Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Winter hike

I stumped up to the mailbox today, loaded up my mail bucket with bills and seeds and stuff, stopped by the barn and loosed five or six bales of hay for the big animals, and crept back home. The snow was about six inches deep most places so it was pretty easy going. Didn't fall once, even going up and down the plow berm.

The goats were excited when they saw the bucket (every bucket, even upside down, is full of grain, according to their little pea brains), but were happy enough with hay.

Spent the rest the day fussing with the windowsills (adding salvaged 12x12 stone tiles and moving plants) in prep for the big seed-starta-palooza.

C. split some wood, after wrestling with the quilt project.

Our eight fine hens laid seven lovely eggs.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Come on, spring!

Got "Congo Square" cranked up on the computer. It's snowing lightly, heading in to a week of warming temps.

We've got a low-grade garden fever. C. started another flat of onions, and I've gathered all the seeds into a fine old vintage suitcase and sorted them into Larrys (accordion folders). Not to be anal or anything. For a slob, though, I can get pretty organized. Maybe twice a year, in small areas. Perhaps the size of a suitcase.

When gardening season is here, C. will stuff her garden apron with various seed packets and rampage around sowing like crazy. If she isn't careful, some will get wet and some will get lost. Seed Central Suitcase is an effort to keep everything together and at hand. And away from mice.

C. has been bugging me to start some sprouts. I resisted at first, but have succumbed. Some kind of fresh green would sure be welcome, for people and for rabbits. And sprouts are incredibly nutritious. I sprouted fodder for the rabbits in a big way three years ago, in nursery trays in the old boys' bathroom, but lost use of the room when the rabbits had to be moved in after a flood.
Lentils, left, and dill seeds thinking about sprouting
I rummaged around and found lentils, dill (C. saved over a gallon of dill seed last year), onions and alfalfa for my first effort. Those are quart jars in the photo, with a chunk of nylon curtain acting as permeable lid on the dill. I found this cool website, sprout people.org, that has instructions for sprouting all kinds of seeds and nuts. I know it's not rocket science, but some seeds require extra (or no) soaking, and longer grow times, so I'm glad to have the info. They also sell organic sprouting seeds and seed mixes. I ordered a couple of mixes, since I'm pretty sure we'll all get tired of lentils (I eat lentils only out of a sense of duty) and dill pretty quickly. They even have mixes for dogs! (Yes, I ordered some of that, and the dogs will have to share with me.)

C. is working on a quilt for Liam, using some cool animal fabric she got in Montreal. She is cussing furiously. It's not going well. Math has reared its ugly head.

I made blueberry muffins last night, using an old hippie recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book. No surprises here – they're hearty! There's one left – should have doubled the recipe. 

Just put a batch of double-chocolate double-pecan brownies in the oven, and am back at the computer trying not to get batter on the keyboard as I lick the spatula. Mmm.

One little egg today. Five yesterday.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Beautiful day

It's 37 degrees out, and sunny. The forecast calls for rain, but what do they know? But C. says they are right as her shoulder hurts. Arthritis trumps meteorology any day.

Got eight eggs this morning. Good job, girls! Some must have been laid late yesterday after C. collected eggs.

My used four-tube shop light I was rehabbing for plant growing started shooting sparks and buzzing, so I took it right back to the gym. Ain't going to mess with that. The ballasts seem good, so maybe it can be used for parts. So I'm back to scrounging for more lights.

Our seeds from the Ukraine are here. We need to pick up some potting soil. Soon it'll be time to start the tomatoes and peppers.

C. made some cottage cheese from scratch the other day. Someone gave us some store-bought 1-percent milk, and she used some soured whole milk to start the culture (buttermilk is the usual starter, I guess). Below, she is cutting the curd, and bottom, straining off the whey. The dogs got the whey with their dinners. She adds a little cream to the finished product. It's a little more pungent than commercial cottage cheese, but good. She knows how to do all that old-timey stuff from her folks, and from living off-grid years ago.

