Sunday, April 30, 2017

Never mind

The boy, his girl and baby came up, so we didn't get peas planted after all. Tomorrow.

The baby is six months old and nearly crawling. I dandled her for a bit, then C. dandled her and then we handed her back to her parents. 21 pounds is heavy! She babbled some, but didn't shriek once. I'm glad that phase is over.

She's amuse by our animatronic Boohbah figurine. She must be the just right age. Do you know Boohbah? It was a 2003 British TV show for little kids, featuring five weird, brightly colored scrotal creatures who dance, shoot light out of their heads, and fart. Yeah, I don't get it either. It must be Beavis and Butthead for the toddler set. I imagine there is a developmental psychologist behind it (Boohbah, not Beavis and Butthead. I think the juvenile justice system is behind Beavis. They're trying to scare you straight).

Ours is like this one – Jumbah, I believe.

I evicted the hens from the nest boxes once today. I'll go out before dark and if they are back in the boxes, I'll move them to the roosts. Yes, eggs; no, chicks!

In gluten-free news, I have made decent mac and cheese with rice noodles. You may applaud. I used Tinkyada brown-rice macaroni. Pretty dang good. Also, Milton's sea-salt crackers are good.



I tried a couple of other kinds of crackers from Costco, and they sucked. Rice-flour crackers tend to be shiny and hard, like health-food crackers from 40 years ago. We call them lacquer-crackers, or shellackers. I hate them. Glad I found something decent.

That's it for today. Off to bully the chickens.

Moving on

C. dug a fine, large hole and we buried Tom the iguana/alpaca this morning. Good thing we don't keep elephants.

C. is outside planting peas. It's nearly May! We've got to keep after this planting stuff. I need to get out there and lay water line in the spud bed.

The chickens are up to something. We've had just two eggs every day for a while. I suppose the four that want to set have stopped laying. I was just reading several ways to break them of being "broody." I think I'll go kick them out of the nest boxes. And if they insist on coming back, I'll either block the boxes or go in at dusk and move them to the roosts. We'll see how it goes.

Two freakin' eggs today!

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Our smaller alpaca is dead, and it's on me. I left some old wire fencing half-buried in the ground below the school. I meant to get back there with the wirecutters. But I didn't.

Then C. worried about seeing only one alpaca at a time – I went to the barn and saw the other one. Or who I thought was the other one. I figured they'd had a tiff.

So we let it go. But it didn't feel right.

I finally figured out we were seeing the same one over here, and at the barn. So I went looking for the other, and found him strangling in the wire, where he had been for days in the rain and cold, just below the garden. Fuck.

C. pulled him free, and we sat with him, giving him water and molasses and keeping him warm.  He stood for a little while. Em and Richard brought up electrolytes and a kerosene heater. I sat with him overnight, humming. He got weaker. We called the vet and two young women came and hauled him out on a blanket sling and kept him overnight on IVs. They didn't give us much hope, and today they decided to euthanize him. They said he had some contributing problem, maybe congenital. We brought him home.

Animals die on farms. Shoot, animals are killed on farms. But this was directly connected to my stupidity. I left the wire; I didn't recognize him; I didn't look. And the whole time this big gentle creature under my care was trapped, dying.

I don't want to think about it. I want to crawl inside a cheesecake and forget all about it. But cheesecake has gluten in it. And gnawing on a salad will do nothing for my guilt. Pity I'm not a drinker.

So I'm sitting here bawling, choking on shitty Paleo brownies.

And how much of that is for poor Tom? It's all probably for me, my guilt, my MS, my baby grandson's cerebral palsy, all the events of this past crap year.

Please don't leave me any kind comments. I couldn't take it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


It looks pretty forbidding out there.

I boobled out to feed the chickens, and decided to install the third nest box and tune up the bouncy roosts. The roosts are locust poles, and pretty springy. I think the guineas are doing gymnastics on them – parallel-bar routines, swinging round and round, and doing daring dismounts. How else can you explain the way they are out of their brackets nearly every day?

So I took out some pipe strapping and fastened the poles down with deck screws. We'll see if it stands up to guinea gymnasts.

You can see the slot in the white board the pole was supposed to fit into, then the 2x4 on top of it that was supposed to support the poles, then the big nail that was supposed to hold one in place, and now the pipe strapping. Layer upon layers. Bandaid upon bandaid. 

I attached the new nest box in the corner – and note the four hens crowding to sleep in the old nests.  Silly birds. They must all be serious about hatching chicks, or they'd be on the roosts as usual.

C. planted half the hoop house with Ukrainian Chinese cabbage Bokal. I came along and stuck clear packing tape on the tears, and under the clips as well. The tape sticks well to the fabric.

 The clips are just snips of irrigation pipe the same size as the hoops, split down the side and rounded a bit with scissors. They are a bit rough on the fabric, which is why I taped under them.

C. dug a few clumps of quack grass out of a bed and planted Delikatesna kohlrabi. "Is this too much kohlrabi?" she asked. "How much kohlrabi do we need?" No idea. We've not grown it before. Does it taste like chocolate? Because then we'd need lots.

C. dug up some multiplier onions that were multiplying in the wrong place and brought them in to dry.

We fled the rain and came in to rummage up dinner. I built a fire because it's chilly.

Two eggs today. No guinea eggs. They've taken to laying them in the hills, dammit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

More spring rain

C. planted two rows of Green Wave mustard, and hoed out a whole bunch of dill today.

We planted dill the first year we were here, and never since. "It's dill weed," explains C., and she's right. It grows like a weed. She saved a gallon jar of dill seed last year – for what, I don't know, since the damn 2013 dill keeps coming up and trying to take over the garden. Because she's thrifty, I guess. Or for sprouting. The rabbits love dill leaves, seeds and sprouts, but the sprouts take two weeks and I don't usually have the patience. They aren't much work – no soak, and a rinse just every other day – but I have to look at the jar next to the sink for two weeks.

