Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A miracle egg

Or maybe a mutant egg.

That's four again today. Light Hairdo, Skeeter, LBH and... a tiny, tiny chicken? I think it's a weird little extra from Light Hairdo. The color is right. The pimply bumps are interesting. I wonder what's inside – just a yolk?

Chickens will sometimes produce strange things – eggs without shells, double-yolkers. I figure it's one of those. Or a publicity stunt for the band Chicken McJesus.

In other news, the heavy snow has collapsed the lobster pot chicken tractor. Pretty sure I can pop it back into shape after the snow is gone. And C. is planting onion seeds in pots inside.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Clean straw!

...for them to poop on, as Triumph the insult dog would say. Lovely bright yellow straw is an improvement on the brown poopy stuff. The middle gold hen is in every shot, evidently hoping Hollywood is reading the blog.

You can see our homemade gear –  waterer made from a three-gallon bucket with chicken-head holes cut out, and feeder made from a gallon jug.

I finished going through the vacuum bag for my missing bicuspid crown. Dammit. Leaving it on the bookcase was a $1000 mistake. Why didn't I put it in something – a pill bottle, a tiny Ziplock, anything. I left it in a beer-bottle cap, and something carried or knocked it off. We'd hoped C. vacuumed it up, but nooooooo. That's the magnet-on-a-stick in the photo there. I thought the magnet might pick up the little screw in the bottom of the thing. And I know it's kinda grody to think of my tooth in all that dog hair and dirt, but, hey, it could be washed off. Boiled, even. If only it were there. Sigh.

In other exciting news, I made hippie crispies (peanut butter, honey, Rice Crispies, and melted chocolate chips for drizzle). They are OK. Not great. They're a little crumbly without the usual (and bad for you) marshmallows, and taste a little too much like a peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich. Quick and easy, though.

Four eggs today.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Expedition to the barn

Earl and I drove over to the barn today to get some straw for the chicken house. There's still lots of snow, now frozen and thawed and frozen enough to hold my weight – most of the time. We climbed up the plow berm and down the plow berm, squeezed through the iced-up gate, and climbed the piles of hay bales into the back of the barn where the loose straw is piled. This is the stuff left from last winter's 4x4x8-foot bale.

Filled four re-re-recycled garbage bags full (those puppies are getting pretty raggedy) and sledded them out and up and down to the car. Good thing the goats were over by the house, moaning for grain, as they like to dance on the bags.

C. will spread the new straw over the poopy old stuff on the chicken house floor, giving everybody a clean, dry surface. Come spring, we'll rake all this "deep bedding" out into the garden, and start over.

Five eggs today. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Teeny in the house

C. brought the littlest guinea in – remember Teeny, one of the October keets we raised in the house, the one who ate a long thread and stunted her growth? She's a spunky little thing. She's somehow managed to freeze some of her toe-tips off, despite the heated styrofoam keet house inside the chicken house. So C. bathed her stubby feet in warm water and betadine, which Teeny enjoyed. We dried her off, and C. shot these pics as I was getting ready to take her back out and sneak her onto a perch.

What a funny little bird.

In other news, all three of the kids and the two grandbabies came out to visit today. We had fun, passing the babies around and having conversations with them. And conversations with the kids, too.

Emma said she might remember where the tomato seeds went. I'll look tomorrow in the daylight.

Gung hey fat choy!

A visit to the She Who Seeks blog alerted me to the fact that today is the beginning of the Chinese or Lunar New Year, and it's the Year of the Fire Rooster. Gung hey fat choy!

She mentions that, according to Susan Levitt and Jean Tang in Taoist Astrology, the Year of the Rooster is:

. . . a time of practical endeavors, conscientiousness, hard work, and discipline. Politically conservative police states gain power, and law and order are championed.

That tallies with the bizarre turn American politics has taken this year.

Keep your beaks up, my fellow Americans. Hang in there. Speak out for decency, fairness, honesty, openness. Stand up for your neighbors. We're all in this together, as Red Green reminds us.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Six eggs! Is it spring?

OK, five eggs, because the two at right are probably from LBH, so one must be from yesterday. Unless one is a guinea egg, though they are usually fair-weather layers. Still, this is great! We've had no eggs, then one, then two or three – but this is a serious haul. I'm pleased.

