Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pseudotropheus Estherae

These are p. estherae, also called Red Zebras or Cobalt Zebras, which as you can see is stretching it a bit in either direction. The red is not what I would call red, in fact I would call them yellow. I only have one blue male, and it is a pale blue. This is my 110g display tank in the living room. The amazing thing about these fish is that they are ALL estherae, despite the wild variations in color. If the solid yellow breed with the blue male, they will produce more solid yellow babies, and the dominant males eventually turn blue. In my tank there is only one yellow male dominant enough to show his blue colors.

If the blue male breeds with a yellow/black female, or a yellow/black male breeds with a yellow female, you get more yellow/black fish. And when the video swings over to the rocks you see some of the yellow/black babies hiding in the rocks. This type of fish is a mouthbrooder, so the mom will carry the eggs in her mouth until they hatch and the babies are ready to swim and feed on their own.

The dominant yellow/black male in the tank is most visible at the very end of the clip, and he stands out because he is BIG, and because in the dominant yellow/black fish, the black turns blue. So I have blue fish, yellow fish, yellow/black fish, and yellow/blue fish, and they are all the same type of fish - amazing!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Homemade pizza

We were snowed in again today, but this time it wasn't as annoying because instead of shutting our business down and costing us money, it was our day off anyway. So instead of running around and doing errands, we were forced to sit home and relax, and that was kind of nice.

So I made pizza. I have been wanting to experiment more with making doughs, it's just hard to find the time. Earlier this week I made a quiche with a homemade pie dough, which wasn't as hard as I was expecting. So I used a recipe in a Gordon Ramsey cookbook I had handy to make homemade pizza dough. Unfortunately it made enough for four pizzas! So I took the first round and did a test pizza with just plain cheese to see how it went. Pretty good, but needed a bit more flavor.

I took the second crust and roasted some garlic and brushed the top with the garlic and olive oil, and docked the dough so it wouldn't blow up like a balloon. Still came out looking floury and pale. So I brushed a bit of butter on it and stuck it back in for a few minutes. Looked and smelled great when I pulled it out, so I went ahead and put all the fixin's on for Dave's favorite, Hawaiian.

I cooked it in Great-Grandma's cast iron skillet. The story goes that the skillet came from Illinois to Oklahoma with Great-Grandma on a covered wagon back when she was a little girl. True, or just family legends? Who knows, all I know is when I was growing up that skillet was used for nearly every meal and hardly ever cooled off between cooking for family members on graveyard shift and swing shift. Makes me feel special to cook in it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chickens in the snow (or not)

When I checked on the chickens this morning I saw Big Bird out with one of his buff hens.

I was out in the pasture watching Barclay tear up a molehill when I heard a strange crow from Big Bird which I hadn't heard him make before. I went over to investigate and found him walking around calling for his hens. The other chicken you hear is the one buff hen answering him.

But the hens aren't stupid, it's cold outside! They were all in the coop nice and warm and working on laying eggs!

A good morning for Barclay

This must have been Barclay's idea of a perfect morning. First off there was snow...

And then he chased Alki a bit, which annoys her plenty...

Then he found a fresh molehill to dig up.

Then he snuck into the pen and chased the goats and tried to get Houdini to play. Then he chased the rooster. Then I took him inside and he sat next to me on the couch and laid his head on my chest and fell asleep. It's that last part that always makes me forgive all the other stuff :)

Oh Snow! Not again!

I thought we'd had enough snow for the season, but apparently not. Luckily this was just a light dusting. For the past few days the critters have been in the main pasture since it was frozen and I wasn't worried about them messing it up, but now they are confined to the paddock again so they won't muddy up the field.

I put the manger under the shelter so the hay wouldn't get wet, and as they pull it down and leave behind the stemmy bits it ads to the straw they sleep on, so it actually looks pretty cozy in there.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toothpaste for Dinner

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sheep and Goats and Coyotes

Well, Annaliese won't be taking the sheep and goats back, she is worried about the coyotes she heard around their house the other night. I don't blame her, I wouldn't want them to get eaten either! So I guess fate has decided they will stay here for a while. We'll just see how it goes. Luckily winter is almost over, right?

