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.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Where's that cat?

While I was outside geting the chickens settled in, and wearing Barclay out for the evening, I kept hearing a meow - meow - meow. But where was she? I was looking all around, but couldn't see her. Meow - meow - meow...

How the heck did she get up THERE!!? I'm sure she could have figured out how to get back down, but she kept looking like she was going to jump from places that were still pretty high up, so I finally grabbed a ladder and helped her down. Silly cat!

Dirty dog!

Barclay got all muddy playing in the pasture this evening, so he went right in the tub for a quick foot rinse, which he hates.

Just look at that sweet face! He could get away with anything with those big brown eyes!

Two more chickens!

This is why I shouldn't be looking on craigslist unless it's for something specific! I saw someone about a mile away selling two Buff Orpington hens for $14, and of course I jumped on it. My hens' egg production has been less than stellar - I'm sure any day now they'll all start laying at once and I'll have more eggs than I know what to do with (actually, I doubt it, because I know a lot of cool recipes with eggs). So now I have 2 roosters (the one I wasn't sure about is pretty certainly in the rooster column now) and 8 hens!

Here the new girls are in the pen next to the dog crate they came home in, while the rest of the flock checks them out.

This is the whole flock. Once I opened the pen to let everyone into the coop, there was a little fighting, and Big Bird ran off the biggest new hen. But I picked him up and put him in the dog crate, then went and rescued her from the bushes where she was hiding, and carried her around while I let him out and shooed everyone into the coop. Surprisingly neither one gave me any trouble with being caught or carried around! In fact she was quite calm about being held! I have Buff Orpingtons because they are supposed to be calm and easy to handle. I guess so! Once everyone was in the coop I put the new girls in there. My chicken mentor said to put them in the coop at night and when they wake up together they'll all be one big happy flock. We'll see!

The chickens are still my favorite part of the farm. They are friendly and fun to watch, they make a pleasant noise, they eat just about everything you offer them, they follow me around the yard, and every now and then they give us eggs - what a deal!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Who's that peeking in my window!

Oh, it's just Houdini! I came home this afternoon after spending the morning at the store, and let the llamas out of the corral to get a little exercise. I let them wander around the yard while I spread two bales of straw in the corral and shelter for them. Then I went inside to make lunch. Every now and then I would see a llama peeking in the windows, or one or two would go 'sproing-ing' by, having a great time with a little room to run for a bit.
Patrone and Scoops even found their way up onto the front porch, where Scoops helped himself to teh rose bushes. Luckily they are done for the season anyway! As you can see it was kind of a cold, wet and misty day. When it was heading for dusk I took them some grain and lured them back into the corral. But they had a nice afternoon out.

Hope for the future

Like many Americans we were glued to the TV last night watching the election results. The dogs even sacked out in the front room with us and didn't cause any trouble most of the evening, dozing away while the results rolled in. I have to say we were very happy with the outcome. Obama seems like the right man for the job. I think he'll represent us to the rest of the world intelligently, and with a dignity we have been lacking for a long time. I liked the plans he laid out, and I realize they may or may not pan out, I'm not some starry-eyed idealist, I know how political promises work. Either way, it's better than when Bush won by 51% and declared he had a mandate to ignore the other 49% of the country. Obamas speech last night inviting all of us to work together again was a good sign for the future.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Arsenic & Old Lace

I feel like we can finally take a deep breath and relax - well almost! Dave has been completely absorbed in his part in Arsenic and Old Lace, put on by Magenta Theater. He was very happy to have scored the part of Mortimer, and he worked very hard at it, and had many many rehearsals. So I was stuck taking up the slack at home and work, and chores piled up while he was gone most evenings, and recently while performances were on - and of course I was gone too because I try to usher every performance so I can watch him. But now it's all over, the set is down (and what a spectacular set it was!), and we can relax and catch up. Or we could, if he wasn't already signed up for the Christmas play!

Click here to see pictures from the show. He's the tall handsome guy in a suit (perhaps he'll be easier to spot if I mention he's the one with hair)!

I think I have to add what a strange feeling it is. I prefer not to act, I hate feeling like if I mess up I'll mess it up for everyone on stage with me! But I do help Dave by reading lines with him, which means I get to read all the other parts at home. So by the time I get to the show I know it pretty well, and I know as soon as a line is flubbed or skipped, and I feel that in the pit of my stomach. Or I see an actor get that look in their eyes that says something went wrong and they're correcting for it - it's almost too much pressure for me and I'm just watching! But this show went very well, there weren't a lot of those moments, and it was really fun to watch it every night :)