The birds are generally kinda crappy looking, without dust to bathe in, and being confined by snow to the chicken house and yard with all those barbarian guineas. Days are getting longer and it's warmer out so they boobled around the yard and garden fence a bit today. No one has wanted to free range in the dead of winter, though we leave the gate open in the daytime. They're looking forward to getting greens and bugs. Me, too.

From front, Light Hairdo, Sooty Hairdo and their mom, Dovey. Sooty lays
pale blue eggs, and her sister lays pink ones. Dovey's are biggest, and bluest.
The boys. No name, top left, the sooty roo, left, and Graham.

That's Festunio the rooster, on the left. He looks a lot like The Predator. The hen is the middle gold bird.

I've been trying to figure out how many chickens we have. It's not easy. We have the five hens I got from some weirdos (Foggy, LBH and the three gold ones). Dovey and her two hairdos. We traded the mean hen, and two died, and two pullets disappeared (we blame the neighbor cat). So that's eight hens. Six eggs a day is probably as good as we'll do, unless the bathroom pullet recovers and rejoins the flock. Or somebody goes broody and hatches more chicks. And roosters? Graham and his striped boys Festunio, Cecile and the unnamed fellow, plus the sooty roo (formerly Elke, the white chick). Five roosters. That's four too many, but we don't eat them so we'll put up with them unless they start fighting, then will put them on Craig's List and someone else will eat them. Keep the peace, boys!

Dovey's dad was a big Polish rooster, which explains the big birds and silly hairdos, and little Graham has supplied the stripes and fabulous tail feathers. 

So we have 13 chickens. Plus the little bathroom pullet. One of these days I'll have to count the guineas.

Still no tomato seeds.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Where, or where...

Are the freakin' tomato seeds? How are we supposed to order new seeds if we don't know what is left over from last year?

Dang. I've made a lovely text file of our old seed inventory, preparatory to ordering. It's not a spreadsheet – that would be way too anal. But it's very neat, and includes everything newer than 2011. Except for tomatoes. Bloody hell.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Winter puttering

I'm making dumplings for some of C.'s canned veggie soup (two quarts soup, one of tomatoes). The dumplings are a doubled batch from the classic Betty Crocker loose-leaf cookbook that everybody got for a wedding present in the '50s and '60s (and maybe even today).

Still waiting for a decision on the disability claim with Prudential (due to start next month!). Then I'll have to rush around and find health insurance.

I did a little puttering around the rabbit room – the condos now have a third story, and ramps from the first to second floors. I think they might be able to jump to the top floor, so am waiting to see. Ramps take up a whole lot of room.

I even put a few tools away. Weird, I know. C., out of kindness or a sense of defeat, has started gathering them into a bucket as she comes across them. I tend to shed tools wherever I do any work. My strategy for dealing with this sloppiness has been to buy many, many of each item (we probably have a dozen hammers, and had 67 pairs of scissors at last count). But, eventually, all 12 hammers are lying around our 11,000-square-foot building, and you have to use a ball-peen or rock hammer to smack a nail in. Not ideal.

I pick tools up for cheap at estate sales. Tools and screws and nails and bolts and lumber.... I love the kind of sale where an old guy spent a whole lot of time out in the garage, sorting screws into baby-food jars, smoking cigars and looking at his 1962 girlie or car calendar. I imagine his wife encouraged this, keeping him and his messes out of her nice house. I wish could hire that old guy to keep my tools sorted and sharpened and hanging neatly on pegboard – but he'd never put up with the way I treat them. Sigh.

I'm feeling like doing a little more. I've been brooding for months, pissed about coming down with MS, even though I know that bad shit happens to nice people and that many, many people have it hard. And that there are no guarantees that good luck or good health will happen or continue, yada yada yada. I know all that, but it's still hard to accept when it happens to me. After all, I'm fond of me. And don't I deserve the best? Apparently I'm not over the brooding. Anyway, I need to get past it and back to work on this place and on making some kind of art.

