Thursday, March 26, 2009

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick

I was playing with Barclay this morning with his favorite toy in the whole world, a tennis ball on a long rope tied to a stick - kind of like a giant version of a cat toy where you'd have a feather on a string on a stick. I swing the stick around and the ball bounces around and he chases it and leaps in the air, twisting and snatching it in mid air - it's quite a show. He has incredible fast relexes, and how he calculates where to be to snatch it out of the air is amazing! When he catches it he's so proud he brings it back to me all wiggly and happy :)

This morning we were playing right before I had to leave for work, and he had already made some pretty spectacular mid-air catches, when he jumped up and miscalculated and the ball thumped him right in the eye! Hard - I heard the 'whump' and knew that was a hard hit, coupled with a YIPE from him! He stopped and fell over and started pawing at his eye and rubbing it on the ground - poor puppy! I finally got a look at it and it looked ok, he just didn't want to open it. So I scratched his neck to relax him and took him inside and he cuddled up next to me on the couch and licked my hand while I gave him a good rub to calm him down. Pretty soon he was squinting through it, and before I left for work he had it open again and everything looked pretty much normal. I don't know if dogs get black eyes, but that hit certainly would have warrented it!

Poor pup, we'll just have to be more careful. We can't stop playing with the toy though, it's his favorite, he even will go get it and drag it around the yard looking for a game. I'll just try not to put his eye out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Steamed Hard Boiled Eggs

I saw an add on TV for an egg steamer, and had a laugh about it because I LOVE the way those gadget commercials always make simple tasks look impossible in order to convince you to buy their gadget. So they were showing these people who were unable to cook eggs without their fancy steamer, which I thought was quite funny. But the idea stuck with me and so I looked it up on the net. Indeed people do steam eggs to hard boil them, and several sites I read suggested the steam makes it easier to peel the eggs. Because our eggs are so fresh, they are very hard to peel, hard enough that I had given up making hard boiled eggs with them!

So I pulled out the steamer and took a few eggs, pierced a little hole in one end (I think that was supposed to keep it from blowing the shell apart, but they did that anyway), and set it to steam for 30 minutes, which is what I read online. I also read to steam them for 10 and let them rest for 20. After 30 minutes I moved them into a bowl of ice water in the fridge for half an hour. Then I pulled them out and sure enough, those shells slipped right off! It was wonderful! And the eggs were perfect, didn't even have the green ring around the yolk. I did a bunch more and made egg salad for sandwiches, and then had a few left over for Dave to snack on.

I'm so excited to have found an easy way to cook our eggs. And I didn't need to buy any new gadgets to do it!

Angel Food Cake

I have been experimenting with ways to use up lots of eggs, so the first thing that comes to mind is Angel Food Cake, because that uses a dozen egg whites. I made an AFC when I was a teenager, all by myself, and it came out just fine (lucky lucky). So a couple weeks ago I downloaded a Good Eats recipe and gave it a try.

First attempt didn't turn out so well. Everything looked fine until I got it out of the pan and cut it and then I discovered random gooey blobs inside. The cake around the blobs was good, but the blobs were gross, so I ended up ditching it. I'm sure it's something I did because I absolutely swear by Alton Brown's recipes. Sometimes the recipes may not be to my taste, but they always come out.

Second try was today, and I got a recipe off and tried it. The order of operations was a little different. It seems that AFC is all about technique, since the ingredients seem to be about the same. This time the cake came out looking good, tasting good, and no gooey blobs, but it's heavy! More like an Angel Food Brick!

Oh well, since the chix are giving me 6-7 eggs a day now, I'll be able to try again in a couple days. As for the dozen yolks, I cooked them and threw them back out to the chickens. Hate to see them go to waste, and I don't know what else to do with yolks by themselves.

