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?