Willie the Pomeranian has been diagnosed with advanced diabetes, and sent home to die in peace. The vet suggested the Big Shot, but C. prefers to spend more time with him at home, as long as he is having a little fun. She bought him ice cream and Tofurky weiners, which made him really happy. We aren't sure how old he is – at least 15 and maybe as old as 17. He's nearly blind and very frail, but not in pain.

We haven't caught a mouse in ages.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

We are still here

So we survived the thaw. It sucked.

We had two feet of snow, frozen hard. And when it warmed up, all hell broke loose. The snow on the roof melted, but the storm drains were frozen. The water overflowed the foot-high waterproofing around the edges of the roof, and came pouring down the interior brick walls near the frozen drains. Usually our living area is protected by the shower basin (from the old girls locker room) near the storm drain, but this time the shower drain was frozen, too.

So it's been exciting, with bailing and jury-rigging water-catchment systems and pouring hot water down drains and pumping. We got very little sleep the first night, and hauled many buckets of water. The next day I ran a 10-foot length of pipe from a bucket, positioned under the worst of the leaks, out the dog door and away from the building. I tied up a sheet of plastic to gather other drips and channel them into the bucket. We also set a sump pump in the shower basin for any overflows. It worked pretty well for a half-assed setup, and we had to get up only once to check the buckets and run the pump that night.

 The storm drain seems to be thawed now, and the ominous dripping has stopped. I still have heaters on the shower drain, but there's no urgency. Things should continue to get better during the next few warm days.

We had a thaw-flood the first year we were here, then were OK the next two winters. So it's a frequent-enough happening that we'd better get some defenses ready.

I'm tired. We also got some water in the rabbit room, so all three bunnies are in the condo, up off the floor. I'm off to clean up the floor and add some ramps to the condos, so they have more space.

It's always something. I ache for spring.

Bought two gallons of milk and four dozen eggs from Rose.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Free dinner

We're having spuds baked in the coals of the wood stove for dinner. It's the first time we've tried it, and the results are excellent, if you ask me. It takes about 50 minutes for a medium-sized potato, turned halfway through. Wrapped in foil, of course.

We also keep a pot of water on the stove to act as a humidifier and to make tea.

These things delight me because I am cheap. And mostly Scottish. And a hippie. And cheap.

Years ago, when I lived off grid, I baked (lousy) bread in a stovepipe oven found in an antique shop. It was just a tin box with shelf and door, made to fit between pieces of stovepipe. I think I lost it in the divorce, dammit.

I have a scheme to run a coil of copper or stainless pipe through the stovepipe and out into the hall or bathroom. I can just see big waves of pipe along the lower walls – very sculptural. I'd need a pressure tank off a well pump, though.

C. has heroically saved another appliance through the magical art of cleaning. The fridge (massive, with ice maker) has been making a noise like a small plane taking off. Especially in the middle of the night. Me, I just put the headphones on. People like me have to buy a lot of appliances.

C. reefed it away from the wall, and took the vacuum and pokey brushes to it. Cleaned the dust out of all the crannies, oiled the fan, shoved it back into place. Now no more airplane noises, just a nice hum. It's a lesson to me – not to clean stuff, but to get her to clean stuff. It's miraculous what she does.

Her folks grew up in rural Montana during the Depression. They never gave up on a piece of machinery. Or broken pottery. Or ripped blue jeans. Fix it, use it up, or do without!

The animals are all doing OK, though Willie the Pomeranian seems to be aging rapidly. C. got him (ab)used from a shelter in Moses Lake, so we don't have any idea how old he is. Really, really old is our thought. Here he is in his younger days, in his sweater and with his tongue sticking out of his crooked jaw. He's a nice little guy except for the yappy Pomeranian thing.

The bathroom chicken is still in there, living like a queen in her cardboard box and dining on hard-cooked eggs sprinkled with sand. I held her for a while today and let her look at herself in the mirror. She was interested.

The winter batch of guinea keets are finally perching with the other birds, instead of humping up in the heated styrofoam box.We're so proud.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Big ol' moon

The full moon is out there, lighting up the snow and casting serious shadows. It makes me think of Cat Stevens and David Bowie.

We made a trip tonight up to Rose's for two gallons of milk and four dozen eggs, which enabled me to sit here slurping warm tapioca pudding.

