Friday, November 25, 2016

The rabbit problem

C. is off somewhere, so I'm finishing the last of the apple pie. Heh heh.

She's planning to crawl under the building today and turn the outside water off. And hike down to the pump house and turn the heater on. Then I suppose we should gather up hoses and garden stuff and put it all away for the season.

I've been on rabbit-colony duty for some months now. C. does a better job of cleaning it, but she's got plenty of other things to do. (I don't mention that they are her rabbits – and you talked her into getting them, Emma Rose!) Not that I'm bitter. I'm really not. I like the rabbits.

Being hippie idealists, we've worked to keep them in a utopian colony, despite bunny squabbles. You know – everyone getting along, sharing common spaces, frolicking together. We had a great bunny colony years ago. But this one has not been successful. Monty Python was right about rabbits – they can be vicious little bastards. I'm serious.

We started out with a colony of six: Smokey and Crystal, and their four offspring, Rue, Marty, Fondu and Plum Bob. They have known each other all their lives; the four males are neutered. The basis for a stable, happy community, right?

Over time, Bob got aggressive and had to be moved to a cage. Marty, the pushy little runt, has had his face ripped up twice. Rue and Crystal (the girls) have gone after each other. Fondu the Magician is pretty mellow, but will not put up with being hassled. Rue hassled him, got her face all cut up, and now Rue is in a cage. Crystal seems to get along with Fondu, so they have the run of the colony (the old boys' bathroom) and Smokey, who is a sweet-natured housebroken guy who gets along with everybody, is installed in our bathroom. Marty is in there now, too, though he is not housebroken.

So, basically, a maximum of two of our rabbits can be housed together. The utopian colony is a bust.

Since I have to separate them, I'm working on building some "rabbit condos," which are large cages with multiple levels that encourage jumping, climbing and play.

Lola's bunny condo, from
The plan is to build a condo for everybody (in pairs, if possible) and let them take turns running loose in the room, and in the bunny yard in summer. Rabbits are trendy house pets these days, and there are a bunch of groups promoting humane housing and treatment for them. You can find lots of info online abut house rabbits – but watch out for meat-rabbit sites. Our bunnies are fiber animals first and pets second, but not dinner. We don't need to see graphic photos of rabbit "processing," thank you very much.

So, yeah, working on the rabbit problem. In the usual slo-mo. With pie.

Pie and chocolate

 We don't celebrate Thanksgiving. We like our holidays less touched by genocide.

But K. and S. came up to visit, with our charming new grandbaby. She's a month old, about the size of a loaf of bread, and very snuggly. Here she is, sleeping on her papa.

We had homemade (from our giant Jarradale squash) pumpkin pie and chocolate bars. It was good.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Keet feet, and more rain

That's how they sleep, all flopped over like rubber chickens. And there is the second most recent innovation, a stick for a perch, so they can practice roosting like the big birds. Sometimes they actually use it.

Today I put a brick in there, so they could climb up closer to the heat lamp. Teeny was looking a little cold, and she has trouble gripping the perch with her tiny feet. The brick would hold the heat, and is just about exactly Teeny-sized.

They all went apeshit. The big scary brick was in one corner, and they huddled in another, making pathetic cricket cries of distress and trying to climb up each other to safety. Their mother warned them about big scary bricks. Wait – their mother never warned them about anything, just left them to freeze to death on their first day out of the eggs. Sheesh. I guess they are a little nervous. The freaking goes on for an hour. So I cover the brick with loose straw. OMG! Big scary brick! Big scary straw! 

I offered them hard-boiled egg, all mashed and yellow and delicious, in the dish in another corner. They all climbed on top of the egg in the food dish and hid from the brick. 

Now I know I should let them settle down (if they ever will), but this is going to be so great, right? In goes a second brick, in another corner under the water bottle. OMG! They are flapping  and flailing like crazy birds. I was hoping the increased height would keep them from pooping in the water dish. But now the water bottle is tippy. So out with the old, in with a new water bottle. OMG! They are down to one safe corner. Every other place is fraught with peril.

I give up. Finally.

In other news, it's still raining. C. made apple pie yesterday.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lazy Saturday

I wake every few hours all night long (I guess that's common with MS), so I'm not up until 10 or later. No ball of fire, me. On top of that, today feels like a lazy day. C. doesn't recognize those, so she was out digging sunchokes, hauling wood in, cleaning the chimney topper.... 

I'm in my chair, glasses off, jammies on, outlook puckered. Meh. Wonder what's for supper.

