Friday, March 31, 2017


It's a beautiful day, way too nice to sit here in front of the computer. I've got my hiking sandals on, and am heading out to soak up some rays and maybe (just maybe!) tidy some of the winter mess in the yard.

Seven eggs yesterday, six today.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Rain, rain, rain

The dismal grey wet is growing tedious. Yes, I'm whining about the weather again. True, the snow is nearly all gone, and daytime temps are in the high 40s. We occasionally get a sunny afternoon, and then it's glorious (in a muddy sort of way). But the last few days have been full of rain.

Monday was almost sunny and we hit the garden, c. to dig artichokes and me to plant shallots and garlic. I pooped out first and came inside, but the rush and pounding of hail soon sent me out to help C. haul in the buckets of sun chokes. Yesterday she dug another bucketful, and Earl and I drove to the barn to loose hay for the big buttheads, and fix the fence where Bambi, the really annoying sheep, was getting out. I was getting tired of encountering Bambi on the front porch or the chicken yard, demanding grain and scratches. I have to be sure to latch the door or she'd be in the house. Again. Then I tweaked the grow lights and heat mats, and read more of Blue Horizon, by Wilbur Smith.

C. has given up on fixing the chainsaw. We'll have to take it in to the shop. Em has our backup electric one – we'll get that back so C. can cut the last of the logs up. We usually have a fire in the evenings to take the chill off, and the woodpile is down to a few sad bits.

Six eggs Tuesday, five today.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chicken poop, and other matters

We've been busy in the rain.

We finished cleaning the chook shack. I lost count of the wheelbarrow loads of bedding – maybe 15? I moved the nest box and found this interesting mess behind it, below. Some of those guinea feathers in the lower layers were probably from Mrs. Davis and the three Connies, our first polka-dot birds. I was tempted to lay out a grid of strings, and excavate with trowel and paintbrush. Mind the Law of Superposition!

C. hiked down the hill and found these excellent squackly locust poles to use as roosts. They're nearly 12 feet long. Still to come is a droppings board or a poop hammock, I haven't decided which. Looking at the above photo, and considering that chickens really unload at night, you can imagine the poop under the roost. Since our coop is so small, chickens and chicken keepers often venture under the roosts, where they are apt to get pooped on. Hence the protective hammock or board.

Poop hammock and Lulu photo from

C. is often pooped on as she collects eggs and guinea feathers.

I also moved the feeders out from under the roosts. Duh.

There's a big controversy on poop management in Chicken World. Chicken World Central is, a popular website with information, forums, and everybody's photos of their chickens, coops, DIY chicken inventions and more. Some folks insist that poop should be allowed to run free – if we had a bigger coop, I'd agree. Then there are folks with fancy chicken houses and fancy poop boards and daily scooping routines. If Martha Stewart had chickens, she'd have a 1930s-green droppings board, and someone would be out there twice a day scooping and dusting. That's not how we roll, though. Chicken poop has to manage itself around here.

Speaking of chicken poop, there's a whole web page (with photos) about the subject here. Yes, it's probably too much information. But good chicken keepers keep an eye on the poop, as it's a clue to chicken health. And besides, it might be falling on you. OK – enough of the poop.

We moved the last of the flats of onions out to the greenhouse today, and I set up the rest of the grow lights and heat mats. C. will be starting peppers tomorrow, and tomatoes soon. She puttered around the garden, dug a bucketful of sun chokes (she says there are 10 – or 20 or 30 – more bucket loads that need to be dug before they start growing – bad news), weeded the strawberries and widened a bed or two.

We came in all tired and wet, built a big fire, and sipped hot coffee, cacao, cream and hazelnut amaretto. Mmm.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Post party pooped

The kids have gone home, laden with cake. We're pooped.

Liam, one year old today, was charming. We all enjoyed his present from his folks, a bubble machine. Very cool. He was entranced.

Liam and his handsome Uncle K.C. seem to have a special bond.

We ate, we told stories, we sang the birthday song, and K.C. even got the truck running. A good day. Well, except for the cake catching fire in the oven. And me keeling over backward while wrestling with the hand mixer. But I was fine, and we just cut the charred bit off the lemon cake. The chocolate/amaretto cake was excellent, if I say so myself. All good.