The forecast is clouds and rain for the next few days. Meh.

We bought two gallons of milk and a dozen eggs from Rose today.

I emptied the big plastic greenhouse garbage can and washed it out. Now it's inside our front doors, full of 100 pounds of seed barley for sprouting. There's another big can for chicken food and oats, and a 5-gallon tin of alpaca chow. We'd put them outside on the porch, but the goats and Bambi would be out there butting them until they burst with grain goodness. Then Bambi and the goats would die of bloat. I keep the lids on tight to keep mice and Earl out.

I spent some time tidying the hall. It's the place everything gets put "temporarily." I took wagon loads of tools and boards and buckets and empty grain sacks and kindling to various places. Now I'm tired, but the first 10 feet of the hall looks pretty good. If I did that for a week, the whole hall would be beautiful. Or at least not horrible. It's a big hall, maybe 10x60 feet.

C. listed the seeds she started yesterday: Ebony and Heart of Gold acorn squash, and Lower Salmon River, Jarradale, Sibley and Blue Hubbard winter squash; summer squash Odessa, vegetable marrow and Chaklun zucchini. She started a flat of Opopeo amaranth, and another of broccoli relatives: Green Lance Chinese broccoli, Amazing cauliflower, non-heading broccoli, Ukranian Chinese cabbage and Chinese Chinese cabbage. Apomiksis was the Russian cucumber she forgot to list yesterday.

Graham the rooster has been stalking C. again, and bit her yesterday. She put him in a cage for a while, and he paced furiously and banged his comb bloody on the wire. She let him out last night, and I saw him come after her again today as she was transplanting thyme on the rock path. He's little guy, but he's serious, and has big old spurs. He flies at her knees, and she bats him away and keeps on with what she is doing. He kept coming at her, and she finally grabbed him up and dunked him in a bucket of rainwater. That settled him down. C. insists he can learn to behave. I think we should cage him before he does some damage.

He doesn't give me any trouble, but C. is always finding grubs and calling the hens over. He must think she's trying to take his girls away. Or maybe he's just a jerk.

I found an old apple box in my studio that should make a good third nest box for the hens. And we need to construct something that the guineas will use. They're laying three eggs a day on the floor in the corner of the chicken house. Something with a roof and a back exit, maybe covered in brush? Guinea psychology is tough. If they are happy, maybe they'll lay eggs at home, instead of all over the hill. And maybe we'll have fewer surprise batches of keets. The guinea hens like to show up with 24 babies, and drag them carelessly around the place. Sometimes they lose the whole group – to cats or owls or something.

There's an animal sale/swap at the Deer Park Feed Store Saturday. We might pack up some guineas and roosters and go.

Seven eggs today.

Monday, April 24, 2017


I made mediocre gluten-free pineapple-coconut muffins this morning. They're never as good as the blueberry (which are never as good as huckleberry) but we're out of frozen berries. Going to have to hit the store soon.

I've been to the barn to check the old chicken house for eggs (Dovey hid 20-some eggs there last summer and hatched six chicks out) and to bag up some old bedding hay for mulching spuds. I loosed a few bales of hay for the big guys while I was there.

Found no nests of chicken eggs. I was going to confiscate any I found. It's a long way away from the house, and close to the neighborhood cats. If anybody hatches chicks this year, they should do it closer to home. The little black hen, Skeeter and the dark hairdo hen have been stationed hopefully in the nest boxes, but I don't know if we'll let them set or not. Chicks are a pain to protect, and they are at least half roosters. Don't need any more roosters, thank you!

C. is on a cleaning rampage, so I'm laying low. She pulled everything out from under the kitchen sink and scrubbed. It's always ugly under there. The cabinets are el cheapo white laminate over particle board (yes, so practical for a place with running water) and there have been many leaks over the years. The faucet drips all over the countertops. If everything is clean, she'll be able to make herself lay in there and reach over her head to tighten the faucet nuts. If it was up to me, I'd just toss an old towel or something down, and get to work, but, as C. often tells me, I'm a slob. And it's true.

I'd like to rip out the kitchen and start over. It's badly laid out, and made of cheap materials. The one nice element is the old-school maple floor, but I think a hardwood floor in a kitchen is idiotic. I'd go tile on the floor and countertops, and I'd take over the dining room area, too, and make the whole area a big farm kitchen with plenty of lower cabinets, a center island, a pantry and a work table.

Sounds like a huge amount of work, doesn't it? That's why we put up with the lousy kitchen we have.

Ah, she's given up on the cleaning and gone out to look at the garden. She wants to plant kohlrabi and broccoli in the hoop house today, as well as more spuds and some carrots.

Yesterday she started basil (sweet, Genovese and Mammoth) and a flat of cucumbers (mini white, Parisian pickling and two Russian varieties. She started some squash, too. I took a couple of flats of some other damn thing out in the wagon to the greenhouse.

"I've got so much shit to plant," she says. "I'm doomed." Her glass is generally half empty. "It's too late to start these things...." I'm the optimist here, and I try to get her to list her accomplishments rather than the million things she didn't get done. She works hard. She is a brilliant gardener, not in terms of meticulous planning, organization and record-keeping (OK, she is terrible at these things), but in finding the best varieties for our climate, persuading even reluctant plants to thrive, and producing hundreds of pounds of food for us and the animals.

