Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Laptop down!

Argh, I'm spending a little time laptop-free this week. My faithful old Inspiron has broken down. parts are in the mail - hopefully the right parts. But until I get it fixed I have no access to my email. It's like being cut off from the world! I can occasionally sneak in and use my hubby's computer, but it doesn't have my bookmarks and I can't access email from here. So until I get back online - have a great New Years, everybody!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Casualty

When I was little I loved my Grandma's wind up polar bear. I was only allowed to play with him gently, under supervision, and he was pretty threadbare back then even. A few years ago when my aunt passed away, we were cleaning up the house and discovered the polar bear still in Grandma's dresser drawer where she had always kept it. No one had moved anything since she passed away almost 20 years before! I took him home and put him on a shelf in the front room

Yesterday Barclay had been naughty and running around the loveseat to hide from us, so I pushed the loveseat up against the shelves so he couldn't get behind it. Later he noticed he could climb on the loveseat and reach the shelves, and the first thing he picked was the bear!


I'll be so glad when Barclay gets done with his destructive-puppy phase.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Surprise!

I couldn't post about this earlier, because I didn't want to risk spoiling the surprise. Scoops and Patrone are gone. They have moved just up the road to live with the boys who used them for 4H last year. The boys were so good with them, and enjoyed them so much their parents decided to surprise them by building an area for them at their house, and with the effort they put into that Martha and I were happy to give them Patrone and Scoops. It was an easy decision for me - I haven't had the time to work with Patrone that I wanted to have, and I know the boys will, especially with them being at home instead of having to beg their mom to bring them to our house to work with the llamas. So I know they have not gone far, and I will be seeing them again soon. I was happy just to be part of such a wonderful surprise for the boys. I know what it would have meant to me if my parents had done something like that when I was a horse crazy kid.

For us this means I only have Houdini left, and he is back with the sheep and goats in the backyard, so we only have one paddock of animals to care for. I think that's just enough work for now!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Houdini and Barclay playing

Christmas Day at home

Monday, December 22, 2008

Just for Annaliese!

I know Annaliese particularly enjoys the pictures of her little buddies, so here you go, enjoy!

And remember, these guys have a nice dry shelter, there's no reason to be standing outside covered in snow and looking pitiful. Except for the fact that sheep apparently aren't too bright :) You'll notice the goats stay under cover more so they are not frosted with snow, so I'm going to label them as slightly smarter!

Super 8!

Who remembers Super 8 movies? Dave played with them a lot as a kid, and my Grandpa had a regular 8mm movie camera. So what better to do on a snowy evening than pull out the projector and go through the films.

Luckily Dave's a whiz with these things, because five minutes into the first film there was a snap and the projector started making a funny noise. Turned out the drivebelt had been replaced by a rubber band years ago and it had broken again.

A little projector surgery later and Dave had replaced it with a new rubber band and got the whole thing going again. Next post I'll have to show off some shots of what we saw!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Beautiful Alki

Caught Alki and Barclay taking a nap on the couch. It's not odd to have dogs on the couch, but it is odd to see them sharing it :) That's Barclay closest to the camera, and Alki farther back.

Dave and Alki

Alki might be almost 14, but she's still got some play in her. She likes to play footsie, where you try to grab her front feet and she bounces away then comes back for more, then she gets a good scratch :)


We got an early blast of winter weather. Snow at Christmas is just about unheard of around here! But lucky us, it started snowing a couple days ago. First day we got around fine in the Stealth, because it has front wheel drive. The van is useless in the snow, and it was a bit hairy getting it home the first day. It was snowing hard and I closed the shop early and slowly drove home in the van, and it hasn't moved since.

The next day we headed out in the Stealth to go to work, and hit a slick spot and put it in the ditch! Luckily it was a shallow ditch, so the only damage was a few scratches from the bushes. Kyle came and pulled us out with his monster truck. Our hero! Once we got safely into town Dave bought cable chains for the car and then he was able to safely drive between town and home.

Yesterday (Saturday) Dave had a matinee play, so he dropped me and Barclay off at work in the morning, and I was there all day, watching the snow come down down down. Only a couple customers came by all day because of the snow, so it was just me and Barclay entertaining ourselves for hours on end! He didn't make it back to pick me up until after 7, so it was heading for 8 when we got home.

Since Saturday was so bad we decided to close today (Sunday) and just stay home and enjoy the snow. And it snowed all evening and this is what we woke up to.

