Thursday, December 31, 2009

Barclay and Alki

Alki has been worrying me a bit. The other night she didn't follow me around while I made dinner, and didn't come sit with us while we ate, which is pretty unusual. Instead she was asleep on the doggie bed in the office. Then last night she was scratching at the front door at 4am, and when I went to see what she was doing she seemed a bit lost and confused. She seemed fine this morning. I don't know if it's a side effect of her cancer meds, but I'd swear she's getting a bit of doggie-dementia. Of course in a few months she'll be 15, so I guess that's like 105 in dog years, so she's entitled!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Canon SX10 IS and a new photo blog

Last year the CCD went out on my much-loved Canon S2IS, and after spending a bit of time trying to get Canon to fix it for free (they wanted $135 to fix it), I finally had it returned to me and have been using it as the only thing it is fit for - a paperweight - ever since.

I was finally ready to get a new camera to replace it, and I spent a lot of time soliciting opinions, reading up on Digital SLR cameras, learning about lenses. One thing I knew I did NOT want was another Canon. When my S2 broke down I read about many other people online who had the same thing happen. Some got their cameras fixed for free, some did not. I knew someone locally who had the same thing happen to their S3 and they had to pay to get it fixed. I was pretty unhappy with the spotty customer service, and that so many expensive cameras were breaking down and Canon felt they didn't need to stand behind them.

But after much researching, adding up the costs of new cameras and lenses, and reading the recommendations of people who really really liked their Canon cameras, I finally relented and asked Canon to send me the new info on the Canon Loyalty Program. That's where you can trade in your broken camera for a new refurb unit. It came down to spending $359 for a Rebel XS DSLR, or $200 for a SX10 IS. The SX10 is the modern equivalent of the S2 - if they'd stuck with the naming convention it would be an S6. It will bump me up from 5 to 10 megapixels, and from 12x to 20x zoom! One nice thing is being able to browse through Flickr and see the quality of pictures people have taken with it.

I bit the bullet and made the order. By next week my new SX10 will be here. I can't wait, I'm excited to finally have something with more features than the point-n-click I've been using. To celebrate my new camera, I'm going to start a new 'picture-a-day' blog. That should force me to get out and really use it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chickens still cooped up

But as long as I toss some scratch in there for them to hunt around for (gives them something to do) they don't seem to mind.

Less of Jack

When Jack came to us he weighed in at nearly 50 lbs - hefty hefty hefty! He almost collapsed after a good walk around the park. He also had a skin allergy which caused itchy skin and goopy ears. Here it is a few months later and Jack weighs in at around 30 lbs, and we've finally settled on a food that controls his itchy issues and leaves him looking beautiful and his fur is silky. Jack's a good boy, very sweet and handsome, even if he is a little food obsessed sometimes! We have to watch him all the time, or he'd steal everyone else's food and be back to 50 lbs in no time! And if you try to get between him and food - well, count your fingers when you're done - he's serious! But all in all he's a pretty good boy :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hey Barclay! It's your Birthday!

It's your birthday, little buddy! You're two today! You get to pick what you want to do!

Play catch? Ok, you're the boss!

You want to sneak attack your brother? Ok, go for it...

Run jack!

Dig a hole? Don't forget to stick your head in it!

That dog knows how to party!

Happy Birthday, Barclay!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Elbow room.

The chicken playroom. Ok, it's not a lot more room, but they can entertain themselves by climbing into the brooder box where the turkeys were, and hopping up on shelves and boxes and things (which chickens seem to like to do when they get the chance). Just a bit of extra space so they don't start getting grumpy and picking on each other. I hung a big shoplight in there on a timer to run from 7 am to 7pm, and put up a smaller fluorescent plant light as a night light so they can find their way back to their roosts after the big light goes off.

I scattered some scratch around to encourage them to explore. The new little red hen was the only one who took me up on it, the rest are all staring suspiciously.

Cooped up!

All the chickens are confined to the coop today. They're feeling a bit cooped up! but it's better than getting eaten by the hawk.