We were admiring Burday's feet the other day. She has a great many toes, like her dad. Weird, huh?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Done with town for a while

Earl and I hit Spokaloo for appointments today. I saw my GP, and got my eyes tested. MS can lead to all kinds of eye problems, so it's good to get checked periodically. Plus my bifocals are six years old. So now I have a new prescription for lenses that I'll fill when I have the bucks, and a good report on the health of the old eyeballs. I left with pupils the size of saucers, squinting into the outrageously bright afternoon.

We stopped by the Ancestral Home and gathered some prunings (or "scions") from the three apple trees that C. planted there 25 years ago. I'll try grafting the scions onto new rootstocks from Burnt Ridge nursery in Onalaska, on the coast. My friend Jim, from the garden club, gave me a lesson in apple-tree grafting last spring, but none of mine survived. Jim is an apple evangelist, like Johnny Appleseed. He plants them, gives them away and teaches people how to prune and care for them. Did you know apple seeds when planted revert to tiny sour varieties, so all apple trees have to be grafted? And the rootstock determines the size of the tree, but the grafted bit determines the variety of apple? So a Honeycrisp seed would grow a tree full of small sour fruit, but a Honeycrisp branch grafted onto a dwarf rootstock would grow into a dwarf tree with Honeycrisp apples? Jim and his friends in the Graft and Corruption Squad travel around taking scions from old apple trees on homesteads, and give the trees new life. Pretty cool.

Earl and I were hungry, so we lowered ourselves to eating Burger King fishwiches. Well, I lowered myself. I've seen him eat even nastier things. Can't remember the last time I had fast food. Long time. Didn't kill me right off.

We arrived home knackered in late-afternoon sunshine, and C., bless her heart, unloaded the car.

One egg today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

D'oh again

Yesterday was a holiday, imagine that. A very minor and arbitrary holiday. So my trip to town yesterday was 50 miles in vain. I spent a few minutes in the Group Health parking lot cussing, then picked up four sacks of chicken food and headed home in the rain. Yeah, next time I'll call ahead.

Earl, my copilot, looked pained as I bitched, looked pleased at his giant dog cookie (he always gets a treat when we go driving), and slept all the way home.

We stopped at the barn and loosed five or six bales of hay for the big animals. K. and S. pulled up behind me, bringing the granddogs out again. They are staying with Em temporarily, and Walter and Hazelnut are just too much, on top of Emma's four dogs. Walter came through his mouth surgery very well and is bouncy and happy. Nut is OK with us, but really wants to be home with her people, including that fat little human baby. She really likes that baby. The baby came along, and we passed her around and collected smiles and babbles.

So they are all living in our Ancestral Home, a story-and-a-half 1910 bungalow in town. The plan is for K. and S. to buy the house, and for Em and Richard to buy a rancher somewhere nearby. It needs to happen soon for our financial health. The real estate market is slow right now, but we all go through Zillow and Trulia and Craig's List and some realty sites every day looking for a one-level roomy house with a garage and room for a garden. (Got one for sale between Spokaloo and Chattaroy? Leave me a comment below.)

C. sharpened the chainsaw today and waved it at the logs on the wood pile. I pitched lengths to the porch and stacked them. It's warm and rainy again today, and the snow continues to slowly shrink.

I've been rummaging in the gym for shop lights for seed starting. I found a four-tube 4-foot fixture that is meant to be hard-wired in, and am adding a power cord to it. We want to start more plants than last year, of course.

We finally finalized the last two seed orders.

Four eggs today.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Well, pudding night was cancelled. Some idiot forgot two of the five ingredients, and tapioca pudding without eggs or sugar is just lumpy vanilla-flavored milk. There are four bowls of lumpy vanilla milk in the fridge.

Fortunately, Willie the ancient Pomeranian likes it. He'll slurp that even when he won't take water. I think we're nearing the time of the Big Shot, but C. doesn't want to talk about it. He's her dog, and I won't butt in. He's somewhere between 15 and 17 years old, and has had a good 10 years with us. Before that it wasn't so good. He's a sweet boy.