8 inches of snow with a nice icy crust on top! That's a LOT of snow for the pacific NW. I can hear it occasionally falling off the trees with a crash!

Alki didn't like it at all! She just wanted to get back inside! Barclay liked it so much he went way out in the pasture and just sat and watched and listened.

The sheep didn't seem to mind. Some had snow on their backs, even though there's a cozy covered stall for them to use. The chickens didn't want to come out of the coop, so I fed them in there and moved their water nice and close. The llamas also do not seem to care about the weather, though they are staying under the shelter for the most part.

I don't think there is anything quite as beautiful as fir trees weighted down with snow. Days like this make me feel so lucky to be able to live out here in the country!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Superplexus

I love physical puzzle toys, you know, those interlocking horseshoes or little wood puzzle boxes. I also love labyrinths, the little 'ball on a tilting maze' toys. So when I saw this, I decided I had to have it. I hope it's as cool as it looks. It's a 3D labyrinth inside a hamster ball - basically. You try to get the enclosed ball bearing through the plastic maze. It sounds like a great time waster :) Cool story behind the inventor's struggle to bring it to market too. Available at ThinkGeek, but since I saw it mentioned on Boing Boing I doubt they'll last long! Supposedly mine is in the mail, I can't wait!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who's that knockin'?

Tap tap tap...

Mom, there's somebody at the door!

"Excuse me, do you have any stale bread in there?"

"Honey, did they say if they have any bread?"

I think we'd better give them what they want...

We're outnumbered!

Crazy time of year!

(neither of those is me :) that's members of the 501st who came to our grand opening)

Because we own a mail order toy store this is the busiest time of year for us. We don't really enjoy the holidays, it's not a month of time off work, gathering with friends and family, decorating the house. It's a solid month or more of hard work, late nights, and coming home and dropping on the couch exhausted, right before getting back up and running out to the shop to pack more packages. And this year, with the retail part of the store, we have to be manning the physical location as well. 7 Days a week. With no days off. And for some reason Dave decided this would be a good time to do a play?

We close the store at 6pm, but sometimes customers wander in late, and I'm never one to send money away. Seemed like I couldn't get them all out the other night, and I didn't get to lock up until 6:30. By the time I got home it was fully dark and Dave was gone to rehearsal, and as Barclay and I walked up to the porch (Barclay goes to work with me sometimes), I noticed the motion sensor light was on. Because there was a llama on the porch. Patrone ran off into the yard and disappeared into the darkness. So Barclay and I went out there and I was annoyed to discover all the llamas in the front yard. Barclay was delighted, he was running around playing with them while Houdini tried to stomp him! All the while the sheep and goats were bleating their disapproval - they wanted to run around the front yard too!

I went and got a flashlight and gloves, because it was COLD, and found the llamas had pushed down the wire fence, and that was why they were in the yard. So I got my tools and fixed the fence by flashlight, then took some grain and put it in the paddock in their bowls, so they just about bowled me over getting to it. About this time I noticed Barclay was gone. But he soon showed up again, he had been out in the field. So we went back inside where it was light...

And he was filthy up to his knees, plus a big smudge on his forehead right between the eyes! Looks like he must have been out digging through fresh molehills! So into the tub he goes for a foot rinse. And I finally got onto making dinner about 8pm. And people wonder why I'm so tired!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Undeniable proof

...that you can find anything on the net - even things you would never have thought to look for.

Sorry...that just made me laugh! Had to share :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Rooster Tales

Well, my suspected rooster turned out to be a rooster for sure, and I really don't need two boys. They get along fine for now, but I don't want cock-fights down the road. I decided to put him on CL for $15, figuring if anyone was willing to pay $15 for him they probably weren't planning on eating him. Sure enough, I got emails from someone wanting to know his age and see pictures of him, and tomorrow they're coming to pick him up.

As you can see, he is turning out to be a very handsome bird (he's the one on the left, Big Bird is on the right), and starting to get a really nice tail. He's probably going to turn out nicer than Big Bird, but I'm already attached to Big Bird, so I decided the new boy would be the one to go. I tell you, I just LOVE these Buff Orpington chickens, they are so pretty, and they just look right to me - they look just like a farm chicken should.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Barclay's herding lesson

Barclay had his 4th herding lesson today. This is at Brigand's Hideaway in Brush Prairie. They have lots of sheep to use and a round pen. There are always lots of people there working sheep with their dogs.

He has been doing really well, but he still likes to grab at the sheep. Normally the teacher uses a regular fiberglass staff to guide him, but today she brought a rake. When she said she would 'bring the rake next time', I thought it would be some fancy tool, but no, it's a rake :)

Here's Barclay trying to grab a sheep from behind.

