Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trail Running

Yes, I said trail RUNNING - or maybe I should have said 'walking real fast' or 'slowly jogging' - well, whatever you want to call it, that's what I did today. I've been continuing my exercise program (I'm down 25 lbs for the year so far), doing the Couch to 5k routine on the treadmill inside, and switching it up with other exercises to keep things fresh - a bike ride here, an exercise DVD there. I thought I would take advantage of the mild weather and hit the trails across the street. As you can see, it was a little muddy still! But I had no problem keeping my heart rate up in the cardio zone - no problem at all! It exercised different muscles than running on the treadmill, and it felt great! Even my workout buddy enjoyed it!


Barclay and Jack run away from home

Luckily, it was only a very short trip before they were home safe again! Yesterday the dogs were out playing in the yard. Navi had come inside, and I wanted to close the back door, so I called the other two. No response. So I walked around to the front yard and saw the gate was open! Oh no!

Ever since Barclay was a puppy I've been working to teach him not to go through the gate without permission. But eskimos kind of do what they please. Worst of all, if Jack sees an open gate he'll look at it, look at me standing there saying 'wait', and then go for it and run right by me! And once he goes the others follow. I'm not saying that's what happened, it's entirely possible they raced each other to see who could get through the gate first! I'm just saying that even if Barclay remembered his training and felt even an inkling of a feeling that he shouldn't go through the gate, it would have been forgotten as soon as he saw Jack charging out.

So I told Dave and ran out to the front field, hoping they were in the fenced area, and calling Barclay, then I started hurrying down the drive, calling Barclay and looking every direction. Which way did he go? Not towards the road, I hope! But I heard dogs barking up the hill, so I looked up that way and saw a neighbor waving at us. I started running and hollered at Dave that they were up here, and he drove up in the car. The neighbor pointed towards the other neighbor's house and said 'they were trying to play with my dog but he ran them off, they went back there'. I called again and Barclay came running to me from behind the house, happy as can be! What a relief to see my buddy racing towards me! I grabbed him and hugged him and ruffled his fur and told him what a good boy he was for coming back.

Then the neighbor said 'there was a beagle with him too', and I said 'oh, yeah, we'll get him too'. Now, it might sound mean, but Jack ignores me when I call unless it's dinnertime, especially if he's doing something fun, so I wasn't going to waste a bunch of time chasing after him. I was just happy to get my hands on Barclay, and I wasn't going to let him go! I called Jack, but as expected he ignored me. Dave drove up and we put Barclay in the car, and about then we heard baying on the other side of the neighbor's house, so Dave went around and came back with Jack, looking like he'd had the time of his life!

So our little adventurers were none the worse for wear. I wasn't too traumatized, but really, what could be worse than losing your dogs? Calling your dogs and not knowing where they are, if they could be a half mile away in any direction, is the most empty, lonely, frightening feeling in the world! [note: this is why I don't have kids, I'm barely responsible enough to handle dogs!] I mean, can you imagine having to go to bed knowing they were somewhere out there? There's cars and coyotes and big farm dogs, or they could get into someones field and chase livestock and get shot! Having to put up posters and hoping someone sees them and grabs them and brings them back? The world is too dangerous for a little dog to be out wandering around on their own, even if they don't know it.

Dave thought I was paranoid for always checking to make sure the gate was closed. I don't know how it got left open this time, but I guess I'll keep being paranoid and checking before I let them out. It's better than the alternative!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Black rooster is gone - chicks move out to the coop

The black rooster went off to a new home yesterday, where he will have 8 hens all to himself. He should be very happy there!

Have you ever seen chickens so evenly spaced?

The remaining rooster 'Handsome' is happy to have his hens all to himself now. No more squabbling with the other roo or 'sneak attacking' the poor girls!

Meanwhile, the chicks are a week and a half old, and doubled in size - there's not enough elbow room in the indoor brooder. Time to move out to the coop. But there's a broody hen in the brooder box!

So I scraped up enough materials around the house to build them a new brooder box. This one is only 3x3, but it will be fine for a while. I had 20 chicks comfortably in the 4x4 box until they were 8 weeks old. I think 14 should be ok in the 3x3 box until they are close to that, and by then the broody mom and her chicks will have moved outside.

I think it will be nice to have two brooder boxes available for when I have broody hens, or if I decide to get 2 different types of chicks someday.


More eye problems

So, scratching my eye last week was just the latest in a long string of eye problems I've been having. Back in October I went to the eye doctor because I would occasionally wake up with one eye blurry (either one), and it would last a few hours to a few days. He thought it was just dry eyes, and told me to use drops. I still would have occasional blurry days, but sometimes I'd have a couple good weeks without problems.