I'd better go out and see if I can help.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


We packed and packed for probably three hours. Gah. Now we are exhausted. We are way too old to be helpful in a move.

And packing is a personal thing. Em likes to go through things, decide what to give away and what to pack, then box things by item type. All the pans in a box, all the tea in a box, all the dishes in another box. No fraternizing among different items in the boxes! And she has no sense of urgency about it.

C. is a packing maniac, from doing antique sales for years. She arrives, she gathers her equipment, she packs. No dithering, no deciding, no fussing. Big things have little things wedged around them, breakables are wrapped in towels or clothing and put inside other things. If it's in the kitchen and she's packing up the kitchen, it is fair game.

So Em had to hover and try to direct, and C. simply put everything in boxes.

We did some good, I think. But we also drove Em nuts.

I was somewhat helpful, pulling things off upper shelves and passing them to the others. Then Em fed us, and we played with Liam. After a bit we heard shrieking from the upstairs – baby Ciri was up, and her new thing is shrieking. Which she alternates with whispering. Funny baby.

Then, since Em moved in before we were entirely moved out four years ago, C. gathered some of our stuff, and with help from the boys, loaded our car. I don't know what all is out there, but there are boxes of tiles, a big grindstone, rusty things to make into sculptures, and some plants.

Em took me for a quick tour of the new house, and wants recommendations for paint colors inside. I've been rummaging through, looking for ideas. I'm thinking tan, sage, soft grey-blue, all with white trim.

We were too tired to do the shopping we'd planned (ingredients for gluten-free pizza dough) and just drove home and collapsed.

Town makes me tired. All those people! cars! roads! stores!

Seven eggs today.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mostly garden

Thursday was another day in the garden, though a rainy one. 

I worked on the hoop house, so C. could get a start on the season and plant cabbages or something in there. It’s not an actual house, it’s just a bed with rebar driven in every two feet to hold bowed lengths of irrigation pipe (the hoops) and covered with a floating row cover. The cover is lightweight polyester that allows air and rain to pass through it, but keeps out most insects and chickens, and can provide some shade and frost protection. It holds the heat a bit, and blocks wind, too. It’s a “season extender,” a buzzword among short-season gardeners.

We’ve had this line of hoops up for a few years, but C. kept messing with it and it was getting floppy. This time I actually remade it to fit our row cover. (Never occurred to me until now. Really.) I pulled off the old, wimpy piping, and replaced it with heavier stuff, and extended the hoops to the full length of the row cover, 16 feet. It took forever. I wallowed around in mud, banging in short bits of rebar, and finished in a slough of wet straw and manure. Feh.

C. sewed a channel in each end of the fabric and put drawstrings in, so the hoop house now has a sphincter north and south. It’s pretty cool. There are a few holes (the stuff is five years old and a bit fragile) but she’s taped them up. It’s held on with clips made of short bits of pipe split up the side. You unclip the fabric and flop it back over the hoops to work in there. Water is supplied by a soaker hose that runs through it and the bed beyond. At least, I hope it is. I forgot to check.

That’s one thing I’m insisting on this year. Soaker or drip hoses get laid down as stuff is planted. No waiting until the plants are up, when it becomes really tedious. It’s a simple thing, but makes a huge difference. So I’ve put my tiny foot down, and C. has been really good about it.

C. planted leaf radishes and carrots, and more taters (and laid hoses down as she did it).

We worked through the drizzle, but went in when the hail started.

Today C. crawled under the old section of the house to test the new supply line to the outdoor faucets, and I crawled under the new section to check for leaks. It looked good! So now we have water outside. I filled the big animals’ water bucket and sprayed the greenhouse and the Siberian peas and the Stanley prune-plum tree. They weren’t dry, with all this rain, but I was celebrating.

It was mostly sunny and warmish. C. took the day off from gardening and worked on the path from the house to the garden. She’s paving it with big, flat rocks from previous excavations, and bordering it with thyme and oregano from the flowerbed.

I sat in the sun and cut scrap PVC pipe for a rack for my sprouting trays that live in the shower. I’ve been sprouting barley for the big animals and rabbits (the chickens like it, too). It takes about a week to grow from soaked seed to short grass, and I just rinse the top trays a couple of times a day with cold water (it trickles down through the rest of the trays). Pretty easy way to get nutritious feed –something like four times as nutritious as the dry grain, they say. At first I had the trays next to the kitchen sink, but that was a pain. I was worried that the shower would cause mold in the feed, but it’s been great so far. I just pull the rack out when we want to take a shower. if I ever forget to close the shower door, Marty the rabbit will get in there, knock the rack over, and have a sproutfest. I don’t think it would hurt him to pig out on sprouts, but I’d hate to have to comb pointy seeds and rootlets out of angora fuzz.

We’re inside, with a warm fire against the chill. Tomorrow we go to town to help Em pack for her move to her new house. C. is a packing genius.

Seven eggs today – four of them guinea eggs.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beautiful day

It was sunny and warm today, and we worked in the garden for hours.

I hauled out the buckets of rabbit poo I'd removed from the rabbit room last night, and C. spread it on some beds soon to be planted. Unlike chicken poop, which has to be aged in the compost heap, fresh bunny beans don't burn the plants. (C.'s mom Betty, a big nut, swore chicken poop was the best paint remover ever. Betty was many things; a Felliniesque fashion statement, diabolical, smart and slyly funny. I sure miss her.)