Five eggs today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Birthday cluster

Em, Richard and Liam are all celebrating their natal days out here tomorrow, so we're working on getting ready. Em wants a lemon cake, and a big pot of hippie mac-and-cheese for dinner. Richard is getting a chocolate cake with amaretto frosting, and I'm making tapioca pudding for Liam.

Earl and I hit Deer Park for supplies (and yes, I remembered the ketchup I forgot last time). For the first time this year I left the big winter boots at home, and wore actual shoes. I felt so light!

We also picked up a few sticks of pipe insulation to stuff in greenhouse cracks. That stuff is great.

Earl was a good boy and got a little bag of Cheetos. He ate every one (except for the four I got) and then slurped every flake of neon orange off the car seat. (Yes, my car is a pit.)

Ordered 160 pounds of barley seed from Half Moon Feeds to sprout for rabbits. They're going out of business, unfortunately. It's depressing to see local businesses go bust.

Got home, unloaded, and then finished cleaning up the greenhouse. Stuffed that tubular insulation in cracks around the glass and frame. I think we're ready to move the onion seedlings out there, and maybe plant some greens in the raised bed inside.

C. is in the kitchen working on her lemon cake. I'm off to tidy the living room.

Five eggs today.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Warm spring day

We worked outside all afternoon. It was lovely.

C. got the saw running and cut up some wood. She cleaned the oiler yesterday, and that might have fixed it. Fingers crossed. She says it needs a good sharpening now.

I loaded up wheelbarrows five and six of heavy, stinky straw litter from the chicken house, and C. dumped them in the garden where they'll have some months to mellow before we plant. She did loads seven and eight and nine. I loaded it one last time before we came in for the day. I think we've got another five or six loads left. They call it deep litter for a reason!

I fixed the big chainlink gate into the garden – it was dragging and making a horrible racket on the cement walk. Just needed to adjust and tighten up the hinges and bolts.

We tightened up the three big slider windows on the greenhouse, and I stuffed some rope insulation between the panels. I sat down for a break in the greenhouse, and got distracted by cleaning up old pots, the dirt that a couple of pack rats had hauled out of the raised bed, and some shattered plastic from old bags and windows. Cut up some metal roofing and screwed it to the west side down low where the wind was coming in. Will finish the rest tomorrow, and maybe the flats of onions can move out there, freeing windowsill space for tomatoes.

C. dug out a stubborn piece of protruding rebar left over from holding straw bales around the greenhouse. I've been sure I was going to fall on the damn thing and skewer an eyeball or brain or something. It took at while – it was really in there.

C. took the loppers to old dead growth in the flower bed. More still to do.

It felt good to get out in the sun and work.

The guineas are in full spring mode, skulking around in groups, dusting when they find dry ground, chasing each other, hollering from perches on the spinny clothesline.

Three eggs today.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Breakfast bars for dogs

I'll work on finding a nifty translation for that. How about Canem Prandium? Hunt Frishtik? Hund Morgenmad?

C. is struggling to find something quick and easy for the dogly breakfast, since Rose is running short of eggs, and I'm not making a big batch of oatmeal every morning. They're used to hard-boiled eggs, or oatmeal with molasses and milk, or homemade bread with peanut butter. Peanut butter is out until one of us stirs the new giant Adams jar, which is a big messy job.

So she got out the giant stainless bowl and assembled the ingredients. I'm doing the baking while she rampages in the yard outside.

I insisted we record the recipe so I can make it sometimes. The ingredients are flexible – we use whatever we have on hand. You just want about the same ratio of wet to dry. It's a lot like making bread, which I can't do without a recipe, either – but C. can.

Canem Prandium

Wet ingredients
8 eggs
½ c. oil
3 c. milk
¼ c. molasses
1 ½ c. prunes soaked in 1 ½ c. hot water, then chopped in the food processor. Add the hot water to the mix, too.
Mix all these together

Dry ingredients
8 c. rolled oats
2 c. whole wheat or other flours (but not unhealthy white bleached stuff)
   we used:
     ⅓ c. rice flour
     ⅓ c. coconut flour
     ⅓ c. tapioca flour
     1 c. gluten-free 1-to-1 flour
3 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
Stir these together

Stir the mixed wet and mixed dry together, and gloop into three greased 9x12 pans. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

These freeze well, and the dogs are very pleased with them.