Meanwhile, I could occasionally have stabbing eye pains in the middle of the night, but I thought I was just rubbing my eye on my pillow. Eventually that is exactly what happened last week, and I did have a serious abrasion to prove it.

But yesterday something different happened - a stabbing eye pain in my good eye, in the middle of the day, while sitting on the couch watching TV.I had done nothing to bring it on, but suddenly my eye hurt so bad I couldn't open it. I flushed it out with eye drops. I took an ibuprofin. I laid down for a bit to see if it would go away on it's own. Finally I called the eye doctor, but he was out of town for the weekend, so he said to go to urgent care if it was bad. So Dave came home from the theater and took me to urgent care.

They have a routine of things they do, including a vision test, but my eye was in such intense pain I couldn't hardly keep the other eye open to read the chart. Finally they put in pain drops, which stopped the pain right away. She stained my eye and looked for a foreign body or a scratch, but couldn't find anything. So she diagnosed it as possible iritis - an infection of the eye. She gave me a perscription for antibiotic drops and a steroid for inflammation. Today my eye feels much better and the vision is back to normal, so there might be something to that.

She gave me a printout with info about iritis, and the symptoms include blurry vision, eye pain, and a few other things I haven't been having. I'm sure I'll see the eye doctor on Monday and see what he says. I hope this is it and they can clear it up. These stabbing eye pains are the most intense pain I've ever felt - I'll be happy to get this cleared up and put it behind me!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Turkey noodle soup - oh, yeah!

Turkey Noodle Soup - part 2 - The stock simmered in the crock pot all night, and this morning I strained it, and added one onion, two carrots, two celery sticks, all diced, along with some thyme, salt & pepper, and garlic. Let that stew until lunchtime. Then I added noodles and white meat leftover from last night. Once those were cooked I thickened it with a little cornstarch, and served it for lunch with some no-knead dinner rolls. So good! I'll be doing this every time I have a carcass leftover! That could NOT have been any EASIER! And what a way to squeeze every last little bit our of a turkey!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making the most out of a turkey

Dave wanted turkey for dinner, and the only turkey breast they had at the store was a whole turkey breast - $15! Well, it's ok, because I brought it home and de-boned it, and that left half to go in the freezer for another day. Then I took the carcass and put it on a roasting pan with carrots, celery, onion, and an extra leek that was past it's prime, and popped them all in the oven to roast. I also roasted the breast half we were having for dinner. My favorite recipes are simple, and turkey breast is awesome when roasted simply with olive oil and salt & pepper. I put the breast half in my iron skillet, and roasted it for 45 minutes as well.

When the carcass was done cooking, it and the vegetables were nicely browned. I took them out and put them in the crockpot with enough water to cover, along with sage, and thyme. I'll let that cook all night, and by morning I'll be ready to make turkey soup for dinner tomorrow, and the extra I'll freeze for quick lunches.

As for the dinner breast, it came out crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. And my favorite trick is roasting in the skillet, because then I can rest the meat on a plate, and make gravy in the skillet with all the lovely brown bits left behind. So delicious! And we not only had dinner, but more than half the breast was still left for lunches or another dinner later this week. I'd say that turkey was $15 well spent!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alpacas and fun with the new camera

Because I injured my eye last week I haven't been in the mood to do much with the camera, but today I took it out to snap some pictures for a chicken update, and of the alpacas and dogs. I'm really happy with the camera so far. I just need to practice with it more.


 Barclay, deciding if the neighbors need to be barked at.

Navi still gets way too much excitement out of barking at the alpacas when they are near the fence.

Seconds later, White left a noseprint on my lens!

Black is watching Jack on the other side of the fence, while behind him...

Red is munching on the sequoia!

Chicken update

 The 14 chickies are doing fine.That thing they are standing on is the shell of a cucumber they ate this morning.

Under Navi's watchful eye! She loves to go in the room and watch them, but I don't let her watch them unattended!

They're getting big, and getting feathers on their wings already. Any idea how hard it is to hold a flapping chickie in one hand and take a picture with the other - it's hard!

Out in the coop, one of my young hens went broody on me. I don't know why my old hens don't do that, but last year the only hen to go broody was my youngest one too! So I gave her ten eggs to sit on and moved her into the brooder box. She seems happy, but now I need to make a new brooder box for my indoor chicks to move into!

One of her lovely sisters :)

Some of my older girls. I feel bad for them, they have muddy backs and their feathers are all roughed up from the roosters jumping on them all the time. 

