Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Garden is done

We had a cold snap last week, and I was home with a cold so I didn't want to go out and do anything to the garden. Everything growing out there, except a few herbs, was cold-weather plants like cabbage, broccoli, and kale, plus the remaining chard, spinach and onions, so I let them tough it out.

Ouch! Bad idea! Everything is wilted flat to the ground!

 The winter greens...

The chard and spinach

 The sage was the only thing tough enough to look unfazed by the drop to 19 degrees!

I think I'll be turning over the dead stuff into the rows and toss some of the cut grass from the field on there, or compost, or I have a friend with  livestock who's going to bring over some manure to put down. I'll let it cook until spring and then we'll be ready to go again. Eventually I want my garden to produce year around, but I'm pretty happy with how this year went - even though the weather never cooperated for most of it. I learned a lot, and I'll be looking forward to pickling my own cukes next year!

 The pasture looks beautiful. The cold has slowed the grass down, and it's been flooded a couple times. 

Barclay the farm dog! Just hanging out with me.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Therapy dog testing - done!

Yay - Barclay passed his Therapy Dog International evaluation, and that included the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification as well! What a good boy!

Testing was done at our friend Alison's dog training school, Everyday Dog in Vancouver. It's not a big facility, and I think we had 12 dogs in the first group - ranging from a little Shih Tzu type dog to a Great Dane that was literally as big as a small horse! We all crowded over to one side of the room so there was room to do the testing on the other side.

Testing involved things like walking on a leash, meeting a stranger for greeting, letting a stranger pet them and brush them, handle ears and feet. Then there were a few other tests like walking through a crowd which included people in walkers and wheelchairs stopping to pet him, and walking back and forth while people ran by, squeaking balls and banging metal dishes together. Even if he hadn't passed it would have been a great experience for him, but he did fine, especially for being in a room full of strange dogs and commotions! I think the surroundings were the real test!

When we finish sending in the paperwork Barclay will be certified to go visit places like hospitals and retirement homes or do the in-school reading programs where kids read to dogs. We have friends in the dog club who do this with their Great Pyrenees and they say it's very rewarding to see how much the dogs do for people and how much they enjoy their company.

The Canine Good Citizen certification isn't as big a deal, but I trained Alki for it when she was a pup, and we moved right before she was supposed to take the test - so we never got back around to doing that, though I always wanted to and I knew she could have passed easily. So I feel good that Barclay has his CGC now, because he is a very good boy, and I think the CGC is a great program.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small victories

Navi has been scared of getting in the car since we got her. In fact before we adopted her, when I just knew her at the dog park, she didn't like riding in the car. So I knew that was an issue. Unfortunately it's kind of a big issue, because of where we live we can't just head out the door and go for a walk. Rural roads with no sidewalks, just speeding cars with a ditch along the side of the road are not conductive to going for relaxing dog walks. So to get out we pretty much have to go for a drive to get somewhere safe to walk. But poor Navi would strain at the leash to stay away from the car, and then when put in it she would sit in the back seat, head hung down, drooling and miserable. That miserable experience was making every trip a bit more difficult than the last.

Since Navi didn't like the car, I tried desensitizing her to it by letting them play around the van, hopping in and out freely for treats. Once she felt better about that I would close them up in the van while we hung out and had treats, then let her go. When she was comfortable with that I would close her in the van and back it up the length of the driveway and drive back up to the house. Last week I took her in the van into town (a nice short drive) for a fun walk at the park with our dog friends. Today I took her for another ride just to go pick Dave up at work, and she did fine again. We even stopped at the feed store and she went in with me and said hi to the cashier. Then we came back out and she jumped right in the van with just a little encouragement.

So the car issue is slowly becoming a non-issue. I'm looking forward to being able to just take her for a ride, then we can go for more walks, and go to dog training and stuff like that. Because right now she's just having fun around the house:

Here she is eating an egg. I think it's the first time I've given her a whole egg. It took her a while to figure out what to do with it. 