I'm off to town to get a blood test, in hopes of getting the thyroid meds right, and checking on D and B12 levels. Did you know most U.S. doctors routinely do incomplete tests on thyroid and B12? You have to ask, and even get pushy, to get accurate tests. It can make the doc uncomfortable (perhaps not as uncomfortable as wearing one of those open-back gowns in the cold exam rooms), but that's just too bad. It's important.

It's raining on the snow. There are flood warnings out for the area – we're up on a hill way above the Little Spokane River, so we're fine, but I bet all the street drains in town are overflowing. And the recent thaw has exposed many, many new potholes. Winter is hard on Spokane streets.

We had seven eggs yesterday! Our all time high, and pretty damn good for eight hens in February. Two today.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Feb. weekend

C. and Em went to the Experience Hendrix concert last night at the casino. There were 20-some great blues guitarists on stage, and it was, I understand, amazing. I was planning to go, but decided it was too much driving and sitting. And the moshing, you know, can be quiet strenuous.

This morning we were surprised by giant soft flakes of snow gliding down in great numbers. It didn't last long, but was impressive. In a winter sort of way. It's still warm, though, and hurrah, I heard the storm drain belch and glug, which means we are thawed!

C. ventured out and dug a bucket of sunchokes for the angora rabbits. The six (now five) fuzzy little guys have, so far this winter, eaten their way through 15 big cans of dried greens, a few buckets of carrots, many buckets of sunchokes, the best part of 50 pounds of oats, and several bales of grass hay. They are not interested in pursuing a hay-only diet. (I can always tell they are disappointed when they thump at me after I fill their bowls. Not that they scare me. They're not going to bite me or anything. They prefer to bite C.)

We got gas for the chainsaw, and two gallons of milk and two dozen eggs from Rose. Yes, it's pudding night.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Beautiful day

Warm and sunny, but slushy and wet on the ground. A great day to be a bird. (Not a complaint, just an observation.)

The iguana boys were out by the chook shack this morning, hoping for grain, so I took them a bit. By the time I got over there, the goats had appeared. I kept dumping a little on the ground to distract the goats, and holding the bucket up for the alpacas. The tall boys politely took turns chowing from the bucket, then had a little squabble and I caught a little blow-by when one spat at the other. Meh. The sheep  turned up after all the grain was gone, poor bastards. The pushy goats make it hard to give anybody else a share. I'll sneak out later and try to give the sheep a goodie.

Speaking of goats, the rat bastards have pushed the corner of their fence right over into the chicken yard. They were inside the chicken-yard gate the other day, hoping for some layer crumbles. Getting them out of there was exciting. They insisted on going back out the way they came in, and the chicken-wire roof (to keep chickens in and owls out) flopped there, entangling hooves and horns. I'm staggering after them through the deep slush, hollering and waving the cane. It was awesome. I'll be fixing that fence, and in the meantime I'm careful to be low-key when I take a bucket of chicken food out to the chicken house.

The goats are just being goats – they're not malicious. I do think they deserve to be with people who enjoy that goatish curiosity and sense of humor. I am not those people. I could do without the pressure they put on our fencing, too. We'll be looking to sell them this spring.

Other ideas for the tax return 
1) A new (to us) washer, and maybe dryer. Our washer is a $25 Craig's List special, small capacity. Does an OK job, rips things up sometimes. The dryer was Richard's mom's, and dates back to the harvest-gold era. It takes two tries to get a load dry. We only use it in the winter – we have one of those awesome 1960s merry-go-round clotheslines for the rest of the year. I think a $75 washer would be about right.

2) A trip to the coast for C. to see all her old buddies. Is Port Townsend ready?

Three eggs today.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Drizzle and gloom outside

It's slushy and wet and slick outside, so everybody is staying in. The snow is melting. Two or three weeks of this and we might see bare ground.