I crawled under the house and replaced the busted CPVC line with blue Pex. I had trouble pulling the Sharkbite fittings off one side of the old pipe (dang hands just aren't strong enough) so I cut that bit off and installed a new one. It's a pretty tidy repair. The only thing I can see going wrong is if I didn't get the fittings pushed on tight enough. If they leak, I'll get somebody to go down and tighten them up.

C. planted parsnips, and divided and moved some volunteer garlic.

I took my fabulous cordless Porter Cable screwdriver out and took the old tomato towers apart, then stacked them off to the side. They are ladder-shaped things made of recycled pallets, stood up and tied together with binder twine and screwed-on 1x2s.

We took a break and had leftover veg soup, then got back out there. I peeled the tall fencing off posts in last year's long bean row, pulled the posts out, and cleared it all away so C. can plant more spuds there.

It was so warm we worked in tank tops and jeans.

I brushed Earl outside and he acted like an idiot. He's shedding like crazy.

Three eggs today.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Another trip to town

Earl and I got ourselves to Spokaloo today to get my meds. My new insurance doesn't cover Ritalin unless you are ADHD, but I found a coupon at that took the cost from $86 to $38. Go there if you pay for your own prescriptions! Of course, I lost a week of meds waiting for the insurance company to tell me no.

I poked cautiously at the items in the gluten free section of the grocery store. Way too many boxed mixes and little boxes of little snacky things for this hippie. And, no matter how badly I want a sandwich, I can't pay $6 for a loaf of bread. Can't do it. So I got some GF salad dressing and mustard and crackers. I have muffins and crackers; I will survive. Em said she'd look for GF bread at the bakery outlet stores (we call them used-bread stores) and pop them in the freezer for me.

I hit Ziggy's for some roof patching goop and Pex pipe. Dave (can't remember his last name) works there and is incredibly nice and helpful. Apparently one of his past coworkers lived in my school for a while, years ago. Dave is one of the people that thinks this is a cool place – unlike our realtor, and half our kids. Anyway, I've been buying hardware there for years, and got to talking about the school with him when we first bought it. He's always interested in the projects we're working on, and has helpful DIY advice. He got us a deal on our slightly used Englander wood stove (biggest legal firebox on the market!), and he always spots me in the store and gives me the contractor discount. He loves dogs, and got to meet Earl today. He also gathered up all the items I needed into a cart, wrote me an invoice, and loaded it all into the car, while chatting furiously about dogs and kids and gardening. Great guy, Dave. Must remember to bring him some tomatoes.

Stopped at the barn, caught the little goat outside the fence and put him back in, and loosed four bales of hay for the big animals.Then I easily caught the big goat and gave him the wormer.

C. planted spinach and did some other garden stuff.

I'll fix the water line to the outdoor faucets tomorrow. And clean the rabbit room. Really.

Three eggs today. C. took Foggy the hen back out to the chicken house.

Monday, April 17, 2017

No chicks!

C. says we shouldn't let the hairdo hen have chicks now, so I take the eggs I left yesterday.

She brings the hoses and other gear up from where I left them on the hill coming up from the pump house, and closes the door down there. Before winter I need to get down there and rip out all the fiberglass insulation on the little room enclosing the pump. I'll put in that rugged, waterproof styrofoam sheet insulation and hang a proper door, and it should be easier to keep it warm in there. And buy a new milk-room heater, too, since the last one was floating in the floodwaters.

We tried to turn the outside water on – I went down into the newer crawlspace and closed the drain on the pipe, and C. went into the old crawlspace and opened up the water line. We were disturbed by the sound of rushing water. And it wasn't rushing out the garden spigots. C. went deeper into the new crawlspace, and found 15 feet of PVC pipe spewing water out its whole length. Must have frozen and cracked lengthwise. Feh. So I went down and took measurements, and will pick up some three-quarter-inch Pex pipe in town tomorrow. It'll be an easy fix, and I'll just reuse the Sharkbite fittings down there. (I love those things.)

My friend Diane and daughter came by to worm the goats, bless their hearts. Diane keeps and knows goats, and thought worming the little guy might help his generally run-down condition. We caught all three sheep and the little goat, and squirted wormer down their throats, but couldn't get the big goat. C. and I will do that tomorrow. We chatted for a bit.

C. took Foghorn, the white hen, back out to the chicken house and put her on a roost. She's been in the bathroom for a week or so, recovering from a limp. Have to remember to check on her tomorrow.

Four eggs today.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sufferin' wangdoodles

It's been a heck of a few days here.

Yesterday I was standing at the top of the hill, looking down at the concrete-block pump house, when to my wondering eyes should appear Bambi the sheep, being pursued by the two goats. They were playing. And they were all on the outside of the fence. Huh.

So I got a bucket of oats and waved it enticingly, and the goats clattered right into the pasture. Good boys. Bambi was wise to this trick, though,  and hovered right outside the gate, trying to figure out how to get the grain while keeping her freedom. I'm hanging onto the fence posts, holding the gate open and holding onto the grain bucket and staying upright, and blocking the goats from the opening. They're pushing at me, and Bambi edges forward then jumps back. We do this for a while. It was like bad basketball. I finally get tired of the foolishness, take the grain and myself out, and grab Bambi and shove her bodily through the gate. Take that, sheep. Huh.

So Earl and I gather up our fencing bucket and go down to the lower pasture (across the front of the garden and down the old concrete steps) and check out the fence. It's all pretty dang straight and tight, thanks to Richard and Em and KiSong, who helped me put it up. I see a few places that could use another clip, and a section below a cattle panel (that's a heavy 16-foot-long welded bit of fencing) that a goat could maybe squeeze underneath. I practice some of my college-acquired weaving skills with blue binder twine and wire. Pretty good. But then I see tufts of wool caught where the little buttheads are escaping. There's a gap between the cattle panel above the stone wall, and the panel below. I used regular stretched-wire fencing everywhere except near the wall – we splurged for the stiff panels there. So the little blighters are weaseling between the panels, through the old lilacs, jumping six feet down the wall, and frolicking off. Great fun!

