Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Herding llamas

Barclay loves to herd the goats and sheep, but he can't figure out why the llamas won't be herded.

After running around like a nut chasing goats and sheep, what could be better than cooling your harbles in the water trough?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

LOL :)

Barclay came trotting out in the front room the other evening and plopped down between us and the TV, and when we saw what he had we just about bust a gut laughing! Luckily he found it in the paper recycling bin, so he couldn't burn down the house (if that was his intention). It was still pretty funny!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Alki, Barclay, and the treat ball

Alki had her teeth cleaned Wednesday, and was miserable Wednesday night. She's very sensitive to any pain or discomfort, and she followed me around wanting me to do something about it. Nothing to do but wait. Luckily she felt better as Thursday wore on, and by evening she was back to herself. I gave her a treatball to play with. You put treats in it, and as the dog rolls it around they fall out, causing them to want to roll it around some more!

Then of course Barclay showed up, and although she was starting to lose interest, she had to keep playing with it just so he couldn't have it.

So Barclay politely lay down to watch her, and wait for his turn. What a good pup!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Second garden bed

I added a second raised bed specifically to plant the corn I picked up a couple days ago on clearance. I was supposed to put them in four to a square foot, using the "square foot garden" plan which has worked well for me so far. I think we got a little closer than that. Oh well. I had room leftover to plant the two plum tomatoes and the watermelons on each end so they can hang over the side.

And over in the potted tomato section - the hint of success to come. Tiny little tomatoes are starting to appear...

At sunset we enjoyed watching the sheep peacefully grazing. Look how big the lambs are! We docked their tails with elastic bands and they just fell off in the last week or two, and little Indy was 'fixed' the same way, his little sack just fell off the other day. It just left a little scab. Amazing! Also, he is done with his cast, he's seven weeks old now. His leg is pretty scrawny from not being used, but I'm sure he'll get to using it again. He gets around fine even on three legs.

Scoops and Patrone have been playing in the sun all day, wrestling and chewing on each other's necks. They are inseparable buddies.

Thank God I'm a country boy!

Don't think Eskies are too prissy to be farm dogs! Barclay enjoyed a morning of eating sheep poop, chasing cats, playing in the pond, digging in the dirt, and now he's back inside with a big ol' bone. What could be better? Doesn't he look happy?

Yesterday he was herding the sheep and goats. He surprised me by figuring out which animals were trying to get out of the herd and go their own way, and he'd run this way and that to keep them together. He even had a little face off with Marian, where she tried to get past him but he kept blocking her. Good instinct! Maybe someday he can learn to help me move the animals around. Except the llamas. They don't go for any of that herding stuff!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The telescope

In case anyone doesn't think I'm well rounded enough, let me introduce you to my telescope, because on top of everything else, I'm kind of a science geek too. This is a 10 inch, f/6, 'dob' style telescope. You look through an eyepiece at the upper end of the tube. It uses mirrors for magnification, instead of lenses. It's considered an excellent, inexpensive way for amateurs to enjoy a high quality viewing experience. I bought the mirrors for it, but I built the rest of it by myself. In fact I built it when we lived in Yakima in 1997, and finished just in time to enjoy using it to view Comet Hale-Bopp. So this scope has been with me for 11 years! Because of health problems (I'm allergic to cold, an unfortunate condition that only developed in the last few years) I don't get to use it as much as I used to, and I have toyed with the idea of selling it, but I'm always kind of relieved when no one takes me up on it. It is the first thing I built in my workshop in our first house, and I do have many fond memories of the experience.

In 2003 Dave and I took the Airstream on our second trip to the Table Mountain Star Party (that was so much nicer than the previous trip, when we stayed in the pop top camper van). There were lots of fancy scopes there, much fancier than my little scope, but it's still fun to share it with folks who come by for a peek. Everyone peeks through everyone elses scopes at a Star Party!