I'm always glad to see the snow in the fall, just to brighten up the grey streets and brown fields. But enough of this bright white stuff already!

I fed the chickens (collected three eggs), fed the dogs my leftover oatmeal, finished my book, and cleaned off a countertop in the kitchen.

The roof leak across the hall is dribbling pretty good, but is flowing down the floor drain so it's OK. I need to get in there soon and fine-tune the buckets and plastic, but the floor is slick with ice so I think I'll leave it for now. I usually scatter sand before I take a step. This time I might bust out the cramp-ons, too.

We're working on a list of jobs for spring.

First up, have the storm-drain boxes (sumps?) on the roof rebuilt or replaced, and the lines cleaned out. And find the dry well, dig it up and fix or replace it. That will all cost money, but our bank set aside some bucks for the roof when we bought the place. We won't hire out the digging – C. says why let anybody else do the fun part? She's weird.

We'll need to borrow Richard's Ancestral Rototiller, and till up the rest of the knapweed in front of the building. That will nearly double the size of the garden. We'll be widening the garden paths for me, and still want to grow the usual stuff, plus more amaranth, corn and sunflowers.

We'll need some kind of watering system. My attempts in the past have been unsuccessful. Pathetic, even. And C. will lay down a drip line before she plants each bed. I'm serious about this.

I definitely want to plant apple trees again. I need to collect scion wood from our three trees in town  when I see the GP next week. I'll graft them onto rootstocks bought from Raintree Nursery on the coast. I solemnly swear to effectively protect them from goats and deer this time. Not sure what I can do about the effing gophers.

We need to get the Craftsman riding non-mower running and adapt the Billy-Built wagon into a trailer for it. That will mean we can move manure and mulch from the barn to the garden easily, which will be a huge improvement.

We got our tax refund, and now have to agree on how to spend some of it. I vote for spending about $100 putting in a couple of those frost-free farm faucets, one at the barn and one in the lower garden. C. says we can get by without spending the money. She wants to get some kind of $150 gadget for cleaning the wood floors. I'm skeptical. I guess it's too late to vote for not adopting leaky old dogs.... I suppose a labor-saving device for the one of us that can still labor is worthwhile. And they are good old dogs. Harrumph. Oh, let's buy a battery for the non-mower. Yeah.

All this planning is making me hungry.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rain and four eggs

I'm finishing off the guacamole and chips, as the drizzle drizzles outside.

Em found a babysitter closer to home, so we didn't end up watching Liam during her Valentine's date. She and Richard came up the day before, though, so I got to stuff the little fellow full of pudding, and hang out with him. We tried a variation of "ride the horsie" on the bouncing knee – it was "ride the sheep" and every time I let out a basso baaaaaaah, Liam jumped and looked around. We thought that was so amusing that I did it until the old leg wore out. He was feeling pretty good, and we had fun.

What is it about grandbabies that turns sensible, unsentimental people into mush?

Three eggs yesterday, four today. A forty-pound sack of feed lasts five-six days when it's not super cold, or summer. We'll need more on the 27th.

Our tax refund came on the 13th. Pretty dang fast!

I've been in the throes of trying to find health insurance, as I'm officially separated from employment at the end of the month. My employer paid for my insurance for 20-some years, and, boy, did I squawk when they began to charge $10 a month for it in 2016. What a whiner.

Dear University,
Thank you for all those years of free health insurance. Sorry about the grumbling.
Your friend, Su

Now I'm going to have to pay $160 a month for the cheapest "bronze" plan. With a $7,000 deductible. And it's federally mandated that I pay a for-profit corporation for this. Pretty sure that's not in the Constitution. What we need is health care. What we get is health insurance. Not the same thing. Sigh.

So it occurs to me that we could live anywhere, now that I'm not tied to a workplace. Some place without three feet of snow sounds nice. Someplace with a roof that doesn't leak. How about the Olympic Peninsula? Ocean, woods, rain but not snow. How about Costa Rica? Belize?