I tie the panels together tightly with that fabulous blue twine. But the fence above the upper panel is just crap. Sloppy, loose, slumping... embarrassingly bad. So I need to go in and add another post and clean that up. But not today.

As we're finishing up, Earl and I walk the fence the other direction, just in case the buttheads have another escape route. And we find water pouring out from under the pump house door. Pouring out. This is not good. So I open the door and look in on an 8-inch-deep sea of water, gently rippling. You could raise catfish in there. I gingerly reach in and unplug the little heaters that were supposed to protect the lines from freezing, and crab my way up the hill to fit some jars with water and ask C. to shut the pump power off.

I check the weather forecast – 26 degrees tonight, so we can't leave the pump off overnight.

I haul a garden hose and C. brings buckets down the hill. We set the hose to siphoning the water off the floor, and C. bails. I wade in to see if I can spot a crack in the plastic pipe on the pump. No – it looks fine, except where the high-pressure spray of the leak has blown through the insulation on the walls. Damn. If I could find the bad spot on the pipe, I could replace it now while the pump is off.
But nooooooo. We have to get the room dry enough to stand in safely, then turn the pump on to spot the leak.

We leave the hose siphoning away and go back up the hill. We check later – it's going really slowly, so we bring three more hoses down and set them to sucking. C. bails. It's getting dark. I make a run to Miller's – bless them, they have hardware, and are open until 10 on Saturday. I pick up a few PVC parts, just guessing at what we'll need.

When I get back, K., T., and the baby are here. They are immediately drafted. K. and I hike down with parts and tools. The water is down to an inch, easy to work in but still plenty to electrocute one. K. rings a cowbell (our signal to the folks in the house to turn the power on), and I climb in my rubber boots onto dry 2x4s on a cinderblock in the pump house and aim my headlamp on the pipes. T. honks the car horn to tell us to be ready, and C. turns the power on. Water shoots out of the pipe where plastic meets metal. Bingo. The power goes off (another honk reassures us), and K. and I get to work. I cut the bad section out, leaving the threaded bit of plastic busted off in the metal pipe. K. works to get that out – it's the hardest part of the whole job. He hikes up the hill three times, I think, to get the tools we need. He finally has to resort to a hammer and chisel to get the plastic threaded bit out, being careful of the metal threads. I find an old bit of PVC pipe with the correct thread and cut out the section I want and splice it onto the new bit. K.'s strong hands are able to twist all the sections tight before the glue dries, and our repair looks great. We make our way up the hill, and he gives me a hand up the steep bit.

Done. We hope. The kids depart – I didn't get to see the baby! – and we kick back for a while as the glue dries.

I turn the pump on before bed at 11, and we leave the taps dripping to keep water moving in the system. Hurray, we can flush the toilet again!

This morning Earl and I hiked down the hill and looked in. The floor was nearly dry (we left the door open to finish the job) and no spray was visible from the doorway. Looks good.

And the damn little goat was out this morning.

C. planted six pounds of Kennebec spuds.

Four eggs today, though I let the dark hairdo hen keep three. She says she wants chicks.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The rain continues

Feh. I'm inside, making gluten-free brownies. Half get nuts, half not, since C. has lost a filling and nuts are a pain for her to eat. Our grandbabies are teething; she says she's reached the unteething years.

Garden club meeting last night. Steve talked about his "wintersown" experiments, starting seeds in clamshell containers from the grocery store and putting them outside in the snow for an ├╝ber-early start. He overwinters peppers, too, in his shop, and gets slow growth and peppers during late fall and early spring. He's an idea guy, always trying new things and building gardening gadgets. Jane talked abut defeating the ever-hungry pocket gopher with raised beds made of old refrigerators and dishwasher shells. I'd like to keep gophers out of the garden, but don't want all those appliance shells littering the garden and shedding paint. We're messy enough as it is. She grows fodder for her animals like I do. She has Hashimoto's, too, and encourages me to go gluten- and even grain-free. Kevin, resplendent in shorts and striped Pippi Longstocking socks, offered to share some heavy commercial sacks/totes – the kind that allow forklifts to haul a ton of spuds around the warehouse. Jim demonstrated fruit-tree pruning. He says you have to be brutal, and then showed us on his poor "volunteer" tree, a service berry in a Christmas-tree stand. It was fit for Charlie Brown when he finished.

I'm toasty today, and going to take it easy.

Bambi greeted me in the driveway as I pulled in last night at 9,  the brat. So she is still getting out. I'll have to figure out where, and fix the damn hole. At least she seems content to stay at home.

On the agenda for this afternoon is mixing up some GF honey-mustard dressing. I checked the labels on our salad dressing from the store, and it's all got some little nasty thing: maltodextrose, MSG, dried corn syrup.... I tried to make a GF ranch yesterday, and it was pretty bleah. But there are lots of easy recipes out there, and I'm sure I can find a good one.

Oh, yeah, I need to chit the six pounds of Kennebec potatoes I bought at NW Seed Monday. Chitting is cutting them into chunks, each with an eye, then sitting them out for a day or two to cure.

C. is outside splitting wood. We've done without a fire for on the warmest days this spring, but usually have one in the evenings. On damp, dreary days like today we burn a small one all day.

Four eggs today; five yesterday.