C. cut some stove wood from the log pile, and I pitched it...  toward... the porch. Didn't make it all the way. I'll finish tomorrow. Snow isn't expected until next week.

I'm especially gimpy, still recovering from my shopping trip yesterday. Costco, Winco, Safeway and the feed store are too much to do in one day. And there was all that digging in the snow the day before....

But the pantry is full (24 pounds of rice, 20 of whole wheat flour and 25 of rolled oats), and so is  the fridge, overflowing with cheeses and eggs and other good stuff. And we have vanilla, in case we get tired of baking with amaretto liquer. (I haven't noticed any difference.)

C. says I'm overly interested in food. I think I'm interested just the right amount. And food security is pretty important out here in the toolies, with a limited income. Harrumph.

I need to get the old seeds out, so we can put together our seed orders for the garden. It will, of course, be the best garden ever. That's our plan.

Crippled by Costco

Dear North Division Costco,

Please get more motorized carts. Three is not enough. You'll see some ugly scenes of people smacking each other with canes over the damn motorized carts. Then they will turn on you. Just sayin'.

Your friend,


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Plowed out

Em and Richard, bless their hearts, sent a plow guy out, and he did the whole driveway, from gate to gate. That didn't keep us from getting stuck in the next installment of snow, though. Em and Liam came out, and between the digging, sanding and towing, we finally made it to the driveway. From there, it was gravy. Cold, white gravy.

If we had plenty of money, winter would be easier. We'd call the plow guy after every snowstorm. But at $80 a pop, we hesitate. (That's how I can tell that I've officially become an old person – the cost of things today is shocking.) We'd get knobby new winter tires, too. And have wood delivered and stacked. And we'd get our old handyman out of rehab and hire him full time. That would be cool.

Anyway, giddy with my new freedom, I drove to Deer Park with Earl today, and picked up some essentials (gas, chicken food, cheese, pop and coffee). Earl had his usual car-ride treat, a small bag of goldfish crackers (with XTRA CHEDDAR!). I had my usual treat, a giant goodbar, with peanuts.

Earl wore his seatbelt, like a good boy.

I'm not risking the old parking spot, though. I parked right in the driveway, and we hauled groceries up to the house in the sled.

Tomorrow, it's a trip to Costco with Emma, Telli and two babies. Should be entertaining.

Now it's supposed to get cold again. Feh. But the days are getting longer, and we're getting ready to order seeds. Spring will come.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Warming up

It's 25 degrees out, making chores more pleasant. More snow is coming, along with freezing rain. I want a big thaw, dammit!

We lost a guinea to some unknown cause. Maybe SAD.

Caught a mouse yesterday, and one today. Seems like we kill one batch, then there's a lull, and another moves in. I suppose I should take one little corpse and leave it someplace as a warning.

C. is reading Natural Dog Care by Celeste Yarnall. I swear we will NEVER feed our dogs commercial food. Gah. I thought hot dogs were bad (lips and assholes, we always said), but at least hot dogs are free of shelter-animal corpses, diseased animal parts and animal shit, all of which are regularly found in dog food.

I know it's more convenient to open a sack with a picture of a dog on it, than it is to cook up a batch of brown rice and add vegetables, milk, bread and your dinner leftovers. Too bad. Soylent Green was probably convenient, too.

So check your dog food label for 'animal protein,' because that's something you don't want. And it's not just the cheap brands that use it. Can you buy dog food with human-grade ingredients? I bet you can – but cooking for your pets would be less expensive.

And apparently vaccines are pretty ineffective. Huh.

In more uplifting news, C. found a guinea snow angel. cool.

And there's the window of my unheated, unused studio. This spring I really will get moved in there and make some stuff.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Last night below zero

According to the weather guys, anyway.

The little hen is still sucking down hard-boiled eggs in the bathroom. She's a nice little bird. She's shaped kind of funny – all butt, with a little head perched above. And, of course, those wonky legs. Fixing her might be too much to ask of Vitamin B. We'll see.

I called the sheep over and gave them some oats. They were pleased.

It was -18 early this morning – no wonder the car refuses to start. I was going to put the battery charger on it, but the hood is frozen shut. And the driver's door, once opened, won't close. So it will have to sit there until the thaw.

