Sunday, June 28, 2009

The hawk

Yesterday was hot and the air was still. As I was driving home I passed a big meadow along the road, full of dry, yellow grass and ringed with fir trees at the far edge. My eye was caught by a glimpse of something brown against the dark green trees: a large hawk, floating lazily over the field in big swooping circles. As I got closer I realized there was a boy at the edge of the field, clearing weeds along the road. He had a wheelbarrow full of weeds he'd already cut down, and was taking a break, leaning on the handle of his pitchfork with his hat tipped back, also watching the hawk.

Scenes like this are one reason I love living out in the country.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First hot day with the AC turned on

Last year...

This year...

Poor Barclay! He's such a hot dog anyway, and he's got a lot more fluff this year! He loves to sleep behind the toilet pressed up against the cool porcelain, or stretched out over a cooling vent!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Lawnmower rides again!

I've once again gotten the mower running. It had thrown a belt, the tranny was acting up, and it was making a horrible metal-on-metal noise which made me very uncomfortable last time Dave used it. I thought for sure it was time for a new mower. But we stopped and looked at them at Lowes the other day and the cheapest one equivalent to ours was still $1000!

So I pulled the deck off and found a brace under the deck had rusted through on one end and gotten bent in so one of the blades was brushing it every go-round. So I removed the brace, replaced the belt, sharpened the blades, greased whatever needed greasing, and put the deck back on (with Dave's help, that thing is a bear to wrestle around). He took it for a test drive and mowed the grass along the road and it did fine, and didn't even make any funny noises. It still needs to be hooked up to the charger before it will start, because I think I burned out the charging system last year when I hooked up a battery backwards, but other than that, it sounds like it might just make it another season.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I've got to get out of this place!

Another beautiful sunny weekend (our weekend is mid-week) when we should be out camping and hiking, working on the boat, fishing, or doing other fun stuff, and instead we are weed-whacking, cutting down blackberry vines, mowing, and digging up our patch of invasive bamboo. And repairing that damned rider mower again!

We have been talking lately about getting a smaller place where we don't have three acres to maintain. I'm ready to go now!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Geocaching and Travel Bugs - Sharkey

A few years ago I was into Geocaching, the online GPS treasure hunt game. I would still be if my GPS hadn't become outdated. I'll get a new one someday and do it again. One of the fun side games is Travel Bugs. Travel Bugs are things you put in the cache with a special number/tag on them, and you usually give them a goal, and they get picked up and passed along, and logged along the way, and it's fun to see where they go. I've done four of them.

Sharky was a stuffed shark. I think I found him in a cache, and thought it was hilarious. After he hung around a while I decided to send him travelling. In April 2002 I put a tag on him and sent him on his way.

My goal was to send him from the NW, all the way to my friend Heather and her son Brandon in Godfrey Illinois. They were finding Geocaches out their way, so we picked a cache they knew they could find in a hurry when he showed up, and made that his goal. We dropped him off in Washougal, WA, as I recall. As you can see from the map above, sending something by Geocache is not exactly the most direct way of getting something from point A to point B.

Along the way people posted pictures of his adventures:

He hitched a ride with Barbie between caches.

He hung out poolside at some resort on the east coast.

And someone took him to a petshop to visit the other sharks!

A year and a half later, in October 2003 he landed in the Piasa Bird cache near Alton, IL (the the Piasa bird is an interesting story in itself if you google it). Heather and Brandon went and picked him up and took him home. What a fun little adventure we had! Tomorrow I'll tell you about the other Travel Bugs who didn't have quite as successful a journey :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

No more indoor chickens

Copper had to go back out with his siblings. Barclay just couldn't handle a chicken in the house, and I couldn't handle puttng up with him (Barclay) for more than one day!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Black hen

Black Hen says 'Nothing to see here, go away.."

Little tiny chick voice "Yeah, what she said, go away!"

Mama hen is very protective. I can only see the chicks from a distance. They do seem to be enjoying being outside in the tractor compared to the brooder where there was no room to move around!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Barclay watching Chicken-vision. What's on tonight?

Barclay is frustrated by Copper's presence in the house. He thinks Copper should be out in the yard being chased, like my other bad wandering chickens. I had Barclay trained to where he would watch a chicken walk by without chasing, but lately I have had four pesky chickens who know how to escape the orchard and go wandering the yard, and I never know when we're going to walk out the door and find them there, and so he has gotten into the habit of chasing them again. Hopefully he'll learn to 'leave it'. As I work with training Copper, I'll work on Barclay too.

This has been a busy chicken-day. After shuffling the chicks around I moved Mom and her 8 chicks into the empty tractor. Then I opened up her side of the brooder so the turkeys could have twice as much room. Of course the new side of the brooder was scary, so they all stood on their side and stared at it with long necks and big eyes, but refused to walk over there! Then we ended the evening by powdering chicken butts again. Penny still has mites, and so do two others. Everyone else looks fine. So we powdered them one more time. I might have to do it again next week. I hope they get over this soon!

Shuffling chicks

Yesterday black mama hen started hatching her eggs. I've seen 4 or 5 chicks so far, but she's keeping them hid. They are in a brooding box in the shed, and it's not big enough for them, so I need to move them out to a chicken tractor so they can scratch around in the grass. However the tractors are full. Time to shuffle some chickens.

So I took the tractor with 7 chicks

And added two of the chicks from the tractor that only has three.

The remaining chick I put in a dog carrier so I can work with taming him. He is Penny's only chick out of the first set of chicks we hatched. He is a Buff Cochin, and he has feathered feet and legs. I think he's super cute, so I thought it would be fun to work with him a bit. I've heard you can clicker train chickens, so I thought I'd give it a try. His name is Copper.