So she uses the rake to put a barrier between him and the sheep, and it's wider than the staff so he notices it more, but he can still see through it.

Guiding him with the rake she had him doing smooth circles around the sheep. She also was able to reverse him and get him to circle the sheep in the other direction. She can spot every little good thing he does, and point it out. And she's really gentle with him and gives him breaks, and doesn't push him too hard or stress him out. I think we all have fun! Except maybe the sheep.

By the time we headed home he was tired and dirty, and slept all afternoon!

Does this easygoing training method work? Well this morning I was letting the sheep hang out in the front yard while I cleaned their stall, and I forgot to close the gate to the main pasture. I spotted it about the same time mom-sheep did, and we raced for the gate, but the herd beat me to it and blasted out into the main pasture! Oh no, how was I going to get the sheep and goats out of there by myself, with 2 acres for them to run around, and Dave already gone to work? Barclay raced out after them and they went around the corner of the paddock where I couldn't see them. I was still wondering what I was going to do when suddenly here come the sheep - with Barclay behind them!! Zoom, back through the gate they go into the yard! I was so happy I hugged him and showered him with treats!! Normally he would have chased them all over the pasture with no rhyme or reason, but for some reason he turned them around and brought them back to me - maybe just dumb luck, but it was just what I needed!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Family Secrets

Thanksgiving is a great time to get together with family and chit chat and talk about old times. For us it's a bit more limited now days, as my husband was an only child and his mom passed away a few years ago. So we had his dad over for an early dinner. Then we went over to visit with what's left of my family, which is just my aunt and uncle and cousin. Everyone else has passed away, including my Grandma who moved on this summer.

As we were leaving, my aunt gave me a bag of mementos my mom had saved up (she passed away in '01, and my dad had passed a few years before that). Included were many photos I had never seen, baptism records, wedding records, and old love letters.

That's mom and dad at their wedding reception, in my grandma's house. 1962 I think.

The family secret? Well that came when I examined the wedding date and my brother's birth date. Lets just say he appears to have been born a little premature, if you get my drift (wink wink). My but he was big and healthy for a baby born 2 months early!

I keep thinking my math must be wrong. How could this have never come up? Well, I guess everyone involved is already gone, so now I'll never be able to find out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The compost pile

It's not glamorous, but it has to be done. Animals create poop, and it needs to go somewhere. Plus it's actually a sort of 'produce' on our farm. After all, the animals produce it, and once composted it will be great for the garden. My first pile is made up of pallets wired together. I need to make a front wall for it that I can add boards to as the pile grows. The pipe down the center is to get air down into the pile so it will 'cook' faster.

The poor animals are stuck in their winter areas while the pasture recovers from a summer of grazing. Unfortunately the paddock has gotten very muddy, and with the poop and mud I worry about their feet. So I need to clean up the manure at least every couple days. That's why I put the compost pile conveniently close to the paddock, right next to it in fact. There's room for three piles if necessary, which I understand a lot of folks end up with. That way one pile cooks while you're filing up the next one. Also I want to put down bark chips to give them something to stand on that won't be so muddy.
If we can find the money to get started on the project the pasture could look very different soon. I want to fence off the swale and plant it with native plants and trees, and divide the rest of the pasture into small paddocks for rotational grazing. This should help us get more use of the pasture without wearing it out, and reduce weeds. All it takes is money, money, money, right?! I got my ideas from a 12 week class I just finished through the county extension. Today I had a lady come out from the conservation district and walk around the property and give me some tips about mud and pasture maintenance. Their main interest is water and keeping the water table clean. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of managing our land so far (dumb luck), and I'm eager to make more good changes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Love what you do, Do what you love

One of my favorite blogs about homesteading had a post today about the hit professional sports will take if businesses can no longer afford to support them and their gigantic arenas and merchandising machines in these days of belt tightening.

the deliberate agrarian

Oh, what would we do without those overpaid professional atheletes to watch on TV?

And it made me think about a topic dear to my heart, which is this notion we seem to have in America that something is not worth doing if you can't make money at it. People paint, and give it up and say 'well, I'll never be good enough to be a professional'. If you make wood art (as I used to do) people will say 'you should get a table at the bazzar and sell them'. When talking to a friend about her homespun knitting she said 'I could never afford to sell these for the hours of work I have in them. People ask me what I would sell them for'. Even when I'm planning my garden, I wonder if I could produce enough to sell the extra. But in my experience, as soon as you start making money with your hobby, it looses that joyful hobby aspect, and becomes just a business.