Annual April anomaly

Snow, that is. We had big fat flakes falling like crazy yesterday, and an inch or so on the ground, as Earl and I drove to town. Six hour later, on the way home, the ground was bare and dry, and the sun was shining. Glad we could get that out of the way.

Now back to regular life, which, around here, means gardening.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Gluten, I miss you

And it's only been since lunchtime (pizza at McLain's, with my buddies from work).

My naturopath says quitting gluten should really help my Hashimoto's thyroidosis, and maybe the MS as well. So I picked up some GF crackers and pasta at Costco, and some GF flour from Bob's Red Mill at Huckleberry's.

The flour is a one-to-one sort, so it should work in most recipes. I could get fancier and use all different sorts of flour – amaranth, buckwheat, coconut, rice, almond, teff – but this is a start. So I should still be able to bake basic things. I understand that results may vary (i.e., some things may suck).

As the garden kicks in, it should get easier. Right?


Gluten-free diets are a big trend now, and lots of folks online recommend them for MS and other illnesses. I was skeptical because, well... because I find trends silly. And I like my gluten. But if Dr. Whitney says I should, I should.

And if my test results are no better in a few months, I may have to quit dairy, too. I do appreciate him starting with one sacrifice, rather than expecting me to go all crazy-ass Paleo-autoimmune and give up everything, all at once.

And he switched me to natural thyroid meds, from the synthetic.

I'm really glad I made him my primary care provider under my new insurance. He listens to my concerns. He isn't arrogant. He doesn't have his own agenda. He doesn't have some pharmaceutical company's agenda. He will order tests most doctors refuse to do. He's a nice man (that means he's not a neurologist). Snort.

Then we did some laser thing to improve movement in my left hand, and Earl and I left to do some shopping.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sheep, dip

That's our sheep, Bambi, the dip.

Can you see the attitude in her eyes? She's a former "bummer lamb," a bottle baby, which makes her way too comfortable with humans, and gives her a sense of entitlement. A sense of entitlement is never a good thing, in people or sheep. At least she's a small sheep, a Shetland. C. used to have 300-pound sheep.

We were startled by banging on the door today – it was our neighbor, Bob, and he said one of our sheep was out, headed down the road to the river. We didn't have to ask which sheep it was. It's always Bambi.

I'd just fixed the fence on the south side of the barn to keep her in.

So we loaded the sheep halter and a bucket of oats into the Subaru, and went cruising for bad sheep. Our dirt road isn't so bad, but it meets up with the paved road down by the VFW and the post office, in "downtown" Elk. Logging trucks cruise through there. I imagined Bambi on the front grill of a semi, still looking entitled, but kind of flat. OK, so I was freaking out a little.

No Bambi on the road, at the post office, at the VFW, at the river. We whipped a u-ie and came back up the hill, and there she was, grazing in somebody's field. Not flat.

We pulled in, and Bambi looked up and ambled casually over to see if we had anything good. C. shook the grain bucket, and the wooly butthead was hooked. I grabbed the halter and tried to fit the loop over her head. She was having none of that. Eventually I held her by her fat belly and wool, and C. pulled the halter over her head.

OK, it's the cheesy adjustable halter, and it's hard for me to figure out which way is up, and what goes where. And it keeps getting snarled in her wool. Feh. 

This is how it goes. Big loop around the neck, little one over the nose.

But we finally get it, and C. takes takes the lead and starts the half-mile walk home. I follow in the car. 

Bambi is pissed. Every step she takes is a lunge, and a hop. She comes down on all four feet. C. pulls, Bambi bucks and lunges one step. C. pulls...

Sure, it's cute when a lamb does it.

Not so much when a grown sheep does it. Photo by Owen Humphreys, from The Telegraph.

I'm driving along, laughing. This is going to take a long time. Finally I stop, clear out the back seat, and we lift Bambi inside. We take her home and put her in the dog kennel/rabbit yard, a place she cannot escape. Take that, you dip.

And I go get my fencing kit (that's fancy talk for a bucket with pliers and fencing clips in it), and Earl and I drive over to the barn to fix any new hole(s) in the fence. We spend a few hours reattaching the wire where the goats have been scratching themselves and popped the clips off. Then the fence slumps, and they jump right over, the little bastards.

Yes, I put the fence up myself, and I did a mediocre job. It should be tighter. And probably have more clips. And I should definitely walk it more often and keep it tuned up. 

It looks pretty good now. So I'm heading out to move Bambi back into the pasture with the other big animals. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Post toasty

We're home from the party, and exhausted. Came home. Made fire. Put amaretto in coffee. Bed soon.

And all we had to do was show up, eat and chat. We didn't plan or shop or decorate or cook or clean up.

I think throwing parties is for younger people.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Thunderstorm today

That's what the forecast said, but I heard only one clap of thunder. It was windy, though.

I puttered in the gym some. I now have a small area dedicated to garbage. I'm so proud. It's right beside the garage door so some kind soul can back in, load up and then hit the dump. I bagged up more moldy sheetrock, and swept that spot. I think I'll store the extra sinks and toilets there, in case it leaks again. And it will.

I've been sprouting barley again for the rabbits. The little goat likes it, too. We're trying to feed him up and get his coat in better shape. He's looked crappy since he had biting lice last year.

I took a notion the other day and caught the big goat and brushed him. He put up with it, mostly. Now his front half is all fluffy. I was expecting him to be shedding big swaths of cashmere, but it's still attached. I guess we'll try again in a month or so.