I did booble out and feed the chickens. 

The goats appeared as Earl and I were hauling the bucket of chicken food from the car. They were all fresh and curly from the rain – it's back to monsoon season now, with snow just around the corner. They pushed their way to the bucket. Since I'd made sure to clip the lid on tightly, we weren't worried. Put the bucket down, opened the gate, and Earl herded them right in. Good boy.

One egg today – one of the hairdos, Dovey's pullets, is laying lovely little blue eggs. Nobody else is contributing, so we've been buying eggs from our milk lady.

A younger hairdo, from summertime.

The hairdos, with their helmet hair.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The wood pile grows

The daughters were up the other day. S. brought bags of duck bedding for garden mulch and composting, and helped C. on the roof.

Em and Richard got two loads of wood while we watched Liam. Bella the weiner granddog came along to guard the wood stove and beg for spaghetti.

C. and Liam discussed something at length. Walter stood guard. I stuffed the handsome boy full of food and did diaper duty.

Bella is pretty funny. Her former person (Richard's mom) taught her to sit up and beg, which she does with gusto, pawing the air and mooing. 

C. cooked up some really tasty spaghetti sauce with our canned tomatoes and frozen pesto, and Em brought unmeatballs. Delicious.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mushroom business

We went mushrooming again today, and found some beauties.

And I found a great website for identifying boletes (mushrooms with spongy pores instead of gills). You pop in your region, cap color, stem color and a few more variables, and it pulls up your possibilities. Then you cross-check with other sites and photos, and cook up and sample a tablespoonful (just in case you have some sort of sensitivity to a particular shroom).

This according to

 No boletes are known to be deadly; however a few that can make you very sick. In Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard, Nicholas Money opines that Boletus satanus, understandably known as Satan’s Bolete, “can make people shit themselves senseless.” Caution in bolete ingestion is thus in order.

These are suillus caerulenscens, or the blue-staining suillus. It's an orangey-brown boletus with yellow pores that turn brown with age or bruising. Slice it in half and you'll see yellow flesh in cap and stem, and a blue stain at the base of the stem that quickly fades to pinkish. Edibility: good.

C is cleaning them for the drier – these may be more trouble that they are worth, she says. The slimy coat on the caps needs to be removed, as well as the pores on older specimens. Our boletes measure about 3 inches across the cap, and that's a lot of fussing with a small fragile mushroom. We'll see what's left of them.

Now if they were king boletes (boletus edulis), I could see it. Those puppies can be 14 inches across and weigh 6 pounds.

The king

OK, it's my turn to wash mushrooms.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ides of Nov


Rainy Monday. I woke early to a new tap... tap... tap noise. I've learned to never ignore that sound. We have a brand new leak in the hall. Positioned a couple of buckets and went back to sleep.

Now C. is up on the rooftop with a bucket of black roof goo. It's probably a tiny hole where a nail has worked its way loose up through three layers of tarpaper.

I've been on mushroom-washing duty. I'm on the third grocery bag of the big white funnels, the really dirty ones. I wash 'em, C. slices them, we rotate them through the driers and into jars.

Earl and I were out decanting chicken food from a sack in the car into a bucket this morning. (I keep the 40-pound sacks in the car, or in the hallway in a lidded garbage can – the better to repel goats, mice and Earl.) Filled the bucket, closed the car hatch, boobled toward the chicken house. And then we saw the goats. They had escaped their pasture and were loitering near the chicken yard. "Shit," I believe I said. Earl wagged in agreement. 

The bucket had no lid. The goats weigh about 80 pounds each. I tend to fall over. We continued on. 

I brandished my cane, a heavy black one, in a preemptive way, and made rude eye contact. "Move, you bastards," I believe I said. They came ahead; I tried to ward them off with the cane; they came on over and under the cane simultaneously and planted their big horned heads in the bucket and pushed; I hit the ground just after the bucket. Bastards. I haul myself back up. My robot jammie pants (yes, I am retired) are all muddy at the knees. My hands are covered in mud and chicken shit. The horned bastards are hoovering layer crumbles from the ground. I briefly consider gimping into the house and asking C. to help me put these damn goats back in the pasture, just like a big baby. 