Sorry no pics, the camera is Out of Order for a few days.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Made some bread

A few years ago Dave gave me a bread machine for Christmas. I enjoyed using it for a while, then tucked it away in the cupboard and hadn't used it in a couple years. But a week ago we were out of bread and I had bread flour in the pantry, so I pulled out the machine and made a loaf of white bread. It turned out nice, and made some good sandwiches, and the leftovers made a nice stuffing to go with a turkey breast I cooked.

So today I tried a new recipe, Sally Lunn bread. It's good, kind of sweet.

Mmm, smells like bread. Actually the best part of baking bread is that the whole house smells like bread!

Barclay says, please can't I have some of that bread?

I do enjoy the simplicity of tossing ingredients into the bread machine and three hours later you have warm bread and the house smells wonderful. Pretty slick!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spoke to Alki's Oncologist

Dr Cyman is Alki's oncologist, and she has been wonderful through this whole matter. When I talked to her yesterday after a couple days of phone tag she made me feel much better. She's very matter of fact about dealing with things. When I asked about the other vet seeing cancer cells in Alki's urine, the Dr basically said 'maybe he did, maybe it was something else. It doesn't really matter, we already know she has cancer.' Well, true. It's just that every time someone says cancer I freak out a bit more! But she's right, that's no surprise. So she said Alki's blood tests looked pretty good, but she suspects her bladder is irritated, either from an infection or from the cancer. Again, it doesn't matter, because we'll do the same thing either way. I'm supposed to keep track of how often she takes piddle breaks for a few days, then we'll do a round of antibiotics and see if it helps. It might help, it might not. She said 'if money grew on trees' we'd try some other things, but I'm glad she realizes we just can't. Plus she understood that Alki is getting older and not up to a bunch of crazy treatments. So she made me feel a lot better because she's so calm and matter of fact that we'll do what we can to make her comfortable in spite of the cancer. Can't cure the cancer, so we'll just deal with it.

She did say that Alki is coming up on two years since her diagnosis and that that is spectacular for her. In fact she said she had a meeting with the other oncologists in the area recently, including the dr who did Alki's pre-surgery diagnosis and the surgeon, and shared her records with them, because it's really a success story that she is still plugging along and enjoying a good quality of life.

Some days she mopes around a bit and sleeps a lot or pants like something is bothering her. Other days she bounds around like a crazy hyperactive pup. On the good days it's hard to look at her and think she's sick. On the bad days I can't forget it.

It still gives me chills to realize my little buddy has cancer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sad news for Alki

Alki went to the vet yesterday for her checkup and the vet found what he described as 'sheets of cancer cells' in her urine. We knew this was coming. The bladder cancer has caused her to strain while peeing, and that has gotten worse recently. It happens so slowly it's hard to notice, but she does spend quite a bit of time squatting outside. He also said her bladder seemed to be tender, because she didn't want him feeling around there. The blood tests went to the oncologist. I'm sure we won't be hearing good news. We've been very happy that the cancer treatments gave her an extra year and a half of normal life, and she's been very happy that whole time. But we knew the cancer would catch up with her eventually. Now we just have to see how this all plays out.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Nothing in Life is free - when you're a dog

I've been thinking about this 'nothing in life is free' thing that we have been trying on Barclay. Not that i have been trying it too well, if it burdens me, I'm less likely to do it than I am to be lazy and do it my regular way. One of the things I don't do well is get him on a feeding schedule, mostly because Alki free-feeds, so there is always food down, and he doesn't care much about his food anyway, so his bowl always has food in it too. I'm supposed to pick it up and not let him have anything until I choose to offer it to him again, but I can't be the dog food nazi, I have other things to do, so I just leave it down and he'll come snack when he wants some. In my mind it's healthier if they don't develop an obsession with gulping down every kibble the moment it appears. I've never had fat dogs, so I must be doing something right.