Time wasters

Having grown up when Pong was new and cool, I still love video games, and they are without a doubt my favorite time waster. Not much time for them in the summer, but in the winter, when we're stuck inside, I love to play play play. Especially games that involve exploring. Can't hardly put them down to go to bed!

My favorite when I was a kid was Adventure, on the Atari 2600. I knew that game inside and out, and all the easter eggs, and every cool thing you could do like carry a dragon around and fight other dragons with it. Spent hours playing around with that.

Then in college we wasted huge amounts of time playing Dungeon Master on the Atari ST. This was miles ahead of anything they had on PCs at the time. Ah, the warm fuzzies I get just from looking at the screenshot! Oh no! A Mummy!

Then there was Wolfenstein, oh about the time I got out of college. Great fun running around and exploring and looking for hidden passages, and shooting nazis of course. But the best was yet to come...

Doom! The ultimate time waster - because now we could network and play together, and hunt each other down, and have giant frag-offs that lasted all afternoon. At work. When we should have been working. Nothing like launching an RPG and hearing a tormented cry from the guy two cubicles over! Oh, bless the people who created Doom. Probably precipitated the fall of the American capitalist system. So much productivity lost...

I don't think anything gave me as much pleasure as Doom until KotOR came out - that's Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. For a geek what could be more fun than to be completely immersed in a Star Wars universe, surrounded by familiar aliens, Jedis and Sith, lightsabers and blasters, and ship that looks a lot like the Millenium Falcon? Nothing. Nothing could be better.

But KotOR came out in 2003 or so, and I played it shortly after that, so why reminice about it now. Because it is set in a very immersive universe, and the clever way they worked in all kinds of side quests that you may not even run into the first time you play, and different choices based on if you're playing good or evil - or switching back and forth, it can be played over and over again. Slightly different things happen, you see cut-scenes you never activated before, you have little adventures you never ran across previously. I've played it at least four times, haven't played it for a couple years but I'm playing it again now, and I'll be playing it again after that.

One of my favorite things about KotOR is you can play as a man or a woman - finally a videogame that acknowledges women may be playing! Or maybe that option is there because they thought some men would want to play as women - let's not even go there! I appreciate being able to play as a woman for a change. And that hunka-hunka-star pilot in the screenshot is Carth, the first guy you meet and he is your companion through the rest of the adventure, along with other characters you pick up along the way.

The original KotOR is just the best of the best as far as videogames go, in my opinion. KotOR II was not nearly as engrossing because it didn't have all the hidden side quests. Pretty much everything in it had to be done to complete the missions. So there was no reason to play it again and again. Recently they announced the next KotOR will be an online version, one of those massive multiplayer games. I don't have much hope for that, we don't really have the high-speed connection to play stuff like that out here in the boonies anyway. But I guess we'll see what the future holds.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sheep and goats and Barclay

Well, Annaliese, who gave me the sheep and goats to begin with, is going to save the day by taking them back - at least for a while. This will give me a much needed break before I completely burn out, and she'll enjoy having her little buddies back. Then we can figure out a better way to take care of them by next winter so it's not such a chore. I mean, I don't mind chores, but this was really wearing me out!

Probably the biggest cause of burnout is Barclay. He is just coming out of his ornery teenage phase, and turning into a wonderful dog. But there's a lot of work to do yet, and everyday most of my time is devoted to him. Either playing with him to wear him out so he won't be as destructive, or teaching him things, or practicing the things he should already know, or cleaning up the swath of destruction he leaves behind if he isn't worn out enough. He's sweet, and I think he's really going to be a great dog, but raising a pup is so much work! Even Dave says it seems like our whole life revolves around him right now.

I can't imagine having kids and keeping this up for 20 years!! I salute you moms out there!

Yesterday Barclay went to work with me for the day, and had a great time visiting with customers, schmoozing up to everyone, and licking the kids who came in. But between customers he was trying out something new - when he got bored he decided to bark at me, demanding I entertain him. Barking gets ignored, laying down and being quiet gets rewarded. So I got barked at quite a bit before he figured that out. He's never been a barker, so I don't know why he decided to give it a try. Just testing the waters I guess.