In other exciting country news, I spent some time doing that horrible job that all dog people deal with in early spring. Yep, scooping the poop that melting snow has revealed in the dog yard. Gah. I did half the job, saving the rest for another day. I have a small dog yard, and seven dogs. Sometimes I think we should feed them less, or not at all. Or toilet-train them. Huh.

One egg.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sick day

I'm feeling puny, so am going to take it easy today.

Earl and I did some shopping in town yesterday. We came home with everything but ketchup, dammit. Prescriptions, beer, sprouting seeds, those little muffin-tin-liners that seem like an indulgence until you have to wash the muffin pan, more potting soil (North 40 has the best deal on Black Gold organic stuff, 2 cubic feet for $11), bar oil for the chain saw, metal wedges to reattach the sledge hammer head.... Oh, and I remembered to return my work keys, finally. They told me to disregard the bill I would be getting for $100 for losing keys. I can do that.

Earl was very good, and got an everything bagel for his trouble.

The roosters continue to grumble and pace in their clubhouse. I scatter grain in there, and they offer it to each other with little "yummy" chirps, since there are no hens around. Such gentlemen, my roosters.

The old duck house, now the rooster lounge

And the poor crushed-by-snow lobster pot, pulled back
into shape and serving as the roo yard.

I was going to put them on Craig's List, but a guy at the feed store told me that cockfighters are always looking for birds on CL. I was worried about people butchering and eating my extra roosters, but a quick death and respectful consumption sounds a whole lot better than the cockfighting ring. WTH is the matter with people? I'll keep them in the clubhouse until I find legit chicken people to take them.

Below, the hairdo sisters, practicing synchronized laying. The one on the left lays pink eggs; the one on the right lays blue.

C. brought Fondu the Magician over last night for brushing and plucking. She spreads out a sheet on her lap and goes to town. He's pretty patient. Kewpie the peke is fascinated, and guest dogs Walter and Hazelnut are, as well. Walter is a great lover of beauty, and thinks Fondu is really pretty. He is also enamored of Jasmine. He moons over them.

I've been cleaning the rabbit room all winter, and doing a lousy job, so Fondu's fuzz is full of hay and his feet are wet. I wish we could figure out a way to keep a long-haired rabbit clean and dry, short of C.'s method of lining the cement floor with cardboard, then newspaper, and changing the paper daily. I can't deal with all that bending over. Straw bedding would be great if it didn't get tangled in their hair. Shredded paper does the same. Some people use wood-stove fuel pellets, but we don't want to put that in the garden, which is where all our rabbit poo and newspapers go. Alfalfa pellets would probably work, but that's expensive bedding. I thought I had the solution when I built a "condo," a 6-by-3-foot three-level cage with a heavy, coated wire floor, but they still end up with hay in their fur, and wet feet. At least I don't have to stoop over to clean the condo. But we'd rather let them have the run of the room. Got any ideas?

Hazelnut and Walter tugging on the old dinosaur toy.
All the dogs love the dino – C. has replaced stuffing
a dozen times over the years.

Walter and Nut are staying with us, waiting patiently for Emma and her four dogs to move into their new house. Then they can be reunited with their people in Em's old house, which is our old house, and will be K. and T.'s new house. Confused yet? Hazelnut really misses the baby. She really likes that baby.

And it's Emma's birthday today! Many happy returns of the day, dear girl.

She was born in a log cabin (and, strangely enough, has never been interested in running for office) with no power or running water. And now she has a baby of her own: Liam, who has her beady blue-grey eyes.

Five eggs yesterday; six today.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Rain, fog, more rain

Beautiful spring sunshine has turned into dreary spring rains, and the clock has jumped an hour ahead, which I find disturbing. I can't seem to keep up with the day.

The roosters were still safely confined in their new house, and mighty pissed about it. They spent the day pacing and grumbling out in the rain in their yard, the former lobster pot.

Em and Richard and baby Liam came up to visit, and the parents went after a load of wood while C. and I watched the little fellow. Well, the saw crapped out on them, but they did get nearly a full load. And we had fun with the little guy. He slept in my arms for a long time. They brought along Arnold, the greyhound-kangaroo mix, to play with Earl, and the boys had a great time.