In the turkey brooder the turkeys are getting HUGE! They are almost as tall as the gallon milk jugs I feed them out of.

Because the turkeys are getting too big to stay in the brooder much longer, I am giving the extra chicks to one of the boys in our 4H llama club who is also in chicken 4H. That way the new mom and chicks will have one tractor, and the turkeys will have the other, and I'll be DONE with raising chicks for the season.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kids and Llamas

Our visting llamas had some visiting kids a few weeks ago. They were all equally curious about each other :) It's nice that llamas are gentle enough you can send kids out in the field to get to know them and not have to worry about anyone getting hurt. The llamas came up and sniffed them and checked out their offerings, then sort of drifted back out into the field.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Broken Computer

My computer is broken! Turns out the old Inspiron 1100 laptop won't work without it's battery, and the battery has gone kaput! It hasn't really worked as a battery for a long time, but I use it plugged in so that never bothers me. But recently it started shutting down with a 'critical battery' error even when plugged in. So a new battery is in the mail, but until it arrives I have to sneak on and use Dave's computer when he's not using it :(

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Homemade Rice-a-Roni

The raw rice mix

I have recently switched to making homemade rice-a-roni. Dave loves the 'roni, but we have several problems with the store bought stuff. First of all, it's expensive for a tiny box of rice. Secondly, there is WAY too much salt in the seasoning. Third thing: In the last two years I've probably thrown away a dozen boxes where I cooked the rice and when I got to the part where you add water a bunch of cooked bug bodies floated to the top - ewww! They're little weevels who sneak into the boxes. I even called the company and they emailed me a nice response and apologized, and reminded me that the bugs aren't going to hurt you if you eat them. Well, that's fine, but here in America we don't like to eat bugs if we can help it. Some countries, I know bugs are on the menu, but not around here. So I finally swore off the store bought stuff.

So here's how to make your own. A two pound bag of rice of your choice (I went with long grain white this time), and a half pound of orzo, which is tiny pasta. I found orzo at our grocery store. Mix them together. That takes care of the rice mix.

For the seasonings, the seasoning packet is usually just boullion and some spices, so you can easily do much better at home. I like to start out by sauteing some shallot or onion chopped fine, and a minced garlic in olive oil. Then add 1/2 cup of rice and saute that until browned. Then add 3/4 cups of broth - chicken or beef works for me. It's always 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts liquid. Add a pinch of seasoning if you like. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer (no peeking) 18-20 minutes.

Last night I made encheladas and made a nice spanish-rice type dish with this mix, only I left out the onion and garlic, and instead just used a can of stewed tomatoes, cumin, a dash of hot sauce, and a little of the taco seasoning I was using on the enchelada filling. I used the regular amount of chicken broth, but I should have used a little less to make up for the liquid in the tomatoes, so it was a little wet. But it tasted fantastic! And it made for great leftovers.

So there you go, easy, cheap, and no bugs. That's all I can ask for in a side dish!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hiking Trip to Amboy

Not a great picture of me and Barclay (guess I should have taken off the hat) :) Today Dave and D and I hiked to the top of Green Mountain in Amboy. It's just an easy walk up a logging road, but it's pretty steep. We saw tons of butterflies, a skink (which I almost stepped on, sunning in the middle of the trail), snails, and even a snake. Along the way you can look back across the valley and see all the way back to the hills around Battle Ground. There's great views at the top.

View Larger Map

Dave and D with Lake Merwin and Mt St Helens in the background.

Mt St Helens. It's a pretty spectacular view. I never get tired of looking at Mt St Helens. We're on the South side so you can't see the crater. Everyone made it just fine, and Barclay did a great job on his first big hike. We even stopped in Amboy for ice cream on the way back into town. Fun day!

If D posts her pictures of the butterflies (she took a bunch of them), I'll link to her blog :)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

More bugs on the butt

I caught one of the chickens this morning and checked out her butt, to see how our mite-powdering treatment had worked out. I was happy to see no mites on one hen, and only a few on another, but when I picked Penny up (got attacked by the rooster while I was trying to corner her), I saw a LOT of bugs on her bum! Poor Penny! So I decided to clean up the coop and spread that powder in all the corners and nest boxes, and then tonight we'll powder everyone's bums again.

So I shovelled out two wheelbarrows full of cedar chips. To get to everything I had to remove my roosts, which were just pieces of old ladder. Three of the chickens prefer to sleep on a shelf, and poop on the shelf, and it has been a terrible mess, so I removed the shelf too.

In it's place I built a big roost. It's like a big ladder, and it's hinged to the wall at the top, so I can lift the bottom and hook it to a chain in the ceiling and get it out of the way for cleaning. I saw one done that way on the net and thought it looked clever.

I also put a piece of aluminum angle on the edge of the doorway where there was rough chickenwire always sticking out to catch you as you walked in and out, and put a latch on the door so I wouldn't have to just slide a feed bucket in front of it to hold it closed. I can latch it from the inside too, so Barclay can't follow me into the coop anymore. A few weeks ago he followed me in and ran out the chicken door into the orchard and chased chickens around until I pounced on him and stopped him.

So now the coop looks like this, with the feed buckets neatly arranged in front (scratch, chick food, and layer pellets). The red glow at the bottom left is the turkey brooder. In the back left corner of the coop is Penny's nest box. I realized after I had it all set up that it would be a pain to get around the new roost to collect eggs, so I moved it to the foot of the roost. I'm sure she won't care.

Everyone came in to check it out.

They had been away from the food all day, so that was their primary interest!