 Barclay knows how to get into an egg. It's one of his favorite perks of living on the farm!

 It's hard to get pictures of Navi, they always seem to come out like this!

Or this! Fuzzy dog!

Unless she stops to chew on a giant bone.

Barclay's favorite thing in the world is playing with his flirt pole, or as we call it 'stickball'. He gets a hold of the ball and doesn't want to let it go, but when I get it back he loves chasing it and jumping in the air to snatch it back! 

Navi likes to get involved by getting between him and the stick. Notice how Barclay keeps a foot on the rope, just to make sure I don't get it away from him.

He never gets grouchy with her, he just patiently waits for her to get out of the way so he can play some more.

So I get the ball back and swing it around, and all eyes are on the ball.

Barclay is not only acrobatic in his leaps and spins to get the ball, but he does an amazing job of calculating where the ball will swing to, and is often in mid-air waiting for it. And then Navi gets involved...

They make me laugh all the time!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Barclay - future therapy dog?

Beautiful Barclay is in training to pass his therapy dog certification later this month. Tonight we went to dog class and did a bunch of free-form training - working on attention, heeling, doing a long stay. He did great, even working with other dogs loose in the room at the same time. He's a real doll, such a nice boy to people and animals alike. I don't know exactly what we'll do if he passes and gets his certification, but it sounds like it's right up his alley. With his friendly and mellow personality he'd probably be great at hospital visits.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The colorful side of my family

Looking up family history for Veterans Day, I ran across a few other pictures to share, and a few stories I thought I'd write down before I forget them, because there's no one else in the world left who's been told these stories. Unfortunately, all those folks are gone.

It seems like the Oklahoma side (my Dad's side) of the family was the more colorful, or maybe they were just the storytellers. I really don't know any stories from my mom's side, even though I grew up spending time equally between both camps (never the two would mix, even though they lived three blocks apart, but that's a story for another time).

I guess the thing that makes them colorful is all the drama. And drama is a great thing for story telling, but it's often a lousy thing to live through. And so it was for my family.

My grandma (Oda Fay) met her husband (James) at her cousin's birthday party. Unfortunately James was her cousin's boyfriend at the time! He was a handsome older man - 25 years older! in 1940 he was a mysterious stranger who had recently arrived in town, and nobody knew his family or much about his background. 25 year old Oda and James disappeared during the party, and turned up the next day - married! What do you imagine her parents thought when she turned up married to a stranger who was the same age as they were?!

By 1946 Oda and James were surrounded by their brood of four bouncing happy kids - Little Jim, Charles, Dannel, and baby Marjorie Faye. Little Jim would be my dad someday, and the only one of the gang to have a family of his own.  In 1952, when Little Jim was 12 and baby Marge was 6, James passed away, leaving a large family to survive on their own. I believe they were helped out by his veteran's benefits for the widow and family.

Oda lived with her mom and dad, and got help from her sister Dormalee and brother Dolan 'Red'. But four kids was a lot to take care of, and Oda had the horrible misfortune to be struck by tuberculosis. Called The White Plague "Because the disease is deadly and highly infectious, victims were isolated in special hospitals called sanatoriums, where at the beginning of the century, at least, they lived out their last days with other patients. The death rate from tuberculosis in 1950 was only 11 percent of what it was in 1900; still 33,633 people died from the disease that year. By 1955 the number of deaths from tuberculosis had been halved."

 Indeed, Oda Fay had no choice but to go to a sanatorium in far away Arizona, leaving her four little ones in the hands of her elderly parents. Three rambunctious boys and a precious little girl. And for some reason, a horrible choice was made - one that would haunt the family for the rest of their years. After having just lost their father, the kids lost their mother as she was sent to the hospital, and then they lost each other. The family was broken up. Little Jim was sent to an orphanage. Marge stayed with her grandparents. I don't know if the other two went to the orphanage or to other family. I think the assumption was that Jim would handle it best, being the oldest. At the time of course they didn't know if she would survive the tuberculosis, a lot of people didn't. It turned out the breakup was only temporary, and some time later Oda recovered and came back from the sanatorium (with only one lung was the story, though maybe it was only one working lung, or the equivalent of one) and everyone was back together, but the damage done lasted a lifetime.