The coop is about 6 x 10, which isn't a lot of room for ten chickens. Here Copper, Penny's son, is sitting up high to oversee the situation.

Blue Bird gives me the eye. Today the birds will be stuck in the coop, but tomorrow I'm hoping to open them up to the rest of the shed, so they'll have more room to stretch their legs. I did that last winter during the ice storm and it worked well. I just need time to spread out some chips on the floor. Maybe tomorrow.  Then my only question is how long before I can let them out again? Maybe we'll build some kind of covered/enclosed run outside the coop.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One more down

Well, that damned hawk came back and killed another chicken today. I was keeping an eye on them, but of course it doesn't take long for him to do his work. I heard the fuss and ran back there and he'd just killed one of my young hens, and the rest of the girls were hiding under a bush out in the orchard. I chased him away with a stick, and herded the girls into the coop and closed them inside where they will be safe. I guess we could build an enclosed run for them. Someplace to keep them safe until the hawk gives up and goes away.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

RIP Penny

I came home from work this afternoon and the chickens were fussing. I went out and went right to the coop and checked their food, and it was ok, so I put a bit more in. Two of the young hens were standing in the coop in the poo pile, which was odd. I walked around to the other side and tossed some scratch out and called them, and that's when I saw the pile of feathers out in the orchard. I knew who it was even before I did a head count. Penny was the slowest hen in the group, with her dump-de-dump waddling hop when she ran. I'm sure she didn't have a chance. I must have scared off whatever did it, because they just chewed up her head, and she was still warm. Poor Penny, my favorite chicken!

When we got the chickens I promised they would not get emergency vet visits, and we would try not to get too attached to them. I was a little attached to this one.

Edit: I think I know who did it. I was outside and heard the wild birds making a fuss, and went over to see what was going on, and there was a giant red-tail hawk in the sequoia tree next to the paddock. I got close enough to scare him away, and he flew to the trees in the backyard. He was definitely staying close. I put the rest of the chickens away for the night (it's almost dark anyway). I prefer knowing it was a hawk and not a coyote who might move on to eating the dogs and cats!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My new blender!

What's better than a little Christmas-time splurge? I have been wanting a blender for a long time, it's been a couple years since our cheap blender self-destructed, and today Dave brought home a beautiful new KitchenAid blender! It's so nice! I have a whole backlog of recipes I've been wanting to try that require blending. I have had the Good Eats Popovers episode saved up for weeks, and I've been eyeing the Gordon Ramsay broccoli soup recipe in the cookbook. First Dave wants a milkshake! I can't wait to start blending things!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Work work work

Look at all the packages Barclay and I packed! We'll do a few more tonight then have them ready to ship out in the morning. It's been like this every day for the last couple weeks. It's good to be busy!

Barclay has been being exceptionally good! He has a very high daily exercise requirement, and with the freezing temps outside and the piles of work inside he has not been getting all the playtime he would like. But he's been very good and hasn't really destroyed anything unusual or been too pesky. Several times this week I have kicked the dogs outside and told them to go play without me, and they've done pretty good at entertaining themselves. This morning we took a quick walk around the pasture before getting back to work, and he enjoyed stretching his legs and chasing Jack around.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cold Turkey (ok, chickens)

I almost got the whole flock of 12 in one shot, until the girl on the right decided to wander out of frame!

We have been having an 'arctic blast', with temps dropping into single digits, which is pretty unusual for us! I'm so glad we only have chickens to worry about. Every morning we go knock the ice out of their water bowl and refill it, and they come running for a drink. Poor chickens! You can see all the hunks of ice from the previous days littered around. I even took a frozen egg out of the coop the other day. The shell had cracked so I gave it to Barclay. He enjoyed eating it, when he broke it open it looked like an egg slushie! Still only getting one egg a day.

Hasn't our new roo, Blue Bird the blue cochin, turned out to be a nice looking boy? And he is very respectful and keeps his distance, which will help keep him out of the stew pot! The other roo is just as well behaved. In the picture above he is on the other side of the bowl, on the right side of the picture. He is cochin/orpington - one of Penny's babies from this summer. He has the round body and feathered feet.