Plus, Barclay is not that bad, he's actually pretty darned good, so I might be more devoted to the cause if I really thought he had issues. Basically the more I think about it, the more I think I'm OVER-thinking it. He's not trying to dominate anyone or rule the house. If anything he is a pretty 'soft' dog, who if not eager to please, is certainly eager to stay off the radar, and just likes to have fun.

Today I came home and on purpose played run and chase games with him. He didn't know it but there were some important lessons hidden in the games, things about responding to his name and running towards me when I call him. He was just having fun running and chasing and fetching and doing all the stuff he enjoys anyway, and needs to do to burn off energy. And I got some exercise too - I was panting by the time we came inside! Running my butt off :)

This whole dog training thing is a puzzle. What worked on Alki doesn't work on Barclay, and what works on Barclay probably won't work on the next dog. Maybe that's part of the fun anyway.

Still snowing...

Still snowing, but not really sticking. White rain I guess. Sure is pretty to watch.

Night before last when I heard snow was coming again, and the temp had dropped considerably by nightfall, I went out and caught the garden chickens. They were napping on their roost for the night, which made it easier to catch them. Still, big red chicken SCREAMED the whole way, while I tucked her head under my arm to muffle the sound - I'm sure the neighbors thought we were having chicken for dinner! I put them back with the rest of the flock. I don't think the chicken tractor is warm enough for the chickens to stay out in it in this kind of weather. I may be pampering them, but I wanted them to be in the insulated coop while it was storming out.

Orange Juice

I used to buy Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice, thinking I was getting the closest possible thing to the real stuff, until I read this article:

It's in interview with the author of a book called "Squeezed: What you don't know about Orange Juice". Well, you know that can't be good. I don't know if it's truth or hype, but it was a wake up call to remember to eat food with the least processing whenever possible.

So in my ongoing quest to 'eat real food, not too much, mostly plants' (see Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food: An Eater's manifesto), the concept of only eating things Grandma would have recognized as food, I decided to start drinking fresh-squeezed juice for breakfast.

I already had the juicer head for the mixer, I bought it a couple years ago, thinking I would squeeze a bunch of oranges at the beginning of the week to enjoy all week. Well that didn't work out. But it turns out that just squeezing two oranges for breakfast every morning is fast and easy, in fact I can juice them and have the whole thing cleaned up before my toast pops up. And it tastes really good. Plus now I have oranges around the kitchen, so I'm more likely to grab one for a snack during the day. There are also fresh baked cookies in the kitchen, and since I'm sure Grandma would have recognized those as food, they are also fair game.

I was put off a bit by the fact that the oranges are still sprayed with some unpronouncable chemicals to protect them during shipping. We'll just have to live with that, I guess, since Oranges are not something we can grow around here.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lousy weather!

Although it hasn't really been enough to stick, all day we have put up with hail/sleet/snow. Not that Barclay cares...

Time for a quick dip in the trough, then back to playing!

Then maybe a little rest in the straw under the shelter

The Airstream

We have a 1968 Airstream Caravel - that's a 17ft trailer - which I restored myself over the last 5 years, with help from my friends in the Airstream community. It is my pride and joy, and we don't get to use it as much as I'd like. All this winter weather is giving me cabin fever - I want to hook up and hit the road! So instead I went out and did some cleaning up, fixed a bad light switch, and just hung out inside with the dog for a bit, letting him get used to it while I read a magazine. He went camping with us a couple times last season, but he has a bit of separation anxiety, so I want him to learn it's a safe place to be when we're gone.

Since it's only 17 ft long, the tour is short. There's a kitchen down one side...

And a couch that folds out into a bed on the other (in Airstream-speak, that's called a 'gaucho'). The bathroom is in the back, and it's full-service :) That's a requirement for me when we're 'camping'.

And there's a dinette in the front which folds down into a bed as well, but we use the side bed. It's actually nice and cozy inside, and never seems cramped. It's small size is easy to tow and fits into any camping spot. We are forced to keep everything neat and orderly when travelling because there is no room for clutter inside.