C. and I were talking about it today. She said that she knew I'd lost my mind when I insisted on buying this place. I guess it was the brain lesions talking.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Tweaking the bird sling

Lil' Burday, or whatever her name is, has been flopping around in her straw-filled box in the bathroom. Not ideal. So I did some research (again) and found some ideas for the "chicken chair," one of many DIY poultry devices. (You have livestock, you'll be improvising crutches, slings, neck braces, whatever. I know a guy who built a version of the sheep chair, below. He said I could borrow it any time.)

I got sidetracked in my research by references to chicken diseases, complete with photos, and had to run away. Gah.

Anyway, Burday has some problem with her legs. They don't hold her weight, and one goes kinda off to the side. She might have a vitamin deficiency, or have taken a hard peck to the head. Some neurological thing. Kinda like me!

So here is her new habitat. It's a plastic storage bin with a double-knit sling with leg holes. Binder clips are key to the structure. Her food and water dishes are recycled pudding cups in a cheesy old wire rack, part of one of those 1980s wheeled organizer bin things. I bent the heck out of the rack to keep it in place, and ended up using binder clips there. Binder clips are excellent.

We tried it, and she kept getting off to one side, pushing with her good leg, so I put a couple of Priority Mail boxes in to keep her centered. There. Isn't it elegant? She loves it! Or at least she didn't bite me when I put her in there.

There's straw in the bottom to catch the poo and absorb any water she might dump (she enjoys dumping the water).

Feel free to use my design to build your own chicken chair. It's my gift to you.

We should take her out every day and help her flap her wings and do squats, all that Jack LaLanne stuff. Maybe we could do Tai Chi together.

Five eggs today. (Not from Burday.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pretty Birdie

There she is, our bathroom chicken. She likes looking at herself in the mirror. She has a tidy hairdo  and is a good conversationalist. True, she's no beauty, but that's OK. We keep her supplied with vitamin-rich food, and help her eat and drink every day. On her good days she can manage by herself. Is she getting better? Maybe. She's not suffering, anyway.

Tom, the iguana, hoping for grain.

Sunny day, kinda warm. One mouse yesterday; one today.

Three eggs.

The importance of artists

There's this artist, Barry Smith, who lives in Australia. He works in metal, recycling old soldering irons and silver-plated trays and gears and bits into art. I really like his stuff. There's a link to his blog, rustnstuff.blogspot.com, in my sidebar there.

He snips leaf shapes out of old silver trays, folds them in half and hammers them, impresses them with words like "peace," and sends them out into the world. Maybe it's naive, but I think it helps. Kind of like when a certain percentage of people in a city learn to meditate, and the crime rate drops  there.

These are two of his light catchers, made from old tools and antique crystals. He's got a steampunk esthetic in a lot of his pieces.

He's a full-time artist with work in a bunch of galleries, and his stuff ranges from jewelry to big outdoor sculptures. Cool guy.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I'm a homebody now

It's official – my disability claim has been approved. It's with a private insurance company through my employer, which means it is probably more secure these days than SSDI. Nobody knows what the new regime in the White House will do to the Social Security system. Scary, since so many folks who paid into it really rely on their small checks every month.

This is all new and scary for me, anyway, since I've been working forever, and now I just can't. So I'm feeling damn lucky.

We're keeping dry, though the roof continues to drip around the storm drain near our classroom/home.  The floor drain is still open (though it froze up a couple of nights ago and the water came perilously close to flowing into the bathroom. We thawed the hose and put the sump pump to work, and got the drain open again. Got to keep on top of that.) We're having day temps in the 40s, but snow is still up to the tops of the 3-foot-tall hoop-house hoops in the garden. What's up with that?

C.'s little onion seedlings are coming up, so I suspended grow lights over them. Our deep windowsills are perfect for little plants – they get sunlight plus the fluorescents. Last year I installed some shelf brackets and steel bars in two of them, so in plant-starting season I just have to hang the lights. Beats the heck out of some of my earlier improvisations – one year all our flats of tiny plants went flying as one of the supporting chains came loose from a joist in the ceiling. It was pathetic. See, I can learn! If I have to.