Check out this fluffy butt

Doesn't that look warm?! I love these hens with their big fluffy pantaloons!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Working at home

Nothing unusual about working at home, we do it every day! Our toy store has been bombarded with orders since Thanksgiving, thank goodness, because it's been a rough summer with the bad economy. So I, as chief box-monkey, have been packing my little heart out. But today it was too cold outside, the heaters in the shop couldn't even make a dent in warming up the packing area. It's worse than yesterday, and yesterday I did my packing dressed in layers, including my heavy outdoor fleece, wool gloves, and a hat - and I was still cold! So today we brought the party inside. Luckily there's room in the hobby room (formerly the fish room), so my assistant and I can do our work where it's warm!

Ah, packing boxes - it's not glamorous, but it's a living...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

In the kitchen, fresh bread and Chili!

I've been doing a bit of cooking this week. First off I tried the 'five minute bread' technique, which I've been hearing so much about. Read about it here if you've missed out. My results have been a little hit and miss.

The first loaf out of the batch was very nice, and the rest of the dough was stored away in the fridge. But when I went to make the second loaf, I discovered the dough had gotten very cold on the bottom shelf, maybe even frozen (sometimes stuff freezes on the bottom shelf). No amount of sitting out on the counter could get a rise out of it, and the resulting loaf was thick and doughy, no air holes at all. Yuk. The chickens enjoyed it though. I have a second batch in the fridge now, on the top shelf this time.

I also made a big pot of chili, using my favorite recipe from cooking light - All American Chili. It's very good, it has sausage and beef in it, and red wine, and it's not too spicy, which is perfect for us. In fact I cool it off with a dollop of sour cream, and of course some cheese sprinkled on top. Dave even finds it tolerable, even though it has beans and he hates beans!

Now when I say I made a big pot, I mean BIG. I used my camp oven, since it's the only dutch oven I have. So what to do with all that chili in that huge cast iron pot which will stay hot for hours? I give it a dip in a sink full of ice water. I occasionally stir it until the chili is cool enough to go in the fridge. I also put ice on top (and the camp oven lid comes in handy with it's lip to keep the ice on top).

The necessity of this is a matter of some debate, because as Dave points out his mom would leave a pot of food on the stove until it cooled down a couple hours later and then put it away, and no one ever got sick. I have to admit that's how it was at my house too.  But I've seen Alton Brown's food safety advice, and I want to make sure I get the food cooled off and put away as soon as possible. What do you do when you have a giant pot of hot food to deal with?

Monday, November 30, 2009

My street, no view

I was looking at an article about Google Street View, and it hadn't occurred to me to check and see if I could see my house there. I had checked a long time ago when they first started doing it, but they hadn't got out this far yet. Well, they still haven't got out to my house, but to my surprise, they had barely got to my town! In fact when you drag the street view icon over the map, you can see what they did get so far...

Yup, they drove down main street, came back down first and then got back onto main, and got the heck out of town! I was really shocked. I am used to looking at real estate listings all over the country and being able to snoop around the neighborhood where the house is. Not here. We've been snubbed by street view.

I'm guessing it will be a long tine before I can see my house on there!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fashback: 1995

Digging through family pictures Dave's Dad gave us, I found this picture of us circa 1995-ish.

I can tell this picture was taken while we were visiting the folks in Portland (we lived in Yakima at the time), and we're trapped into posing next to our car (my beloved stripey Miata) as we're trying to make our escape - Dave's Dad's trademark shot "stand still and squint into the sun while I take a few pictures"! I have no idea what we were there for, but we're certainly all dressed up. A wedding? A funeral? A job interview? No idea.

Dave says I have a mullet, but I told him it's not a mullet when it's on a girl, it's just long hair!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Crisis of self-image!

So this week I was having a good time working on the van (the exterior door handle isn't working on the back door, so the only way to get into the body of the van is to reach back and open the door from the inside) and I figured out what was broke and tried to kludge a fix but it failed so I called Ford and talked to a nice guy in parts and figured out what part I needed and how much it cost ($50!!!) and as I said goodbye and hung up the last thing I heard was 'goodbye Sir'. Sir!?!?! Damn my husky voice! I hate when that happens. It doesn't help my hobbies tend to be male dominated things like cars, so who would think a girl who knows what torix bits are would be calling up for a door release cable, right? Still. Ugh.