Hell, no. I grab the bucket and again make for the chicken house. The goats leave the pile of grain on the ground and go for the bucket, shoving their heads inside. I reef on someone's horns, spin around and go down again. More mud on the robo-jams. I climb back up. This time I fetch the big goat a smart rap on his nose with the cane. He seems surprised, and backs away. Little goat brother makes an end run around Earl and the cane and goes back to chowing on chicken grain. I fetch him a smack on the nose, too. I call Earl over and we push the goats back toward the pasture gate. I get the gate open, and we get one in, but the other escapes. We start over. Noses are smacked. One is in, the other hesitates... "Get 'em, Earl!" I cry, and he does. Gate closed.

Chicken breakfast was served in a big pile on the patio.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mushroom mustaches

Friday Emma and Liam came up, and Liam stayed with me while Em and C. went mushroom hunting. I think all of us had a good time.

Liam and I worked on our animal noises (he enjoys the sheep), and had a little nap.

Em and C. came home lugging bags of heavy mushrooms. Fall, a few frosts, lots of rain and the forested north side of the mountain mean a pretty good haul.

C. and I sliced some up and loaded the driers. They picked the same varieties we found last time: giant funnels, saffron milk caps and red-gill corts. And a few others, of course, but we haven't identified those yet.  Below, some funnels, all mustache-shaped in the drier.

The wool C. dyed with the first batch of red-gilled corts came out a lovely soft pink-to-cream. She's frozen the leftover dye in case she wants a lighter pink at some point. I think she's planning a darker batch (more mushrooms, less wool) next.

Remember to wash your mushrooms. And leave some for the slugs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Stocking up

I got to missing my work buddies, so a few of us met at the local pastry place for very fudgy brownies and conversation. Most satisfactory.

Then down to business: big-time grocery shopping. Like the pioneers did it – staples for a month or so. Well, OK, not really like the pioneers. I didn't harness Buck and Nelly to the buckboard. But I did brave the huge WinCo warehouse and obtain sacks of oats, rice, flour and sugar. That's a whole new mindset for me – planning ahead and shopping just once or twice a month, instead of often and on impulse at lunch or after work. Any little thing I forget now means making a special trip the 25 miles to town. Or doing without.

Beer and chocolate are first on any list. Staples, you know.

The little keets are doing well. The big brown one was being weird yesterday,  bobbing her head and wiggling her neck around in an uncomfortable way. We'd just discovered that they go nuts for skinny little strips of cabbage. A brave one would rush up and grab the cabbage "worm" at one end and gulp it down like a pelican with a big fish, while everyone else tried to steal it. That was really fun to watch, so we gave them more and more cabbage. We figured the poor little guy had a great wad of cabbage in her crop (she found it impactful). We gave her a few drops of olive oil and that seemed to solve the problem. Little pigs. They can polish off an entire mashed-up hard-boiled egg in about 15 minutes.

Off to bed. That pioneer shopping really wears you out.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Beekeeping e-book giveaway!

I'm a regular reader of "5 Acres & A Dream," the homesteading blog written by Leigh Tate. She tells stories of the Tate mini farm – their animals, gardens, building projects – with lots of detail and lots of photos. She's not only an ambitious, hardworking homesteader, she's a writer with several books to her credit.

And she's willing to share them with us.

Here's the deal: this first giveaway is for her e-book, "Honeybee Tales & Postscript." It's part of her "Critter Tales" series. (Later we'll give away her "Chicken Tales" e-book.) I get a copy of the e-book for holding the giveaway, and one lucky reader will win a copy as well.

Critter Tales Vol. 9, Honeybee Tales, focuses on the author's choices and selection of natural beekeeping and the top bar beehive. Explains the Warré philosophy of beekeeping and introduces the reader to the Warré beehive. Discusses the use of essential oils to attract bees and repel Varroa mites, nadiring to expand the hive, and planting a bee garden. 

Leave a comment on this blog post and you'll be entered in the contest. The deadline is Nov. 12. I'll put everybody's name in a hat and draw the winner. Leigh will send the winner a link to download his/her preferred format of the e-book.

So leave me a comment!

Here's her bio:

Leigh Tate has always loved living close to the land. From the back-to-the-land movement to the modern homesteading movement, the agrarian lifestyle is the one she says feels like home. She and her husband currently homestead five acres in the foothills of the Southern Appalachians. Their vision is to become as self-sustaining as possible by stewarding their land, animals, and resources. Leigh's homesteading activities include gardening, food preservation, foraging, raising goats, chickens, and guinea fowl, herbs, cheese making, permaculture landscaping, spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, quilting, natural dying, soapmaking, wood cookstove cookery, and renovating their old 1920s farmhouse.