We talked about their new house, and their plans to pull up carpets and refinish the hardwood floors, remodel the kitchen, and install a wonderland of swings and forts and sandboxes for Liam. The house inspection is scheduled for a week from today.

I sent the last of my giant bag of Nestle's chocolate chips home with them, since I'm trying to cut out sugar, as well as non-organic chocolate. I've since been scouring the web for appealing brownie recipes that use honey as a sweetener. I notice a disturbing trend to incorporate dates and/or applesauce – both incompatible with chocolate, IMHO. Or, perish the thought, beans. In brownies. WTH is that about?

Damn. I really liked that big bag of chips.

Bless their hearts, the kids hauled a bale of hay back from the barn for the rabbits.

Earl and I ventured into the fog to go to Deer Park for potting soil (it's nearly time to start 100 tomato plants!), grain for the animals, and a few groceries. We took the back way, where cloudy sky and treetops hovered above snowy fields and cotton-wool mist. All the houses and fences and tree bottoms were erased. Weird.

I bought Earl some white-cheddar crackers for being such a good boy in the car, and he showed his appreciation by sneaking into the console-compartment-thing between the seats, and scarfing what was left of an old bag of chocolate. He said he was sorry but I know he lies. It wasn't enough to make him sick, the great butthead.

Nine eggs today. Pretty good for eight hens, no?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beautiful day

It was sunny and warmish out today, so we puttered in the yard.

C. brought Foggy, the white hen, in yesterday, as she was limping. Spring has apparently caused the roosters to go mad, and the chicken yard has turned into an ugly frat party. It's time to find new homes for four of our five roosters. Want one?

We think Fog is OK, but noticed she has leg mites, so I popped her in the sink and scrubbed her legs and feet, and gave her a good wash all over, followed by a blow-dry. We slathered her legs with anti-bug goo and installed her in a cage in the shower. (Don't want poor Burday to catch the mites.)

I snuck into the chicken house at dusk, and grabbed roosting roosters by the legs and popped them into a crate, then locked them in the little tin-roofed duck house that S. brought out last summer. K.and T. appeared, and Telli helped me catch and move the last two, and we went inside to play with the fat grandbaby.

This morning I found that the biggest one (Festunio) had escaped, and the other three were right on his heels. So I spent the day beefing up the duck house and attaching it securely to the lobster pot to make a snug gentlemen's club with veranda. No, it is not elegant in appearance.

C. spent much of the day messing with the chainsaw, which has some kind of problem with the bar oiler. There was much cussing. She did get it running, and cut up some of the remaining wood, but it's still not right. There will be more cussing tomorrow.

She indulged her OCD, raking broken glass and tiles out of the dirt out front, then caught the roosters and we shut them in the clubhouse. They were not amused.

We'll see if my construction will hold them securely. And we'll photograph them and offer them on Craig's List, hopefully to folks who won't eat them.

In exciting news, Emma and Richard have a house! At least their offer has been accepted. So now  they get an inspection, and if all goes well it will close April 21. Then they'll move all their stuff, and we'll move the stuff we left behind, and K. and T. and the fat baby will buy the old house and we'll finally be done with it. Three cheers for closure!

C. is continuing to start cabbages in little pots in the kitchen. I'm off to smear coconut oil on chicken legs.

Friday, March 10, 2017

I'm melting!

That's the snow talking. It's 48 degrees right now, at 6 p.m. Spring! It's messy out, muddy and icy and snowy and sloppy.

The guineas are on the rampage, hollering "buckWHEAT!" from the trees and looking for grasshoppers. Nope, no grasshoppers yet. But we're all giddy with the tease of spring.

The driveway is a mix of slushy and bare. What is left of the woodpile is nearly dry, and so is the kids' boat.

Earl and I drove to the mailbox and picked up the last installment of garden seeds, then stopped at the barn and loosed some bales of hay for the big animals. I filled six garbage bags with clean straw from the back of the barn and dragged them to the car. Those are for the chicken house – our next project is digging all the old chicken-poopy straw out, and putting nice clean fluffy yellow stuff down. It'll be pretty and sweet-smelling – for about a day.