Mighty followed me into the trailer, and then I left to play with the dog, and when I came back and opened the door she had a lot to say to me about forgetting her and leaving her locked in there all alone for TEN WHOLE MINUTES!!! Apparently it was quite traumatic. She may require therapy...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Now with tags!

I went through today and labelled almost all of my posts with tags (I skipped quite a few of the original 'picture-a-day' posts). So now if you want to go back and look at cute pictures of specifically cats, or Alki, or chickens, there you go!

Do you have any grey poupon?

There's something about a persian lounging around the house that classes up the joint, don't you think?

One day later...

After only one day of work I went out and found the girls had done a pretty decent job of clearing the ground the coop was sititng on! They pretty much had it tromped down to mud. They even found time to leave me a couple eggs. Good girls!

Seeing how well they had done I grabbed the ropes on the end of the box and dragged it to the next spot all by my little self. Keep working girls!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A tired dog is a good dog!

Today we took barclay to the public dogpark in the afternoon. There was no one on the small dog side, but there were a couple nice older dogs on the big dog side, and their owner said they would be fine, and they greeted through the fence and seemed fine, so we took him over to the big dog side. They ran around and did great together, so that was good. Then another family showed up with kids and a young dog that was into fetching, and Barclay got to play with the kids and run around with that dog, and that was wearing him out pretty good. Then another family showed up with a young GSD that he has played with before, but last time she was on the big dog side and he was on the small dog side, and they just ran up and down the fenceline. She's young, and a bit of a handful! They played chase and Barclay was loving that, running big circles, changing directions, zipping in and out, but of course she got a little too close and grabbed his tail and there was a big 'yalp!' out of Barclay. He was fine, but he ran back to us and hung out with the people. After that when he wanted to go play with her I'd call him back, and he's getting really good at coming, even if there's other dogs around, so that's good. That GSD was just a bit too much dog for him! She has a bit of puppy rudeness still, and the other dogs didn't mind putting her in her place when she got out of hand, but I didn't want Barclay getting in the middle of that.

In the end he had a great time, all the dogs were nice, the people were nice, the kids had fun playing with him, and a fun time was had by all. And then when we came home he crashed and slept the rest of the evening :)

Chicken tractor Part 2

Here is my finished Chicken Tractor!

Here it is with the access door removed.
This is a view of the nest box. There is a roost underneith the nest box platform, and a couple roosts under the A frame supports further forward.
The chicken tractor went right out into the garden, and we set it where I want the first garden bed area to be. Tonight after the chickens go to roost I'll go kidnapp a couple to put in the tractor. Once they've worked over the ground there, I will move the tractor to the next location and let them work on it. Although it seems unlikely right now, I want to turn this corner of the yard into a beautiful garden, with berry bushes and fruit trees. I know it will take a lot of work, but it's never too late to get started!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Chicken tractor!

I have been wanting to build a chicken tractor, which is a small portable coop. Two reasons - first, I have these 'wild' chickens who refuse to stay in the pen with the rest of the chickens and wander the neighborhood. Second - I want them to be forced to work on a particular area at a time, as in I want them to help turn over my garden. We'll see how that works!

I spent quite a bit of time on the net researching chicken tractors, and chose to go with this basic A-frame design:

Original link here

I was lucky to find most of the wood I needed in the storeroom at the store, stuff we had bought for building our displays and then not needed. Dave helped me build the frame, cover it with chicken wire (given to me by a friend), put on the cedar siding (leftover from a play a couple years ago), and by the time it got dark I only needed to finish the end door and it will be ready for chickens.

Before I gave up for the night I was sitting IN the tractor, stapling chicken wire down, when it started to rain. Mouse was supervising, so she climbed in there with me, and we sat under the shelter nice and dry, while the rain fell and the sun set behind spectacular purple clouds. It was very peaceful. She purred and I ruffled her fur and we enjoyed the end of a busy afternoon.