It's funny to think how kids grow. From a 12 year old to a 17 year old is five years and a world of difference. Somewhere in that period, my dad was abandoned by his family and spent some time, a few months, a year, I don't know how long, in an orphanage. He said the only thing that kept his spirits up during that time was getting his issue of MAD magazine, and he'd sit outside and read it and laugh and forget where he was. He ran away from the orphanage repeatedly, trying to go home, and they kept sending him back. When folks talk about the post-war prosperity of the 'good old days' of the 50's, they leave that part out.

When then family was reunited he was a teenager, and he was understandably upset. He had a hard time connecting back up with the family. Things were strained. Dormalee had bought a house in Portland, OR, and invited her favorite nephew to come out and join her, invited the whole family actually, but they didn't want to move until Marge graduated. The kids were all in school in Sapulpa, and Oda had a cafe on Route 66 where she was slinging hash to support the family. So 'Little' Jim moved out to Oregon for his senior year, and his nickname changed to 'Big Jim'

He drank too much, partied with his buddies, raced his 57 Chevy 2-door post at the strip, ruined Dormalee's beloved Edsel squirreling around on Larch Mountain (something she reminded him about for the next 25 years), and somehow failed to actually graduate high school. But he had a home. For the rest of his life he had a strained relationship with his mother for abandoning him, and with the brothers and sister who were chosen to stay with family while he was sent away. Dormalee managed to be the hub that kept the family connected.

So next time I will have to tell you about how Big Jim got his girlfriend in trouble, and was forced to do the right thing, which lasted the rest of his life, for better or worse...


Friday, November 12, 2010

The veterans in my family

Thanks to all who serve. From my family that would be:

My Grandfather on my Dad's side - James Arthur, drafted to fight in France during WWI. He's the fine looking man holding the baby.

Great Uncle Doland (Dad's uncle) who fought in the Pacific during WWII.

My Dad, who ran away and joined the National Guard after his shotgun wedding to my Mom. Luckily he just missed Korea, and was too early for Vietnam. Good thing, if he'd run off and got shot up, they might never have had ME, which is all that matters.

My Grandpa on my Mom's side, Carl, who was drafted into the army and fought in Italy during WWII. Standing next to him is my grandma, who told me that the time she spent with her infant daughter in the home for military wives while he was gone was the best and worst time of her life. She said they all lived together in a group home, and helped each other raise their kids, and they were all very close through good and bad.

Since we're mentioning the women back home, I would also like to mention my great aunt Dorma Lee (the one on the right), Doland's sister. She ran off to work in the airplane plants in Wichita as part of the war effort, which was very adventurous for a lady her age back then. She was a 'Rosie the Riveter'! Her scrapbook is full of the fun times she had with the girls in their off hours, adventuring around without men to boss them around! At least that's how she described it :) She enjoyed her independence for the rest of her life, preferring to remain unwed and help her sister raise the kids. I spent a lot of great times hanging out with Aunt Lee, she was a really great lady.

No one in my family were in the military for a career. In fact I think they were all drafted (except my dad). Just regular people, doing what they had to do at the time, and happy to go back to their regular lives when it was over. I can't even imagine what that must have been like.Unfortunately I never got to hear what that was like from them, Doland, Jim, and Carl all passed away long before I was born.


Monday, November 08, 2010

My lovely flock

I spent a bit of time outside yesterday visiting with my lovely flock. Even the babies are getting quite grown up - in fact I have a hard time telling my late summer chicks from the early summer chicks. I think the early summer chicks have started laying, so I guess I should call them hens now :)

My young rooster is one of the buff and gold chicks. He's too young to perform any rooster-ly duties yet, but soon. I'm hoping I'll be able to produce a line of blue/buff chickens, but it's my first time experimenting with breeding, so we'll see.