People oooh and ahh over the scope for it's unique construction. Many of these big homebuilt scopes have a cardboard tube. They use a concrete form - a heavy-duty cardboard, and it certianly stands up to the mild abuse a scope gets. I decided I wanted mine to be very sturdy, and so I built it out of PVC instead. It has been to many school science fairs and sidewalk astronomy outings, and I never have to worry about anyone hurting it, it's built like a tank.

Because I drove a Geo Tracker when I built it, I needed it to break down to something more compact than it's 60 inch tube. So I put a seam in the middle, and the tube comes apart.

This is how it looked before it's most recent paint job.

I have rebuilt it several times, modifying the box it sits on and the way the tube pivots on the box. When I first built it I needed a ladder to see out of it when it was pointing straight up, but over the years I modified it until I could see out of it in any position. I also added baffles and better spotting scopes, and a fancier eyepiece focuser. I blacked out the inside of the tube with a flat black paint with sand mixed in to make it really cut down on light bouncing around in there.

So what everyone wants to know is - what can you see with it? Well, I can see the red spot on Jupiter, the ice caps on Mars, and the rings of Saturn - even the gap between the rings on a good day. And of course I can see all sorts of neat galaxies and nebula, colorful double stars and spectacular star clusters. When I used it on Comet Hale-Bopp I could see a neat corkscrew where the tail came off the head of the comet, something I never quite saw replicated in pictures.

But the big showstopper is always the moon. Here's a picture of the moon at the lowest magnification. Click on the picture to see more detail. Of course with higher magnifications it is really impressive, and you can see the Apollo moon landing sites (but no, you can't see the moon buggy or the lander or flag), and hunt down some of the landmarks you can see in the pictures. It's amazing to see a crater on the moon and know people were right there!

So after 11 years I still have my faithful old telescope. I pulled it out tonight for the first time in a couple years, and it didn't dissapoint. Later I'll get to peek at some planets through it. It really is a unique and fun instrument to have around.

Garden Update

Peas are out - baby lemon cucumber starts are in. I picked up a clearance flat of corn and I'm setting up a second 4 x 8 raised bed for that, hopefully I'll have it in tomorrow. I might have wasted my money buying corn so late, but it was only $5 for the whole flat, and the lady threw in some pear tomatoes, four lemon cucumbers, and two mini watermelon starts. So I'm putting them in and what the heck, we'll just see how they do. I picked all the peas in the past week, most went in the freezer, and today I pulled out the vines and turned over their squares, added a little compost, and planted the little cukes there.

Meanwhile squash are getting a quick start in the pots next to the garden, and the cukes, butter squash, and beans I planted are coming up fast too. And the broccoli have little heads starting. One tomato plant even has tomatoes starting! Everything seems to like the hot weather, except the lettuce, which turned bitter!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


About five years ago we redid the front courtyard, and turned it into a beautiful little Japanese garden, with a trickling pond, little pagoda, some flowering pond plants, and a little clump of bamboo in the back. Oh, it looks so pretty!

Through a lack of maintenance and a good deal of growth, that bamboo got completely out of control, sending runners in every direction, coming up next to the house and sneaking under the siding and pushing it loose, pushing up walkway bricks, and generally causing havoc. We cut it back as soon as we'd spot them, but the shoots could easily grow a foot a day and shoot up six foot high before unfurling. It was nuts. Little bamboo leaves choked the pond and covered the other plants and the sidewalk, since they seem to constantly fall. This week I'd had enough!

I cut and hacked and sawed my way through the whole thing. What had started out as an innocent little pot of bamboo had spread to take up that whole area behind the pond, about 12 foot long, five foot wide. Now I got all the upright branches out of the way, I just have to dig out the rhizome under the ground. I'm hoping that kills it, or enough of it that we can deal with chasing down the runners and getting rid of them.

Maybe when I get the rhizome excavated I'll put in a bigger pond. I've always wanted to have koi.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Garden Update

The garden is continuing to plug along, doing better still than I have ever done before, but a few challenges still. There is something planted in every square, though not everything has come up yet, and the carrots and pac choi were decimated by the slugs.