Then a couple days later I was at the store helping a regular customer and as he was leaving he says 'I was in here the other day talking to your son'. My son?!?! You mean my husband, who's six months OLDER THAN ME?!! OMG, How old do I look?! I said 'My husband?' and he immediately got very sheepish - 'well, yeah, I guess I didn't think about how old he was'. Again. Ugh.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Calling all chickens!

Today I went and refilled the feeder in the coop, and everyone rushed in to get a bite, and I saw everyone except Penny. So I walked around to the orchard side and called the chickens 'hey, bok bok bok', and they all came running. I counted them, and again I saw everyone except Penny. So I called her 'Penny, where are youuuuuuuu?', and a second later she waddled out of the coop, and stood on the ramp and gave me a look like 'this better be good' :) I said 'oh there you are, go back to what you were doing', and she turned around and went back in the coop. Now my question is, after all this time, does she know her name? Do chickens learn their names?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cold Hives vs Zyrtec

Well, I got brave and tried the Zyrtec again yesterday. I took one before we went for our walk at the park, since it was cold and rainy. I also bundled up, so I wasn't just asking for it. I had a fine time and didn't get hives, so that was good. No sign of any further anxiety attacks either. I have had some in the past month or so when I wasn't taking Zyrtec, so I think they were not related to the new medicine, more related to some other stuff that's going on and stressing me out. The anxiety attacks are in my head, but the cold hives are a genuine physical reaction to environment. Meditation and relaxation gets rid of the anxiety. Seems like Zyrtec gets rid of the hives :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lacamas Creek Park

Dave and Barclay and I went for a little walk at Lacamas Creek Park in Camas today. It was our day off, and we could combine it with a trip out to the East end of town for some other errands, so it didn't seem too far. It was a nice drive through the country to get there.

We turned around at a bridge over a cool waterfall. Dave had already gone for a run this morning, and I took Barclay for a vigorous hike yesterday around the upper rim trail at BG Lake, so we were only up for a short walk. Plus it looked like the skies were going to open up and rain on us at any second. I had to bundle up with about three layers to stay warm.

We could hear the waterfall long before we got anywhere near it, and it was really roaring. It's amazing how much water was spilling over. It was beautiful, but it looked like it would take you away in an instant!

Wet Cat!

I have lived in the rainy NW my whole life, and I have had cats my whole life, and I have NEVER seen a cat come inside as wet as Mouse last night! She looked like someone had dropped her in a pool!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

FarmVille vs FarmTown

I started out playing the FaceBook game FarmVille, and eventually enough of our 4H kids were playing FarmTown that they talked me into playing that one too. They are very similar, FT was the original, FV is the copy. At first I liked FV better, I thought the graphics were cleaner and you can harvest animals, so everything on the farm is productive. In fact there's a little too much emphasis on production - mine has practically turned into a factory farm chasing the almighty dollar!

But I soon figured out the cool part about FT is the social interaction they have built into the game.

In FT they encourage you to hire other players to harvest your crops, and to plow your fields before planting. You are rewarded by getting more money for your crops, and a reduced fee for plowing - so it's good for your pocketbook. Plus the workers get a chance to make a little extra farm money, and experience points. So folks go to the 'marketplace', which is a a chatroom, and hang out, hoping someone will come along and hire them. Sometimes it looks like a virtual unemployment line with everyone begging for work!

All those little unemployed avatars is so sad - sometimes it actually gets a bit depressing. After all, I play games to get a break from reality!

But then someone will come along and invite you to their farm to help bring in the harvest. That's fun! You get to see their farm, and make a little money, and it does give you a little buzz of accomplishment :) Sometimes someone will come to the marketplace and hire a whole bunch of people, and everyone scurries around on his farm trying to harvest as much as they can, like little army ants descending on a picnic!