Walter the pug is doing well. He turned out to have a badly infected mouth, and the vet grafted bits of his cheeks onto his gums, and did other gross procedures. He's lost a few teeth, and it was pretty scary for his people. He's our granddog and was staying with us for a few months. We cook for our dogs, so he ate soft food, and that contributed to the problem. I guess pugs tend to have mouth and tooth problems, but I'm going to make some hard dog cookies for everybody. (See, I can learn!)

Four eggs today.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Absurdly grateful

Ah. I'm home after a day in town, doctor/store/store/pharmacy/store/pharmacy again. The roads were wet and easy to drive as this thaw continues. Getting out was a little more exciting – I did some sluing around in the foot of slush and had to back up and try the curvy hill again. I came splorting out of the drive, landed sideways in the road, and couldn't get any grip on the slickness to go up the hill. Had to weasel around and go down and around. Messy and inelegant, but not difficult.

Two town days in a row wipe me out. My MS guy was great, though. He offered the new MS drug again, and I refused, and we moved on. It's oralzibub or some damn thing, the first big drug for PPMS. (Ocrelizumab, actually. Those drug companies really need some help naming their concoctions.) Studies show it may slow the progression of MS by targeting certain B cells thought to contribute to myelin damage. That's a little too vague to appeal to me. "We don't know what causes MS and we don't know why this might work, but we think it could, and you should give us $30,000 a year to take it..." And since I'm soon to be without insurance, there will be no $30,000-a-year drugs.

We talked about the Wheldon protocol, using long-term antibiotics to kill underlying infections that may trigger MS. David Wheldon is a British microbiologist whose wife came down with incredibly aggressive MS. She's regained 90 percent of her pre-MS function and is doing very well. My doc is skeptical, since there are no clinical studies of this approach. Wheldon apologizes for that, but says he'd be a widower if he waited for clinical trials. And antibiotics are no longer under patent, so no drug company is going invest the millions that trials cost. I'll consider going that route if MS starts messing with my right hand. None of the big drug treatments offer the hope of regaining lost ground – only slowing the inevitable decline. Antibiotics I can handle – not so sure about oralzibub (onozimab? Beelzebub?). But for now, I'm going with not working, with resting, with quiet, with mindfulness, with spending time with my animals and my people. And working to get Vitamin B12 and D levels up.

Anyway, he suggested Ritalin as a help with MS fatigue. I'll try it, and continue with it, or not. It's up to me. Nice man. He listens to me, seems to understand what I'm saying, and is flexible. I've had neurologists recommend some treatment, and refuse to see me again when I hesitated or declined.

Shop shop shop, I did. Earl was angelic, waiting patiently in the car while I shopped. He is mi compaƱero. He received bagels. (Snap! Snap! Gone.)

And we finally, FINALLY! slued through the slushy driveway and dropped into the bare spot in front of the house. Sigh. There is no place on earth I would prefer to be. I was so grateful to be here. The lights were on and the fire was warm and C. unloaded the car. Home is very, very good, and I am lucky to have such a one.

Four eggs.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cheesecake to the victor

And I am the victor.

Earl and I hit town for lunch with my good friends who still work at the job. We had a great time – and, in case you were wondering, apple sours can be made warm, for a snowy day.

Then on to Costco for the monthly shopping. Em and Liam led the way, and though they didn't have Stilton cheese, they did have smoked salmon and enormous cheesecakes. I scored a huge bag of chocolate chips (4.5 pounds). It looks just like the normal 12-ounce ones, but GIGANTIC. This pleases me for some reason. Oh, and lest you think me a foolish, unthrifty shopper, I did get the usual unexciting staples: rice, coffee, Blue Sky cola, butter, flour, vanilla, peppercorns, yada yada.