Then we went to the dog park so he could run off some energy before we left him in his pen all night while we went to see a show. At the dog park there's a big dog area and a small dog area. I take him on the small dog side. No other small dogs were there. But on the big dog side was a german shepherd, a chocolate lab, a bulldog, and a boxer/pit/rottie mix. He had fun running up and down the fenceline with some of those dogs. After a bit everyone left except the bulldog, so I took him over there to play with him. They ran around and wrestled, except he couldn't knock that bulldog over for anything - it was just his size by height and length, but weighed 80lbs! He weighs 30! The bulldog kept knocking him over and laying on him, and he couldn't wiggle out from under all that bulk :) They were having a great time, but he started to get tired and then the humping starts, which is a sign it's time to go home. He was filthy from the dog grinding him into the clay, and worn out, and that was perfect! So that was his first time playing with a strange dog at the public dog park, and it went very well.

I'm a bit nervous about dog parks because you never know who you're going to meet, and how they will act, which is why I didn't let him over to play with the lab or shepherd. They're just too big, they could hurt him badly pretty fast. And I would never let him play with a pit. Hopefully we'll find times to go when we can meet up with other dogs his size.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Play dead!

When Dave and I took hay to the critters they burst out of the back area and into the yard, which I thought was better than then knocking Dave over with the wheelbarrow full of hay. But Barclay started chasing the sheep, and the pasture gate was open, so out they go into the pasture, and before I could catch up he had a mouthful of wool on Marian's side and was hanging on for dear life as she tried to run away from him. Being a sheep (and we've already established that means 'not very smart') she ran into the corner of the field, and when I caught up Marian was laying down, all legs tucked under, head straight out forward, chin flat on the ground, eyes closed. Playing dead! Barclay didn't know what to do with that - he was jumping around, climbing over her, but there were no legs to grab, and she wouldn't react to him. I finally picked him up and carried him back. When we got away from her Houdini went over to sniff her and she jumped up and shook, and then she ran over to the other sheep, and the whole bunch headed back to get some hay. What crazyness!

Of course, it would have helped if Barclay came when I called her away from her, or if we had the hay stored in a barn, where we could feed the animals without tramping through mud and risking getting knocked down every time. Our layout is just not right for keeping livestock all winter. It's a lot of work, and the animals don't have a good place to stay where they aren't standing in mud and poop. I'm seriously considering finding them new homes and getting out of livestock at all. I feel like if I can't take care of animals right and safely for everyone (including the livestock), then I shouldn't have them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A chicken in every pot...

Ahem..Flowerpot, that is! Our pesky chickens refuse to be contained in their area, and they have been causing havoc all around the house, knocking on the front door (Dave almost let them in the other day when he walked by and saw something orange on the porch and assumed it was a cat!), pooping on the walkways, and now settling in for a nice dustbath in the deck planters!
Our reward for them trashing the place - well, four more eggs today! And the smaller one is blue. It's hard to tell by the picture, but it's not white, and it's not brown - it's got a blue/green tinge to it. I think that is from one of the 'wild' chickens, since they are mixes. One must have a little 'easter-egger' mixed in her family tree.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eeeek! Devil Dog!

Isn't that how it is? You're minding your own business, feel a big yawn coming on, then some idiot comes along and snaps your picture - mid yawn, eyes closed. Oh well, I hate the way I look in pictures too! (that's Alki, BTW - her choppers aren't as white as they used to be)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Barclay's big weekend

Here's a funny chicken story for today - wish I had got pictures. Barclay went outside and the chickens were in the yard, so I watched him from the window, hoping he wouldn't chase them. Instead he came up to one of the friendlier hens, got nose to nose with her, then barked and turned around and stuck his wagging tail in her face, wanting her to chase him and play with him - man that boy needs another puppy to play with!! The chicken didn't know what to do! You should have seen the shocked look on her face!