This afternoon I went to the marketplace to hire someone to harvest my farm, and as soon as I showed up, someone hired ME to go harvest their farm. So I did, and made a bunch of coin I hadn't been expecting - sweet! So I went back and hired someone to harvest my farm, and they were appreciative. It also bumped me up a level, I was able to expand my little farm, and I built a little forest retreat in one corner complete with a treehouse - double sweet!

So on FarmVille, once you've harvested what you can, there's nothing to do until the next harvest, where in FarmTown, there's always more to do. If your farm is taken care of, you can go work at someone else's. So now I actually find myself dropping by FarmTown more often. It's amazing what fun these little games can be, especially on a rainy day when you've got some time to kill and just want a bit of mindless entertainment!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Diggin' a hole...

Out in the field, diggin' a hole

Diggin' a big ol' hole!

dig, dig, dig

Hey! Can't you see I'm busy here?!

dig, dig, dig

Ok, I'm ready to come inside now!

What is this 'bath' thing you speak of?

FWIW, He didn't get a bath, just a quick hop in the trough and he was clean enough to come inside for breakfast :-) Thank goodness for that eskimo easy-clean fur - the dirt just drops off, you'd think he was scotchguarded. I actually encourage the digging, I think it's good exercise for the body and mind, and he loves it, so why not? A tired dog is a good dog!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reduced my chicken load

The other day I went into the coop to collect egg (notice I didn't say 'eggs', because I only have one hen laying right now, so it's one egg every other day for us), and the stink just about knocked me over! Yuck! It occurred to me that 18 chickens in my 8 x 10 coop might be a bit much. It was ok when they were little, but the youngest chicks, Red's Six, was growing up fast. I had just put down a fresh layer of chips a week or so before, and it was already time for more. Plus they'd just eaten through another bag of pellets, and I am having enough trouble keeping ourselves fed - no need to be feeding all these extra chickens. Time to lighten the load!

I advertised the 6 chicks on the Portland Chicken List. I already got rid of the roos from this group, so I think all six were pullets, unless there was a slow-maturing roo hidden in there. Also those six were driving me nuts because, just like their mom, they were wanderers! They were never in the coop area, always out wandering around. So I figured when they did start laying I'd be going on easter egg hunts everyday looking for the eggs. So it was an easy choice to let them go, and the money could go towards buying some more pellets.

I got a response, and it was an older lady from a town in the far corner of our county. I made her a deal on the chicks, and we agreed to meet at a nearby store parking lot. She kept wanting to come to my house, but I didn't want that, my house is hard to find, and besides I would have to catch the chicks the night before anyway - so it's not like she could just drop by. Well, she canceled, and rescheduled, and rescheduled again, and I was getting the idea she was high-maintenance. And she wanted to pay with a check, which was ok if she was getting them that day, but after a week of trying to arrange a pickup, I just wanted cash so I could go buy some chicken food.

Finally we had arranged to meet Saturday morning at 10, so at 10 I was in the arranged spot, with six chicks in a box, listening to Car Talk on NPR. Time passed and eventually I realized it was 25 after, and she probably wasn't coming. Grrrrr. I called Dave and let him know. So we agreed to wait five more minutes and give up. A few minutes later, as I was driving home, he rung me back, and said the lady had called, and she was at another store, about 7 miles away, and thought we were supposed to meet there. Dave had told her I would come there, and although I didn't want to, I couldn't call her back because she didn't have a phone, she had borrowed someone else's phone to call.

So now I had to drive all the way to this other store, and when I got there she insisted she was at the right place. I know she wasn't, I never would have agree to meet 15 miles round-trip from home, that was a whole gallon of gas or more for my huge van. I didn't want to argue, I just wanted to be done. Either way she gave me the cash, and I gave her the chicks, and that was done with! And I went right to the feed store and got a few bags of layer pellet for the remaining girls. Then I went home and laid down more fresh chips, refilled the feed bin, and gave them all a treat of leftovers from the kitchen. Happy chickens!