The peas are doing fantastic. I've picked a few and eaten them raw and they are so good! They're almost ready to pick. There's three different kinds of plants there, and they are supposed to make a staggered harvest. It looks to me like it's not going to be staggered by much, maybe a week at most. You can see cabbage and lettuce at the foot of the pea plants.

The broccoli did nothing for the longest time, but it suddenly has put on a few more leaves and I see a little broccoli head starting. Next square over has the carrots that survived the slugs.

The tomatoes and peppers in pots are doing better than the ones in the garden, even though it's the exact same soil mix. The potted tomatoes are getting flowers on them. A couple of the ones in teh garden are too, but they aren't as big or healthy looking, and don't have as many flowers.
This is my baby bell pepper plant. I think the peppers all were shocked by the transpant. I was told to use Miracle Gro on them next year to avoid the shock. Not sure if these will catch up enough to produce any peppers this year.
The other two potted tomato plants also have flowers and are doing so well I need to tie them up. I've been pinching off lower branches to encourage them to keep growing. I'm always shy about pruning but I think I feel more confident experimenting with these.

We've been enjoying lots of lettuce, spinach and radishes from the garden so far. The hot weather seems to have turned the radishes bitter. It also caused the spinach and the bigger radishes to bolt. I pulled the spinach plants and gave them to the goats and replanted those squares with something else, chives I think.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Chester's heading for the end

It's inevitable that we will outlive our pets, but it's still difficult when you see it coming. Chester has been having more and more trouble getting up and staying up when he does. He staggers and falls, and can't get his legs under him. We canceled our holiday weekend camping trip so we can stay home and keep an eye on him. I think it's getting close to the end. Arthritis, heart problems, and lung problems have all been taking their toll, and an old dalmatian can only take so much.

Chester has been with us eight years and was an adult when he came from the rescue. He was brought to Chehalis humane society, after he was found wandering the countryside. He was starved and sick and had skin problems. The local dalmatian rescue, Spotted Paw, went and picked him up after the shelter called and said they needed to come get him or he would be put down, the shelter couldn't afford his medical care not knowing if he would get a home, and he'd never get a home looking like that.

So the rescue, two incredibly generous people who loved dalmatians, took him home, and started nursing him back to health. They discovered he was fine with cats, and good with other dogs. They had already adopted a dalmatian out to us, but we discovered that dog was NOT good with cats (or dogs or people as it turned out), and we returned him before anyone got hurt. They talked us into giving Chester a try.

He was young and goofy, but grown up enough to control himself. He was good with cats, and except for trampling Alki once and hurting her back, he was good with her, and backed down when she told him to back down. But we soon discovered his true self - he was dumber than a post, dumber than dirt, he was 'special' in a 'rides the short bus' kind of way. We were used to Alki, who is smart as a whip and regularly out-wits us. Alki knew all of her toys by name, Chester ate them all. Alki knew a ton of tricks, Chester knew one, and he got nervous and peed on the floor if you tried to teach him anything new. Alki had nearly earned her CGC, Chester took two trys to get anything out of basic obedience class (there was that nervous peeing on the floor thing again). In his defense, his previous owners had apparently beat the tar out of him. He threw himself on the floor and squeeled if you made a move towards him too fast. I think he was beaten to the point it left him retarded.

In addition to his personality quirks, he had some serious health problems. He had bladder stones and required special food and medicine. He also had severe skin allergies, and that required special food, but we never have found a food that works for both. The skin allergies manifested in ear infections, so he had stinky ears that needed to be regularly cleaned and have special medicine put in them for the first 6 or 7 years we had him, until we found a food that didn't trigger the allergies. Because of the skin problems you can't pet him without getting a sort of stinky, Chester-slime on your hands. Regular bathing helps, but he hates it, and if you do it too much it dries out his skin and makes it more irritated. In his later years he has gotten arthritis which caused one back leg to atrophy and hang useless, he has a heart murmur, and he had an incident a few months ago that the vet thought was caused by a tumor in the lungs, but medicine is controlling it. With all the medicines and prescription foods and vet visits, he has not been a cheap dog to own, not by a long shot.