C. has another flat of tomatoes started. That makes four, I think. Half of the cabbages she started are robust and gorgeous. The other half are spindly, or missing. We think it might be because she used our compost instead of potting soil (we were out) and it got too hard for the sprouts to come through. Or maybe not. Anyway, she replanted some Danish Ballheads. She probably has enough time to direct seed some out in the garden, too.

Her first little tomato plants are nearly all up.

Out in the yard, she wrestled that big rock out, filled in the hole and raked it level. My nightly trip to shut the chickens in is now easier.

We browned some of our stored garlic and onions, added two jars of our tomato sauce and some of our pesto, and it was delicious over Costco country pasta for dinner tonight.

We're off to bed as tomorrow is Liam's birthday extravaganza, complete with catering and a bellydancer. And we have a bunch of shopping and errands in town as well.

Five eggs today; six yesterday.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Big rocks and a baby scare

The kids came up yesterday with the baby, and we sat outside and admired her for a while. Such a cute and chubby baby!

C. showed them the excavation, and enlisted K. in some boulder work.

We moved indoors as it cooled off. Walter and Hazelnut were really happy to see their people, especially that baby. Hazel is protective of her. At one point C. was holding the baby on the couch, and K. was sitting next to her with Hazelnut and Annie the dachshund on his lap. Hazel went after Annie, K. pushed Hazel away, and Annie lunged past the spot where Hazel had been, and snapped at the baby's face. We were all stunned.

The baby is fine – her cheek was bright red and she was crying, but it was all OK. Scary, but OK. The kids handled it well, staying calm and making sure the baby was unhurt.

Sheesh. So now we know to keep the other dogs clear of Hazelnut when the baby is here. Annie would never purposefully go after the baby, but she doesn't back down from any dog.

We shunned her for the rest of the evening – she knew she'd done wrong.

We'll be more careful. All it takes is a second for things to go pear-shaped.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Plant starting continues

I've been reading online about seed-starting lights.

We have the typical 4-foot fluorescent shop lights, with a mix of grow, warm and cool bulbs. Most experts say a mix of warm and cool bulbs are fine for starting plants – the more expensive grow lights are not needed. C. says she is skeptical, but I'll go for it. I do like to save the money. Anyway, these experts go on to say that the bulbs need to be new every year, as older bulbs put out reduced light. And while humans don't notice that, plants do. Now I'm skeptical, since I do like to save the money. But you can't have it both ways, can you? And all those seedlings are vital to our budget and our fall diet of tomato sandwiches with Asiago cheese, sizzled under the broiler.

Some of our bulbs are 10 years old. OK, I'm lying. Some are probably 20. So I looked for a deal on new bulbs, with an eye to switching to LEDs, if it was affordable. We've been swapping out the incandescent floodlights in our third-grade homeroom with LED floodlights on super-sale from Costco, and they are great. Brighter, cheap, and long-lived. LEDs are good.

And I found this site that recommends a smart solution – LED bulbs that fit the old shop-light fixtures. They're about $10 bucks a pop. I just ordered four from Amazon. Supposedly you can just pop the bulbs in, and go. But if you rewire the fixture to bypass the ballast, you save some money in operating costs. Reviewers say the rewiring is easy. We'll see!

I've been working on cleaning up the gym a bit. Yesterday I got sidetracked by a pile of old trash and tires outside the garage door on the gym. Big ugly mess. Shattered plastic is everywhere. I did the best I could without resorting to tweezers. I'll go give it a little more work.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Busy warm days

We've kicked into spring gear. It feels good.

C. is starting tomatoes. I think she has three flats (one more than last year) and a couple of trays of small pots. She always goes overboard on tomatoes, but it's (mostly) a good thing. We grow beautiful tomatoes – big fat Prudens Purples, weird fat pointy Opalkas, baskets full of Balconnoye Chudos – plenty to eat fresh and to can and dry and freeze. I think she's starting 25 different varieties, five or six new to us, and the rest old favorites. We have great luck with Ukranian tomatoes from seeds we order from Nikitovka. The Czech Stupice (Stoo-PEACH-ka) is usually our earliest tomato. And every variety we try has something special to offer. So, yes, we're nuts abut tomatoes.

I used to give her a hard time about starting so many – the greenhouse is usually packed with 150 or more plants come May – but last year I did the seed starting, and saw how hard it is to stop with two or ten of any variety. Those little seeds want to grow! and we are helpless to resist.

We don't have room in the garden for 150 plants, but our friends have gardens, too, and can always be persuaded to take some home. When I was working, I'd smuggle flats of tomato plants off to my coworkers. My garden club had a booth at the Spokane Garden Expo last year, and they sold Spokanites a bunch of Ukranian tomatoes. It's all good!

I know the trendy Paleo diets and autoimmune diets say tomatoes (and nearly everything else we eat) should be avoided. I'm skeptical. I think if we eat what country folk ate before industrial fertilizers and herbicides and factory farms took over, we'll be OK. We'll see if my new naturopath agrees.

The greenhouse can barely hold 150 tomato plants... but there will be more this year, so we're planning an addition. I have two or three weeks before the plants outgrow their indoor setup and need to move outside, so I'd better get moving. The building is basically a tall roof and a low front wall, with three glass patio doors sitting on the wall and leaning to the roof. The door is set into an end wall, and a triangular bit of plastic fills the rest. It's all salvaged material and rather funky, but works well, if I do say so myself. Our brick building is the back wall and heat sink.

So I'm planning to attach another tall roof, short front wall and three more patio doors. I'll try to build it better (the old part has some pretty warped 2x4s, is getting swaybacked, and the glass doors could fit more tightly...).