The roads were crap on the way home. Most drivers were going 40 on the icy highway through the blowing snow. Earl and I were OK with that, and we got home shortly after dark. He was a good dog, and excitedly received his reward of veggie pizza leftovers. Snap! Snap! Gone.

C. spent the day digging Jerusalem artichokes for the rabbits. She says the ground is completely unfrozen beneath the three feet of snow out there. I'd rather she waited until I was home before doing that. Three feet of snow, one of dirt – she's only 4-foot-10, so how does she get out of the hole? Do I come home to an empty house, and go looking for the top of her frozen head sticking out of a hole in the garden? Well, she's a digger, and she has a shovel and a fork, so I suppose she'd just dig a staircase.

We'd like to leave the root crops in the garden over the winter – the carrots we stored in buckets of (too) damp sand in the basement didn't fare too well. I suppose we could dig a "spud pit" and put some kind of lid the equivalent of three feet of snow over it. Huh. Most winters here the ground is definitely frozen, and digging anything is a real pain.

I'm driving back to town to see the MS doctor tomorrow. I'm not much for doctors, especially considering the conventional MS treatments (hideously expensive drugs, with serious side effects, that might possibly maybe slow the disease progression down a little, but probably won't – and those are all for the other kinds of MS that I don't have), but the disability insurance people want me to see a doc regularly, so I'll go. There are a few alternative treatments that I'd like to talk to him about. He's been great so far.

Four eggs today.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Four eggs

It's been a quiet day. Did the usual chores. C. has taken a cleaning streak so I'm laying low, lest I get drafted.

I hiked to the barn and loosed six bales of hay for the big animals. When I say "hiked," I mean crept along the snowy path, stabbing my snow cane every other step. Fell a few times, got back up. Took a while.

I'd like to say the animals were grateful. Or helpful. Or gainfully employed. But no.

Instead, they were smelly and rather impatient. Smelly in a good way, though. Walking into the barn zaps me back to my grandparents' sheep ranch at shearing time. I like the smell of sheep.

Just finished a rather disturbing mystery, Murder at the Marais, by Cara Black. It's about the lingering ugly legacies of the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. It's complex and interesting.

I'm off to do some minor tidying.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Our day

I'm trying to fill out this Daily Activities form for the insurance people, listening to "U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile." C. is blow-drying a chicken.

That's how we roll around here.

Tomato-seed extravaganza!

C., bless her heart, found the tomato seeds while looking for a book. They were in a Larry (us-speak for accordion folder) on one of the living room bookcases. And there are many, many of them. And now we'll have even more. But that's OK. Maybe the garden club would like a few packages.

And in other exciting news, the floor drain thawed, sometime between 3 and 5 this morning. I noticed when checking the leaky room, ready to run the sump pump if needed. I'll put the tank heaters and pump away for the next crisis. Or maybe I'll leave them there to get encased in ice. Who can say.

C. has several deep planters full of onion and leek seeds. We need to clear the windowsills and heave them up there, then hang the grow lights.

The kids were up Saturday, with the two babies. They brought Arnold, the greyhound/kangaroo, too, and he and Earl had a great time. Em injected some milk into Liam's new feeding tube, and it was all I could do to keep from hurling. Gah.

K. and S. took our two extra dogs as Walter the pug has something wrong with his teeth. He's at the vet today. So we're down to six dogs, and the house seems empty. Willie the dying Pomeranian is hanging in there, and seems a little improved, even.

C. did some digging at the plow berm, and we got out to pick up two gallons of milk and three dozen eggs from Rose.

Four eggs yesterday. Three today.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Tax tedium

I just e-filed my taxes. Took all bloody day. Feh.