C. started some cabbages today. She's also working in the greenhouse, getting ready to start some greens. I've been making sprouts steadily – the rabbits enjoy lentil and alfalfa, and go nuts for dill. The dill sprouts take two weeks and the lentils two days, so dill is going to be a rare treat. The sprouting mix for dogs I bought is pretty tasty – much more nuanced than the sweet, bland alfalfa you get on the usual veggie hippie sandwich. We had it on cheese-and-pickle sandwiches yesterday. It's red clover, alfalfa, broccoli, seven different lentils, mung beans and hulless oats. I guess I could share some with the dogs tonight. If they are very, very good.

C. split some wood, and tuned the saw up to cut the last of the logs up tomorrow. We need to get another load or two as soon as the snow is gone and the ground is either dry or frozen. Our usual wood spot is DNR land about 8 miles away, and mud can be a problem.

In MS news, I'm taking ritalin, for fatigue, high doses of biotin (B7), and the usual supplements, and am feeling pretty good. I've apparently got high thyroid antibodies, another autoimmune thing, and will be checking that out next month when my new insurance kicks in. I looked at the autoimmune paleo diets that people go on about, and was shocked and horrified. Bloody hell! No to everything I eat (organic wheat and grains, raw cows milk, cheese, butter, eggs and nuts, and homegrown legumes, tomatoes and other veggies) and yes to meat and bright-colored vegetables (nine cups a day!) and very little else. How the hell do people do that? I guess they are desperate. And I'm not that desperate. Yet. Heaven save us, Mrs. Davis, I hope it doesn't come to that. But I could cut out (organic cane) sugar now, and will work on that. 

Spring! Woohoo!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Jack is not dying

It's crappy outside, one of those wet snowstorms that winter throws around like tantrums in early spring. Meh.

Little blind Jack, the MALTEse-POOdle-shih tZU

We took Jack, the malte-poo-zu, to the vet. He's been kinda bloated, and suddenly seems to be in pain. So we trundle him off to Deer Park for X-rays and blood work. I've been reluctant to take him since he is old (12 or so), and the last old dog we took in came away with a death sentence. I know – he needs to go in no matter how neurotic I am.

So we went, and it wasn't so bad. He has a bladder infection, a kidney stone, and probably Cushing's disease. The Cushing's would explain his big belly and thinning fur. It's not a happy diagnosis, but not terrible for an old dog. The vet decided not to treat the Cushing's for now, since most of the drugs have major side effects. He got antibiotics and pain meds, and we hope will be feeling better in a day or two. We'll see how it goes. And we'll watch for more infections, since that's another sign of Cushing's.

Em and Liam met us at the vet, and we visited for a little while. Em's dog, Bono, has Cushing's. (You may remember Bono as the dog who had the $900 Christmas enema after eating a spatula.)

The famous spatula-eating Bono

So we did the vet thing, which pretty much used up the whole day. Tomorrow I'm heading in to town to lunch with my buddies, and hit Costco with Emma. Wooohoo!

C. is making yogurt on the wood stove with fresh milk from Rose (two gallons and three dozen eggs yesterday). Some of that will be for Walter and Jack, both on antibiotics.

Six eggs today.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Is that spring?

That green bit peeking up through the snow and poo and mud – could it be the first harbinger of spring? My gardening friend Jim says it is.

The garden itself looks nothing like spring, though.

Check out the mud in the chicken yard. Can you get Wellington books for chickens? I've seen them for dogs – Earl is saving his allowance for a set of red ones.

There's a cold wind blowing now so I think I'll stay inside.

C. is sewing the back of Liam's quilt on the five-thread serger, which means there is a low-level grumbling noise in the background that occasionally rises to a pitch of creative obscenities. I don't know how she can keep from throwing the bloody thing through the window. She says that while the serger is often frustrating, it's an absolute miracle when it works. I say its a miracle if it works. Because, most of the time, it doesn't.