Right now, onions are in the greenhouse, and cabbage and pepper seedlings are in the house under lights. Next to be started are tomatillos. Probably corn, too. Our season is too short for corn unless you start it indoors, and get lucky in fall weather.

Our local little monthly paper came today, and mentioned that this has been one of the longest winters on record, and the wettest March, as well. And I thought it was just me.

Have I told you that C. is a digger? (Her dad was a digger before her, but he had a backhoe. I am very thankful that she doesn't have a backhoe.) Before the ground thawed, she had to channel her OCD into collecting guinea feathers. Now she can dig!

The front yard, with recycled greenhouse, and rocks and holes. That's the wide garden gate
 and the chicken house to the right.
She's been leveling the front "yard," gathering buried broken glass from a greenhouse mishap, and tile and other debris that other remodelers have buried there. We also have seriously rocky ground, and she relishes battle with a worthy boulder. So right now the whole area is pocked with pits and piled with cairns. I have to pick my way with care to the chicken house. I'm trying to convince her that the two big rocks she has half-excavated can stay right there under the ground. We'll see. It's astonishing to see a 4-foot-10-inch person heaving a bathtub-sized boulder around with a digging bar.

We'll have a path from our front door (off to the left), around the greenhouse and into the garden and chicken house. It needs to be smooth and rugged enough for people and wagons and wheelbarrows. We're thinking the flattest rocks could be set as stepping stones and thyme planted in between. I suppose I could trip over the rocks (or the thyme, for that matter) but then, I can trip over nothing at all. I'll just take it slow. Other walkway options are gravel (which always ends up migrating out of the bed), brick, or a boardwalk. I suppose we could leave it packed earth, and border it with rocks and an herb bed or something.

I've been organizing the gym a bit. It's filled with tools and lumber and boxes and junk and crap, and that's just our stuff. Most everything is lying randomly where the folks who helped us move piled it.

That's the moldy wallboard on the left. Lots left to do, but, really, you would be
impressed if I'd remembered to take a "before" photo. 

There's also a whole wall of leaning stacks of gypsum wallboard, some wet and moldy from the leaky roof. That's from the previous owner, or maybe the guy before him. He knocked down all the plaster on the walls, had brilliant new wiring put in, and sheetrocked everything (rather badly). I'm saving any big pieces in decent shape, but the wet and warped and weirdly cut can go. So I'm cutting it up and stuffing it in old feed sacks to go to the dump. I can't figure out any other way to move it as it's heavy, crumbling and mucky.

Ready for the dump.

We'll be able to use some here and there – we have a few unfinished wall and ceilings. And I put some up in the chicken house. The chickens decorated it. It isn't terribly attractive, but keeps the cold wind out.

So I'm tightening up the storage in the gym. That should make room to bring the non-mower inside. It's an old Craftsman riding mower without the mower deck. It has a plow blade and weights and chains, and we plan to get it running and use it to pull a trailer and move hay and such around, as well as plow snow. It's tarped and stored in the big dog yard now. I think the gym floor can handle the weight. Some past owner stored RVs in here, which didn't do the floor any good.

Here is the other side of the gym, with lumber storage. It could all be tidier.
If I spend hours and weeks organizing the gym, maybe I'll be able to find things. And after I get done with the piles of stuff, I'm going to hunt out all the tools, and hang them on pegboard. Yes, I am. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

RIP Jack

We lost another dog. Little Jack died at home of what the vet thinks was a pulmonary embolism related to his Cushing's disease. So last month, after Willie died and I said Jack was not dying, I was completely wrong.

All I know is he'd been miserable for a month, had been to the vet three times and had blood tests and urine tests and X-rays and medications, and was still miserable. The vets (Dr. John and Dr. Larry) were struggling to figure out why his mild Cushing's made him feel so bad, and how to make him better. He's not suffering any more, and I'm grateful.

Jack was simultaneously a sweet little guy and a tragic figure.

C. adopted him and his mother, Jasmine, from a dog rescue in 2010. She'd just lost her Pomeranian, Jasper, and kinda freaked out. She ended up bringing home four dogs: Willie and Rudy, the Poms, and Jack-Jack and Jasmine.

Jack (we dropped the other Jack) was about 5, and half Maltese, with some poodle and Shih Tzu. He was quiet and mellow, and always let his mother the tyrant beat him at play. He liked people but didn't have much to do with other dogs. He decided he was my dog, but I resisted – I've never cared for little poodles. Yes, shallow. I was better after C. quit giving him the poodle haircut.

He got into a fight with our big red hound dog, Badeaux, and lost an eye. It was horrifying. We found Jasmine guarding his eyeball when we got home from the vet.

Badeaux had never done anything like that, and had to be separated from the other dogs.

Checking out the country place, in back, Kewpie the peke;
middle, Annie and Willie; front, Jazzbert and Jack.

Jack loved his homemade dinners, and he loved living in the country. He blundered into the crawlspace once, and we went nuts trying to find him. We called him, checked with neighbors, looked in the barn. I finally stuck my head down the trapdoor and saw him going back and forth, looking for the way out. He never barked or cried, the idiot. (Jasmine did the same thing when we first moved out here.)

Then Earl went after him and he lost the other eye. Earl had never done anything like that, and had to be separated from the other dogs. I have no idea what happened – Earl is bigger and always played a little rough with the little guys, but is not and has never been mean. C. will never forgive him, which is why Earl is my dog now.

Jack got around pretty well, and stuck close to me (C. would laugh about the halt leading the blind). He used to sit on my lap and lick my leather recliner until I poked at him and made him stop. He was pretty cuddly, and liked to sit with me.

I could have been nicer to him.

He was a good dog.