So my current chicken-count is five young hens that haven't started laying yet, one buff girl who is laying, and four older hens (including Penny) who are not laying - I don't know if they are done laying forever or just taking a break. And two roos. That's 12 chickens! Last year I had 8 hens laying all summer and had more eggs than I knew what to do with. So this year even if only the new girls are laying, we should have plenty of eggs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Downtime caused by illness

Poor Dave had a cold this week, and spent much of the time laid out on the couch catching up on all the stuff he saved up on the DVR while he was away from home finishing up this play he was directing. Jack kept his feet warm.

Downtime caused by New Laptop!

I've been recovering from a big computer changeover. A friend heard about my sad old laptop and GAVE me a new one! Unbelievable! I've never had anyone do anything so kind and generous out of the blue like that. I am so grateful to him! But of course it takes a while to get everything moved over, learn to navigate Vista, and get all my accessories (like my wireless keyboard) working again - all things that turned productivity way down. But today I've finally got it all back together. I ca get pics off my camera again, and the keyboard/mouse is working (hard to get any serious work done on the laptop keyboard and touchpad). I LOVE my new laptop, a Dell 1545. It is fast and the screen is HUGE and it's been pretty easy to work with so far. I don't even have any complaints about Vista (it was free, who am I to complain?)

After copying all my data off the harddrive, the old laptop retired to the store, where it is getting used everyday. Nice to not have to drag a computer between home and work anymore.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hot Rod Laptop

My six year old Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop has been a faithful friend. Oh, we've had our ups and downs, but for the most part it has been a workhorse. A couple years ago I upgraded to a bigger/faster harddrive and maxed out the internal memory. For the past year it has gotten dragged to work everyday, and back home at night.

Last Christmas the monitor went out, and I was lucky to find one on eBay which was mis-labelled as the smaller monitor, when I could tell from the picture it was the larger one. So I got it for a steal and replaced my broken monitor. Then this year the power adapter went bad and we found replacements for $6. Then the battery gave up and it turns out the laptop won't work without a somewhat functioning battery, even if it's plugged in. So we replaced that, and it kept plugging along.

A couple weeks ago the fan gave a sad little squeel and quit. Without the fan the laptop could only run for a couple minutes at a time without overheating. Once again to eBay, where I found a new fan and heatsink combo. While waiting for it to arrive I pulled the laptop apart.

There's a view I've seen all too often. The fan is on the right, and the CPU is under it, just to the left.

Pulling out the fan/heatsink as a unit, I realized the chip was cemented onto it from the years of cooking that cooling gel between them. This is actually an opportunity in disguise. Instead of trying to pry the chip off the old heatsink, or pullling just the fan out of the new one, why not buy a new CPU? The old one is a Celeron 2.3GHz. It only has a 128k cache I think.

I did a bit of research, went on the Dell forum to double check my understanding, and went on eBay again, this time looking for a Pentium 4 CPU, with a 400MHz bus and 512k cache. I had my choice of CPU speeds, since the laptop requires the more plentiful desktop CPU, not a laptop CPU, so there were many to choose from. I went with a 2.4GHz, hoping that would not increase the laptop's cooling issues. Then I sat back and waited for my parts to arrive.

Drops right in.

New heat sink and fan go in on top of it (with cooling gel between). I reassembled and held my breath as I pushed the power button. It made a noise like someone had stepped on a small animal. Uh-oh! I tried a couple more times, then followed the power cable back to the wallplug and discovered I had unplugged it! Duh! That sad little noise was the dead battery. Ok, plug it in, turn it on, and it came right up like nothing had changed. Ran a few programs, and it seems nice and quick. But the real change is online. Suddenly it can handle watching videos online, and even streaming video on Hulu - what a bonus for those long boring days at the store!

Yay - long live the Inspiron!

When I bought this laptop I was thinking it was going to be a sort of throwaway computer. My last couple desktops had grown obsolete so quickly, and I knew that laptops were even less upgradable than desktops. So when we bought it we bought the cheapest one available. It has been a great little computer, and thanks to the pages of information on the internet, as well as the easy accessability of parts on eBay, it is going to continue to be a workhorse for a little while longer. I can't complain about the six years of use I've gotten out of it so far.