had a staple gun, you know how it is. There is no standardization among staplers. Some of them have floppy levers on the bottom, some have swiveling panels at the front, and some have to be opened with a hammer and are then very hard to close. I turn the thing around in my hands, poking at protuberances and twisting panels.

C. appears while I am trying to pick the Arrow open, so I pass it to her. She's clever at this and very patient, hardly ever resorting to the hammer. I go to pull more staplers from the top drawer, and – crap, the drawer is jammed. Opens maybe half an inch. Jiggling the drawer does not help. I'm reaching for the pry bar when C. intervenes. “You'll just make it worse,” she says. It's true – first I'll make it worse, then I'll break it. Works for me. She pokes various items in the drawer, trying to knock the jammy bit loose. It's hopeless. The handle of a stapler is jammed up against the drawer frame. I convince her to work on opening up the Bostitch so I can make the jammed drawer worse, then break it, while she is distracted. Works like a charm.

That lever pops the bottom on this Wards stapler.

We have a few boxes of Bostitch ammo.
The Arrow has a hatch in the back.
The nose opens on the Bostitch.

We end up with two working staplers with ammo. The others go into a pink drawer on a tool shelf. Hippies never throw anything away.

Gnarly old model with knob.
Store clerks used to staple bags closed with these.
The coolest thing in the stapler drawer is this glazier's model, which fires a little galvanized diamond into a window frame, holding the glass in tight.

The glazier's point shoots out the front of this gadget.

Looks like you load the points under this bar. 

Well, that was interesting (for me). Later in the day we got two new alpacas.

Monday, May 2, 2016

My copilot is an ass

So I've been very pleased with Earl lately. Why not? He's my buddy; he's handsome and loyal, and he likes car rides. Plus I think he thinks I'm smart and funny. And no doubt he admires me for my excellent thumbs. Today I caught him sneaking out of the hen house with an egg in his mouth. Honeymoon over.

Reminds me of an old Kids in the Hall skit, The Day I Connected with My Dog. Guy sitting on the couch, dog sitting on the couch, both watching sports on TV. Guy looks over at dog, dog looks at guy – the music swells, they stare into each other's eyes… and the dog belches. Connection over.

I'm not speaking to Earl. I look at him sadly and shake my head and he is ashamed. I hope he is sufficiently ashamed to stay the hell out of my eggs. Nobody, not even the copilot, messes with my hen fruit. Great speckled ass.

So C. and I treated the two buggy gold hens again tonight after work. Chicki-pedis for the pair of them.  I think we've killed all the leg mites, so now we're working on getting all the dead old lumpy scales off their legs and helping shiny new ones to grow in. The mites are just nasty - the chicken's feet get all crusty and stiff, and eventually their toes can lose circulation and fall off. Just gross. And a chicken that can't walk or perch doesn't live long.

We've given up rubbing on castor oil (not greasy or stinky enough) and now use a multipurpose farm goop that reeks of sulfur. I hold the bird on its back in back in my lap with her feet sticking up, and C. washes and dries her feet, scrubbing gently with a toothbrush. And we slather on the goop.

Skeeter, left, and Kvetch.

While we do the bigger hen with the black tail, the little one with the grey tail yells at us. I think we'll call her Kvetch. The big one is Skeeter, because as she is lying there upside down having her legs worked on, she gobbles up all the mosquitos buzzing around me. (I always forget to use bug spray, and they find me delicious.) She'll snatch them right off my arm. She is a rock star among chickens. I wonder if she likes to ride in the car.

Here's Skeeter, a fine bird. This photo dates from her first day here, and you can see how bad her feet are.
They're looking much better now (top pic).

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Earl is my copilot

And he's had a good few days. Thursday we bumbled into a stranger's birthday party, and while he didn't get ice cream and cheesecake (I did), he got to hang out with a half-dozen new dog-friends and was admired and patted by new people-friends. Saturday he went to an estate sale and made friends while I rummaged for treasures in a rusty garage. We had Zip's ice cream cones after. His was in a cup, and he was so pleased to remove and inhale the strange crispy cone and find… more ice cream! Ice cream is probably the best thing ever, we agreed.

These events were preceded and followed by one of his favorite things – riding in the car. Earl digs the car. Weekday mornings he hops in and sits while the car warms up, then goes back inside when I leave for work. He waits in the car when I drive a few hundred feet to the barn to feed Dovey and the little chicks. Sometimes C. will come along and claim the passenger seat, sending Earl to the back, and he manages to be polite about it. He's a good boy. Doesn't he have an excellent rubbery nose?

We caught Pants the goat and C. combed the cashmere off him today. He's been leaving tufts of it around the pasture and on the chicken-yard door, the brat. (Yes, C's hair is purple. It matches her hideous muumuu, which I believe I bought for her. The other day I asked her opinion of some new-to-me Hawai'ian shirts I'd bought, and she laughed. "You're asking someone with purple hair?") Pants was alternately calm and hysterical, and managed to eat a quart of grain, leap onto a picnic table and pee on the muumuu before we were done. Now we are tired.