She spent a couple of days trying to find the toolkit for it. Her sewing studio was disassembled when the kids decided to move out here, and then didn't. So everything is stacked in the stairs room, in higgledy-piggledy order. Can't find anything smaller than a piano (and there aren't any pianos in there). She needed a particular allen wrench to add another needle, so we scrounged in the tools in the gym and found many too big, and some too small. Nothing just right. She managed to work around that somehow, but it still has major tension problems. (With five threads, any tension problem is major.) She fixed that by changing the thread. Apparently this machine is very particular about thread quality. But she has only a little of the fancy thread....

In with anger, out with love.

So she's over there cussing, and I just bump the music volume up. Otherwise I'd have to offer to toss the damn thing through the window for her, which I think she finds unhelpful. I do wish she'd suffer  more quietly.

When it warms up, we'll reassemble her studio. That should help.

Three eggs today.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

You know you are a cheapskate when...

...your partner complains for four years about the crap water pressure in the shower, and you do nothing. Until she starts shopping for a new shower head, and nifty add-on gadgets to increase our mediocre water pressure. Yep. I heard her over here shopping and comparing on

I stirred myself to disassemble the old shower head and look for the "flow reduction disk" that many YouTube sites promised me was in there. Nope. But the pressure is still lousy. And C. has soaked it in vinegar and cleaned out the screen. So then I rummaged in the plumbing section of the gym, and came up with a new-in-box Waterpik shower head (did I mention we buy all kinds of weird remodeling stuff at estate sales?). A cheerful little tag on the unit advised me that it included a non-removable flow reduction disk so that I would be in compliance with federal law any time I took a shower.

Yes, my fellow Americans, we are allowed 2.5 gallons per minute, whether we take 14 long showers a week, or one short one. I'm pretty sure the old shower head was putting out about a gallon a minute, so 2.5 gallons would be a huge improvement – but I don't appreciate Uncle butting into my business. I'm on my own well, not a city water supply. I don't have a lawn. I'm careful about water. I think I can handle the responsibility. Feh.

So I grudgingly install the newer shower head (hey – I'm not going buy a brand-new one). The flow is better, even with the reduction gadget. I did a timed fill of a five-gallon bucket, and we are at 2.2 gallons a minute. (If I could get at that damn reduction disk I bet we could reach 2.5 gallons....)

So we'll see what she thinks.

C. hiked out and thinned some little pine trees and brought them back on the sled for the goats to gnaw. And she mapped out the spot where the roof is leaking into the bathroom.

Em called with a report on her housing search in town. She's still looking for a one-level place, but  the market has gone nuts – anything fairly nice in her price range is snapped up the first day, with several competing offers. This is a fine time to be a house flipper in Spokane. Put in a granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances, and sit back and count your money. I'd feel better about buying one of those places if I didn't know most flippers use cheap materials and do shoddy work.

Or maybe I'm just a cheapskate.

Four eggs today. I made bread in the machine.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Laying Willie to rest

Willie has been fading fast, and he died in his sleep last night. He was a good boy, and we're glad he was able to go at home, since he was terrified of the vet.

C. adopted Willie and his pup, Rudy, in 2010, after her old Pomeranian, Jasper, died. They came from an evil breeder in Moses Lake. I say evil because decent, kind people don't breed dogs who have bad knees and crooked jaws, and are prone to seizures. (Most decent, kind people don't breed dogs at all, since there are so many without homes.) Anyway, Willie had multiple birth defects, and Rudy was a mess. Willie was a good dad and took care of his boy, washing his face and sleeping by him. Rudy died of a seizure in 2012.

Willie had a beautiful, full coat in his younger days. He got along well with the other dogs and with people, and he was grateful for any kindness. He was quiet and mellow, except at dinner time, when he indulged in his piercing Pomeranian bark. Willie did enjoy his dinner.

C. spent the morning digging a fine, deep hole for him, out under the giant pine where Badeaux, our old redbone coonhound, is buried. She placed Willie in the bottom, clambered out, said a few words, and we began to fill the hole. I scooped up a shovelful of earth, sank into the snow and fell over backward, delivering a two-foot-raised salute, which will now become a funereal tradition. C. helped me up and we finished filling the hole and topping it with rocks.

Bye, Willie. You were a good dog.

Six eggs today.

I took Burday outside and we sat on the porch for a while so she could soak up some sun and see the other birds. It was kinda warm out, with a warmish wind blowing, and the yard is getting muddy.