This cold is great for the garden. We should see far fewer giant slugs and other pests. (Yeah, OK, I'm trying to put a happy face on it.)

I'm working on a supply list for the weekend – if I forget something important, I do without. I hate to do without. Chicken food is on the list, since they really gobble it down in this cold.

The house is warm. I think I'll make some cornbread, and more of those marbled brownies.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cold Wednesday

More of the winter groove. Brought wood in. Fed chickens. Fed rabbits.

Woke up worried about money – next month we have to learn to get by on 60 percent of my old salary. So my inner procrastinator has finally noticed the problem. Will be thinking on it.

Also woke up worried about running out of vanilla extract. We likes our pudding and brownies. But C. just laughed. Use amaretto, she says. Brilliant, I say. We have lots of it from Christmas.

The little chicken is pretty happy in the bathroom, where there are no mean guineas sending her ass-over-teakettle. (And, since her legs don't work right, it takes her a long time to get the teakettle back on top again.) She's a funny-looking little thing with a big pouffy hairdo. Kinda like JoAnn Worley, or the woman with the beauty shop on Murder She Wrote. What was her name?

Off to do a little work on my last job from work. Remember work? I almost do.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Snowed in

We're in holding pattern until it warms up.

It's maybe 18 degrees in the daytime; 5 to -5 at night. There's a cold wind that makes doing anything outside unpleasant. So far the electricity is holding up fine.

We're running low on Tillamook extra-sharp white cheddar cheese and vanilla extract; there's plenty of wood, beer and chocolate. I'll think we'll survive.

There's about 18 inches of very dry snow out there, more in drifts. It's the kind that makes creaking noises when you walk through it. Our little Subaru wagon gets high-centered and stuck in it; we're hoping the forecast of 32 degrees on the weekend happens – otherwise we'll be asking Em to make a run out to take us grocery shopping. Bless her heart, she'll probably do it.

C. braved the elements and chainsawed up some of the stockpiled logs into stove lengths today. We pitched in onto the porch, knocking most of the dry snow off.

The little pullet who couldn't (walk, that is).

We brought in one of the black chicks (now a striped pullet) that the gold hen hatched this summer. She's having trouble walking (though she was fine until recently). We think it might be a vitamin deficiency, so have installed her in the bathroom and are feeding her food rich in B vitamins. She really seems to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Did the usual: fed and watered the chickens and guineas (twice, since their water freezes so quickly), fed and watered the rabbits. Crystal and Rue are loose in the rabbit room, getting along fine, which makes chores easier. C. carried out a bucket of water for the big animals. They're still working on the hay I loosed for them Saturday.

We emptied the dining room in preparation for laying down a linoleum "rug" near the dog door. The little brats say it's too cold to go out and pee, and linoleum is a whole lot easier to clean than hardwood. We run them out several times a day, but somebody always manages to sneak in a puddle or two. We seem to run into this with older rescue dogs.

Read Snow Crash, a sci-fi bestseller by Neal Stephenson. Cool concept, really good in places, clunky in others. I think it's his first book, so he's apt to get better.

Eating on the bread and marbled brownies I made yesterday. Made refried beans from scratch to go with nachos. Not entirely satisfactory.

Now, scrabble and then sleep.

This retirement thing is pretty cool.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Big whup, huh. It's just a number, really.

More important is that it's freakin' winter. We just had another load of snow dumped on us, and there's a nasty cold wind blowing drifts around.

The kids came up with supplies (my box of Christmas gifts, and a whole lot of beer). So I popped presents in gift bags and passed them around. Liam was charming, as always. He's got four teeth, and is working on No. 5!

We had brown bread hot from the oven, with butter and honey, and they headed out into the snow. Half an hour later, they came back in. Their big SUV was stuck in the driveway.

C. went to help dig it out, and I watched the baby. (I know – I get the gravy jobs.) About two hours later, they had it done. C. rode along to score us some milk and eggs at Rose's – they dropped her off with milk and sled at the top of our driveway and she hiked back in. She arrived covered in snow, and beyond tired.

There's no thaw in the forecast – now it gets cold – and if this goes on much longer we'll have to hire a guy with a plow. Money is tight and we'd rather not.

We are warm and snug in our third-grade classroom.