My husband quit acting years ago because he knew he couldn't make a living at it. Focus on college, get a job with a pension, don't waste your time acting. Luckily he continued his hobby of collecting toys, which was also a money-waster, until he turned it into a business that supports our family. Then a few years ago, seeing he had no hobbies that brought him joy (because his toy hobby was now his business, and he needed an actual hobby to do for relaxation), I gave him an audition notice I saw in the paper and he decided to give it a shot. Now I can't hardly get him off the stage! Still, occasionally people ask, can't you get commercial work or something?

It's like nothing is worth doing if you don't get paid for it. That results in kids playing baseball in little league, in school until they get up to the high school level, and at that point kids are weeded out so just the best get to play, hoping to move up to college or the majors. It's that way in all sports. What happens to the kids who don't make the cut? How many of them continue to play just for the joy of it? How many adult baseball games have you seen at the park, where people get together just to play?

Maybe we have too many 'professionals' in this world. We sit back and let them do the work. It might be a better place if we painted, even if we weren't very good, just because we liked to. Or sang, even if our voices were nothing to write home about. Or acted, even if we didn't light up the stage. Or made wood art just to give away to friends. Or went outside with our friends on a summer evening and played a game of baseball, instead of watching it on TV. What a wonderful world that would be.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Peaceful Sunday

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day.

The sheep and goats ate their fill of hay then spent the rest of the day sunning themselves.

The llamas did the same, happy knowing there was more hay in the manger if they needed it.

The chickens were in their pen, safe from Barclay

And all the chickens were happily scratching away, including the hen who got her tail feathers pulled (she still has a tail, it's just not as full as the other girls).

I hope your Sunday was just as nice!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The further adventures of our chickens

I enjoy my chickens a lot. They seem to always be up to things. I never know what they are going to be up to next. For example the other day I walked through the living room, glanced out at the back deck and saw this:

But as you can see they have run of the yard, and won't be confined to the orchard - they always manage to sneak out and go exploring. Unfortunately that meant Tuesday morning I was getting hay, and the chickens were around front (or so I thought), and Barclay and Alki were in the orchard where the coop is. I went to get hay for the llamas, and was only a short distance away, when I ran back hearing squawking, and saw Barclay had one of the new hens by the tail! He got a mouthful of feathers, and she went running flapping away! Well, of course who could resist, now he started chasing, the other chickens came to see what was happening, they got chased, it was chaos - until I finally told him to sit and for some reason he did, long enough for me to grab his leash.

When it was all over the new hen had vacated the area. She was GONE!

Friends said 'don't worry, she'll come home when she's hungry', but Wednesday and Thursday went by, still no chicken. I figured she was gone for good.

This morning I was feeding the chickens some bread, and counted and everyone I expected was there. They all had a great time, Big Bird was eating out of my hand, and when I was done I went out to work in the shop. I glanced out the window and saw a buff hen under the neighbor's tree. Hmm? How did a hen get over there so fast, we were just all around back! So I ran back to the coop and counted, and everyone was still there, so the hen under the tree was my wayward hen!

Dave came with me and we walked over to the neighbor's place and kind of cornered her under the tree. She climbed up in it, and put in a little effort to get away, but not much. I snagged a foot and pulled her flapping out of the tree, quickly got her safely tucked under my arm, and talked nice to her all the way home. She didn't mind being carried at all, once she was caught she settled right down. I took her back and put her in the coop with her sister.

So tonight I'm back to my full house of ten chickens - Big Bird the rooster, New Rooster, the 2 buff sisters, Penny the Cochin, the two new hens, and the 3 wild chickens. I told Dave we need to expand the chicken coop now! At least I know they're warm - look at them packed in there! I have been leaving the top open to make room for extra seating :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update on Alki

Well, the oncologist examined the sample and didn't find anything too abnormal in it. She was more concerned about Alki tinkling more frequently. So she's putting her on a round of antibiotics in case it's a mild bladder infection. She says if it continues after that we might need an ultrasound to see what's going on in there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Alki cancer update

Alki has made it over a year since her cancer treatments ended, and so far so good. But today she went in for a checkup, and they found some abnormal cells, and sent it off to the lab for further testing. I knew it would happen sometime, but I'm still not happy about it.

Luckily she's as happy as ever. After the vet visit we stopped at her favorite park for a walk in the rain.