Her paperback book "5 Acres & A Dream" is available from Amazon.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bathing the babies

Living on dirt in a cardboard box has left the little birds kinda scroungy. C. suggested we do a bit of bathing as I moved them into a clean new box. Not full-immersion baths – they would probably get chilled – but more sponge baths. Like when your grandma scrubs your face with beer on a kleenex. 

We got the Q-tips out, and a bowl of warm water, and stroked them gently. They loved it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mushroom identification

Gathering these guys is the fun part. We've been at the computer for hours with a plate of half-mushrooms, narrowing down the possibilities.

Though there is so much info on the web, I haven't found a single site that answers all my questions. So I skip around. I usually start with a website like Northern Bushcraft. That often will give me enough info to try an image search for, say, yellow russula, and narrow things down from there.  Here is a pretty awesome list  of mushroom links. And this PNW key site can be useful. I just looked under "gilled" and through the photos, found Hygrocybe flavescent, a waxy yellow mushroom with yellow gills, and googled the latin name, looking at images and descriptions. I think that's what the yellow ones are, but will try a spore print and look at some of our other specimens. (We try to get young and older mushrooms when we pick – it helps with the identification.) Sometimes I just google "yellow mushroom yellow gills." 

I've just downloaded the MatchMaker freeware program for mushroom identification in the Pacific Northwest here. We'll see how it works.

The results

No. 1 is the saffron milk cap, Lactarius deliciosusa good-sized orange 'shroom that bruises green. Edible. This one is going to be dinner.

No. 2 is the red gill, Cortinaria neosanguineas. It's not edible, but can be used to dye wool and silk shades of red, orange and purple. C. is excited to try it, especially since most natural dyes impart a poopy gold or brown color. And there are lots more of these mushrooms out there. The deep russet-red gills are the key to identifying this guy; all parts of it are rich with color. Apparently the older caps give  the richest reds; young caps and stems give an orange color.

Here's the Old World version of this mushroom, from an old natural history.

C. has the dye pot simmering.

The rest of them are still unidentified. We'll keep at it.

It's pretty nice out – think I'll go work on cleaning up the garden.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The First Day (of the rest if my life)

OK, not a great start. I'd planned to sleep late, on this, my first day of retirement. No, some idiot forgot to reset the cell-phone alarm. No big, though.

So I make biscuits, dig out the choke-cherry jelly, and nosh at the computer. I email my buddies at the office, and get caught up on stories, grandkids' soccer, weekend plans. Then I get sucked into some kerfluffle over a client wanting changes made to a job after I'd sent it to the print shop. A client who is a PIA, but not a PI-my-A any longer. Not my problem. Walk away, dude. Hey, I did walk away! So walk away again.

I know they can do this without me.

I may need counseling.

The chickens are grousing about the day's lean rations. Earl and I prepare to head out to Deer Park to pick up some stuff with chicken pictures on the sack. Wait – the car is totally crammed with boxes from my office.

My cubicle was full of 26 years of books, papers, strange decor (Kung Fu Hamster, African masks, full sheets of fusing glass, a tooth off a backhoe bucket, a tractor seat, my favorite thrift-shop find: a painting of Walt and Shirley – or Delbert and Peggy – in square-dance finery, a big pink stuffed squid...), work samples, paper samples, CDs.... I spent five hours Sunday packing this crap and mopping dusty and crumbed surfaces. Em and Richard, bless their hearts, came up and loaded the car while I finished.

I haul a couple of wheelbarrow-loads of office stuff into the house, and Early and I head for the feed store. He is an excellent traveling companion, except for occasionally licking at my glasses when I'm trying to drive. We pick up some layer crumbles (sort of like chicken nuggets – but not). We even score some rather dubious amaretto for the warm and warming beverage on the cold nights.

C. and I empty the rest of the office gear into my studio, and we head out to our mushrooming spot on the north side of Mt. Spokane. Now this is retirement. The woods are dark and sodden, big old cedars looming over forest litter – and hundreds of mushrooms. A medium-sized creek rushes by below.

That's C. down near the creek, snipping some of the interesting red-brown ones into a bag. 

(These are phone photos, so excuse the poor quality. I didn't plan on taking pics, so didn't bring the camera proper. I did plan on playing Scrabble while I waited for C., though, so the phone came along.)

Here's some of our bounty. Yes, we will carefully look them up and take spore prints and try small samplings before making a meal of these lovely things. 

I'll close with a couple of gratuitous guinea shots.

I know it's not summer any longer, but I finally figured out how to get photos off the phone!