I went to irs.gov to find the list of free e-file sites, and picked On-line Taxes. Got hung up in the health-care section. Went round and round in some kind of for-next loop. Tried checking various boxes in order to escape. No go. Their instructions are not good. Went to the place I used last year, FileYourTaxes.com. Easy-peasy! Many fewer questions, many fewer pages of hoo-ha. Went to file, and they wanted 30 bucks. Crap. I'm not paying $30 to file my damn taxes, no matter how easy they make it. Emailed them, squawking about the promise of free filing. Checked the fine print, and it's free for everybody except me, for some reason I can't remember. State of residence, or age, or something. Height, maybe. Taste in music. Bastards. Back to the IRS site. The only free place for someone here, my age and my income is On-Line Taxes. OK. I can do this. Dive back in. I apparently need a health-insurance form. Supposed to be able to access it online, but nooooooo. C., bless her heart, hikes to the mailbox, and there it is. Woohoo! But that doesn't solve the problem, and I go round again. Oh, I need an additional form! I go online, and there it is... but it's for 2015. It gives me enough info to complete one section, though. Still doesn't fix it. Round, round. Bloody hell. Check the forms again. Oh, it's not this. It's that. Huh. Click other boxes, and we're done. Gah.

Dear On-Line Taxes: Thanks for filing my taxes for free. 
Please fix your instructions, as they suck. Your friend, Su

So I feel like I've accomplished something huge, sitting here on my butt, cursing and clicking.

C. cut some more firewood, and we pitched it to the porch and she stacked it there.

We got another six inches of snow, though it's warming up again. I'm ready with the buckets and pipes.

C. spotted these wild turkeys moving through the lower field today. "Ostriches!" she cried. Pert' near.

Snow. Winter. Feh.

Em and Richard and Liam are coming up this evening.

Five eggs today.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tiny road trip

C. and I hit a Martin estate sale first thing this morning. The weather was vile, bitingly cold with blowing tiny snowflakes. The windshield wipers kept freezing up.

The sale was not exciting – we spent an hour or so and $15. I think our best find was a shuffleboard set that C. scored in the basement. We need to paint up a 52-by-3-foot layout on a concrete floor here, and we're good to go. That might be fun. (Yes, we will funk up the standard shuffleboard layout.) We also found a dinosaur train set for Liam, many buckets, scraps of linoleum (for the bunny condo) and a funky old wicker side table.

We stopped by Em's place, where two babies were kicking a big keyboard that made animal noises. Pretty funny. Liam is struggling with reflux again. I wish the poor little guy could just feel decent. I think he's had one misery or another since his difficult birth 10 months ago. His doctors have put a g-tube – a feeding tube – in his stomach, in hopes of boosting his weight.  We held him and bounced him and distracted him for a little while. If they can get his weight up and his stomach used to bigger meals, maybe they'll take it out. The main worry is to get enough nutrition into his system to help him heal any brain damage. He's a sweet boy, and deserves a break.

Then we were off to run errands, and navigate the snowy roads home.

Home is good. The wood stove is roaring away, and my toes are finally warm. C. is out splitting wood, the big nut. I'm thinking about a nap.

Five eggs yesterday, two today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Seed order day

We're working on seed orders. We order from Pinetree, Fedco, and Nikitovka, and sometimes others.

Pinetree has lots of stuff, including Holland greens or tyfon, which C. dries for the rabbits (and feeds fresh to everybody). That stuff is crazy productive. Fedco has great prices, and most everything else (except tyfon). And Nikitovka has excellent tomatoes from the Ukraine, which do very well here.

Nope, we haven't found the tomato seeds, so we'll be tacking on about $20 to replenish our seed stores.

I got Prudens Purple, probably our most productive tomato. And Opalka, San Marzano and Martinos Roma, for sauce. And Stupice (pronounced Stoo-PEECH-ka), a nice early mid-sized tom. The Ukranian tomatoes are Balconnoye Chudo, Lyana, Potrobnyy Rozmir, Lyubymyy, Jablunka, Cosmonaut Volkov and Chernyy Prynts. My spellcheck enjoys those names.

I'm not sure how to pronounce the Russian names correctly, but that doesn't stop me. I channel Boris and Natasha Badinov from the Bullwinkle show. First, I say "Moose and squirrel." After that, tomato names are easy.

Two eggs today.