Yesterday Barclay went to the indoor dog park in Hazel Dell. He has a great time there playing with the boston terriers, and there was a beagle/terrier mix there that he got on great with. A shepherd and a pit bull showed up just before we left, and the shepherd fussed at him a little, and he didn't know how to take it, it kind of shut him down. But it was time to go anyway. I'm sure he'll have forgotten it next time we go. He loves playing with the other dogs. It's great to watch him just being a dog!

Then this morning (after the chicken incident) we went to a herding lesson. At first he kept wanting to bite the sheep on the back legs, and the teacher was joking maybe he needed to work cows! He was a white heeler, instead of a blue heeler :-) But then she got a little more action with the rake and he started to get it. I think he did really good for having had a month off thanks to the weather and then the holiday. And he always has so much fun doing it, and then sleeps the rest of the day!

The best part of today was when he wandered into the chicken pen and Dave called him from the backdoor, and Barclay came running! Then at herding practice I called him away from the sheep and he dropped what he was doing and came running. Then he did it again this afternoon when Dave called him into the house! We taught him to come as a puppy, then he 'forgot how' as an independant teenager, but now it's finally coming back to him. Nothing in the world feels as good as calling your dog and seeing him running towards you!

Planning for summer

I have a lot of things I want to do this upcoing summer. I need to build some deeper raised beds. I have a lot of compost I can use from my animals. I want a bit more space for my bigger plants, like tomatoes. I'd like to plant more berry bushes. I want more stuff growing and for it all to be as low maintenance as possible. I bought a couple more books to help, ones specifically about growing in the NW. I found some of the advice for other regions just doesn't apply, so I needed some local knowledge.

Funny to be thinking about gardening when last week there was snow on the ground!

Also got in 35 bales of hay last night to help keep the sheep and goats fed. That was an expense I didn't need! But it was my fault for incorrectly calculating how many bales I needed when I bought it last summer.

And our van is in the shop for the 4th time in a month. First time was a complete brake overhaul ($900), second time was some failed sensors ($350), third time was a bad battery cable ($40), this time it's leaking antifreeze because during one of the previous visits they replaced the radiator cap, which must have pressurized the system and caused a blowout somewhere else. The bills have been going down, so I'm keeping my finger crossed this is just a hose, and not the radiator itself leaking!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rainy fun

Rain, rain...mud, mud...dig, dig...happy happy!

Rainy day guests

We are near the bottom of a hill, and the water from above us drains down into our pasture. I don't mind, it's important for the water to have someplace to go, especially with so many wetlands being destroyed.

And it provides habitat for visitors like this - a flock of canada geese who dropped by to enjoy the field. They fly over every day. There is a pond to the south east, and another to the north west, so we are in the flight path morning and evening, but this is the first time I've ever seen them stop.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Resolutions - Silver Star Mountain

Mt St Helens from the summit of Silver Star Mountain
(photo by Petrarch1603 - shared by creative commons license)

Gosh, Dorinda inspired me by blogging her resolutions - and they were so darned organized - which is just like her, in my view!

My resolution is the same one it has been for the last couple years, and every year something stops me. This is it - this year I'm going to do it. I will climb a mountain. Literally. I want to get to the top of Silver Star Mountain. It's just east of town, and I see it every day, and I wish I could get to the top of it. Of course I am not in as good a shape as I was when I started wanting to do this a few years ago - seems like something always gets in the way and I end up getting even further from my goal.

Almost 5 years ago we drove up there, and it takes a 4x4 just to get to the trailhead. We started hiking up the trail and it was so steep, and the altitude was so high, I started to panic a bit, had trouble catching my breath, so we turned around and came back. Ever since I have wanted to get in better shape and try again! Of course, the humiliating thing is that Silver Star is completely non-technical, is listed in several guidebook as 'easy hikes for children', and is considered a grade A (that's the easiest rating they have) hike for most outdoor clubs. It's really shouldn't be that big an achievement. But it will be for me.

So my goal is to get out and hike at least a couple times a week on local trails, and get in better shape so that by the end of the summer I can hike to the top of Silver Star. Anyone want to join me?