He's a pretty boy, I think he'll really look nice when he gets his tail in. 

The girls are all looking fat & fluffy

Sunny days are perfect for a bit of primping and preening!

This is the other baby roo, he is sort of blue and buff, but he has a black tail. 

All my mix girls are either blue/buff or black/buff, and I have to say that's a pretty striking combination as well.

Here are two of my old buff hens. Look at the difference in the color of their combs. The bright red girl is laying, and pale pink girl has retired.

And this older girl grew in her feathers in a mottled pattern. She was solid before!

They all seem happy, that's all that matters.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Putting it all together

I returned the egg trays to the incubator (they have been out of it since we brought it home) and suddenly the remaining spare parts all made sense.

The long skinny pieces were dividers for the egg trays

The weird piece with the holes drilled in it is the lock to keep the egg trays in place as the drum tips forward. It also has the remains of a sticker that says 'DO NOT DESTROY' so I figured it must be something important!

So now I can see it all assembled, and it really looks like everything is all there.

Even the holes on the bottom door, which I thought were fixed shut...

Are actually cleverly hinged little sliders for ventilation.

I have determined that the timer is not working, though I have located a replacement for about $100 - as soon as I have that kind of money to spend on this little project. I can still push the on/off button to make the drum rotate. So here's a demonstration:

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

It's alive! (The Incubator, that is!)

Yesterday I finally finished putting new casters on the bottom of the incubator (the old ones were rusty and broken). I dug around in my spare parts drawer and found a set of heavy casters that were perfect for it. Now that it was mobile I could roll it around. Dave's only request was that I not plug it in for the first time in the garage, it needed to be out in the driveway so if it burst into flames it wouldn't burn down the garage.

It was a beautiful day today, so I went ahead and wired the new cord into the fusebox (the old one looked like it had been mowed over and cut off). I rolled it out in to the driveway and hesitantly plugged it in. The fan came to life inside the drum. The light came on as the heater warmed up. Finally I threw the switch for the drum motor, and the whole thing slowly hummed as it tilted forward! It works!

Take a bow - giant drum!

I'm overjoyed to see the fan, heater, and motor working. Now I just need to replace the weatherstripping and see if the thermostat is working to hold a temperature, and if the timer works to rotate the drum back and forth. If it can hold a steady temp and humidity, and handle turning the drum, then I'll get some fertile eggs and give it a try.

Update: the timer seems to be DOA - but it's made by a company that is still in business and sells the exact same unit, so I might be able to get a new one to just swap in, or get the old one fixed. I have a call in.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Chicken chasing

I've been home sick all weekend with a nasty head cold/sinus thing - yuk!

This evening I woke up after a long afternoon nap and decided to go out and check on the chickens and count to make sure they were all still there (Dave has been feeding them while I was sick). Everyone was there, and I checked the nest box and they'd even left an egg! So I reached in to get the egg and Navi slipped by me and ran into the coop, and one of the young hens got scared and jumped off the perch and she started running around in circles, flapping and sqwaking, while Navi chased her around and around the coop trying to pounce on her. The hen finally made for the door into the shed and blasted past me, and on the way by I caught Navi and tucked her under my arm.

Unfortunately for the hen, Jack and Barclay were in the shed, and they immediately chased the poor little hen out into the darkness and rain. I hauled Navi up to the house and tossed her inside and grabbed the flashlight, and went back out. In the dark I could just make out Barclay down by the lilac bush, poking something with his foot. I went down, expecting to see a dead chicken, and there was the hen, huddled under the bush, wet and miserable. Barclay didn't want to catch her, or he easily could have, he just wanted to make her run some more so he could chase her! I picked her up and took her back to the coop and checked her over in the light. She looked fine, just scared. So I put her back in the coop, counted everyone one last time, and went back inside. Too much excitement for one evening - I should have stayed in bed!