He whines when he wants something, when he's confused, when he's tired, just about anytime really. Constant, neverending, whining. It drove us mad. The worst part was him begging for his food. He was constantly hungry, probably from being hungry when he was lost on his own for who knows how long. He can suppliment his diet with field mice and bunnies, he was amazingly good at catching them when he was younger, and just the other day he proved he's still got it by catching a chicken, but he'd rather you just feed him - whhhiiiiiiiiine. It got so bad we bought an automated food dispenser for him. It's programmed to feed him two meals a day plus small snacks in between so he never feels hungry. In short order he learned to go whine at the machine, then he eventually realized it didn't care and he would just go stand over it and stare at it and sigh.

Whenever anyone admired him we offered to give him away, but they always thought we were joking. He's not exactly a fun dog to live with. He is whiny, and doesn't understand things, and charges into things without thinking about it first (like walls, often). He hurts himself and suspects you did it, but thinks he deserved it anyway. His health problems caused him to have accidents in the house, frequently, and so we built a dog 'courtyard' and a dog door for him to have access whenever he needed. He would still forget, often while standing over his food dish waiting for it to go off, and he would either not want to step away long enough to go pee, or he'd forget, and suddenly there's be a puddle on the carpet. Worse was when he realized he was peeing and would then run for the dog door, all the way in the back of the house, and we'd end up on our hands and knees sopping up a long, meandering trail of pee. Sometimes he would realize he was peeing but not want to leave the dog dish, so he'd panic and run in circles - should I go to the dog door, but the dish might be ready to go off - leaving circles of pee scattered around the front room. I always think it sounds like we're awful people to say it, but Chester has been the most annoying dog ever, for the last eight years.

All the same, I guess he's our annoying dog. We've taken good care of him, and given him lots of love, and tried not to let him know how incredibly annoying he is. There are a lot of things we won't miss about him when he's gone, but we will miss him, because he is basically good hearted and you know he never did anything wrong on purpose. The past few months he's been as good or better than ever, playing with the puppy. He has really enjoyed having someone he can play with at his own level. It's a shame he's having such a great time just as his body is giving up and failing him. Still, you get the feeling he doesn't really worry about it, it's just the way it is now.

So this weekend we're on Chester-watch more than usual. Helping him go outside, picking him up when he can't get to his feet, picking up the poo he surprises us with in the house. It's obvious things are going downhill. He has always been 'Chester-under-foot', following us everywhere we go, but the last couple days he has not gotten off his dog bed much to follow us around. It's too hard to get up and down. But seeing him laying on his side wrestling with the puppy this afternoon - they do fine as long as Barclay doesn't make him stand up - it's hard to say it's time to pull the plug. Not yet, but I'm afraid it's soon.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gigantor the Rooster

I watch the ads on CL and see city chicken keepers desperately trying to give away their chickens who turned out to be roosters, and are now crowing and annoying all the neighbors. Yesterday I spotted an ad for this beautiful Buff Orpington rooster. I emailed with the guy and arranged for my hubby to pick him up after rehearsal. So about 11PM he came home with a dog crate full of rooster!

While in the dog crate we just heard quiet little 'bok' noises, but once let loose in the pen, he set right up to crowing and letting the whole neighborhood know he was there! It was great! I'm so happy to have a rooster, it feels like a real farm now. He's not too loud, in fact I can barely hear him in the house, I doubt it's loud enough to bother any of our neighbors, which are all far away.

I think he's just the most beautiful chicken I've seen - just what a chicken should look like. Not that I don't love 'the girls' too, with their interesting variety of colors. They all make one nice chicken family, and I enjoy sitting outside and watching them. Now if they'd just give me some eggs I'd really be happy!