So I decided to give the girls a break and find a new home for my biggest rooster. He really is huge! I put him on CL and ten minutes later I had someone from not far away wanting to come pick him up this weekend. Perfect!

I'm keeping this guy. He's awfully pretty, and I love his colors!

I think I'll call him 'Handsome' :)


Sunday, March 20, 2011

4H meeting at my house

Martha and our guest speaker worked with the kids to help them address showing/handling issues with their llamas.

We had a 4H Llama meeting at our house today. I really enjoy hosting the meetings, because it's fun to see everybody, and I don't even have to leave the house! The dogs usually get to play with some kids, and it's always exciting to see what happens. Today we had some unexpected excitement!

To start with, last night a couple families dropped off their animals early, and one of the families discovered their llama had inflamed feet - turned out they had foot rot going on because of all the mud on their farm. So I hung out with them and helped them get the llama treated until it was nearly dark, then kept her in our dry paddock all night.

This morning the 4H group started showing up, and we had a couple visiting experts, so they had a look at the foot rot problem and gave her advice on what to do. They got busy treating their llama's feet, and the other llamas they had brought, and we got the other kids busy working on learning to show for fair. Our visiting experts helped them out one-on-one, which was great for the kids.

At the same time, a couple families had said that on the drive in they saw a very shaggy llama running down the street about a mile from our house. I pretty much know who lives where, and I thought I knew where that animal belonged. By the second time someone mentioned it, one of the families jumped in their truck (with horse trailer) and headed off to look for it. After a short chase they cornered it and caught it, wrestled it into the trailer, and brought it back to my place. I gave them a halter for it and they walked it out (noticing along the way that it was an intact male) and as soon as Martha, the other leader saw it - she recognized it as an animal she had given away a year or two before!

Turns out this animal which should have been gelded, had instead been passed around intact, never sheared apparently, and was now a big mess, and running loose! So I hopped in my van, along with the mom who had caught the beast, and we drove to where I thought the critter belonged. I got it right on the first try! She went up to the farm house, and the people said 'yeah, he got out again' - and they weren't even out looking for him! So they took the llama back to it's home, and the 4H mom told the people if they ever wanted to get rid of it to let her know. Instead of saying yes right there, while the animal was haltered and in the trailer, they waited a couple hours and then called and told her to come get it! jerks! So now folks are networking to figure out how to rescue this animal, get it the old snip-snip, and find a home for it.

After the 4H meeting was over I went along with two of the other families to the family's farm with the foot rot problem, and we all worked until it was getting dark, treating all their animals and rearranging their barn to make a safe dry area for the llamas to recover in. Since this is the family that ended up with my llamas, I got to visit with Scoops and Patrone again, and Scoops was as sweet as he ever was - proving to me that it's not me, these alpacas I am fostering really are just jerks! Heck, even Patrone was nicer to me than the foster alpacas!

So it turned out to be a very long day. I barely sat down between 10am and 7pm, helping haul straw, lift, pull, drag, dig, lead, and do anything else helpful I could (without getting kicked by a llama). Glad I could help out our friends, and I hope their animals recover quickly. I know this snuck up on them and they felt terrible about it, and I could have easily seen that happening to myself.

I stopped and picked up a pizza on the way home, and now I'm crashing on the couch - what a LONG day!  But you know, it made me feel good too, because my friends (like me) all have learned along the way, through trial and error sometimes, to take care of their animals, and help each other out, and if I decide to get a horse someday, I know they'll be there to help me too.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Scratched my eye!

This is ridiculous! Things were going great,and then I woke up Thursday morning with a stabbing pain in my eye, so bad I couldn't even convince the other eye to open up! We went to the urgent care clinic, and they put in drops to numb it, and then stained it and confirmed I had scratched it. They put on an eye patch, gave me antibiotic drops, and sent me on my way.

Friday the pain was back, and so bad I just couldn't hardly stand it! I would just freeze up, fists clenched and shaking, it hurt so bad! Finally I called the urgent care back, and they told me to go to the ER or a regular eye doctor. So I called our eye doctor and he got me right in. He dialated it, stained it, looked at it with a camera on a computer, and showed me the big scratched area, overlapping my pupil. He said that made it particularly bad because if it scarred it would impact my vision. So he put stuff on it, gave me drops to use, and put a contact in my eye to act as a bandage and cover the damage so my eyelid wasn't rubbing it all weekend. Then he told me to go home, hit the Ibuprofin hard, and rest and let my eye rest and heal. I'll be seeing him again Monday.

My eye is still dilated, so everything is blurry on that side. It stings a little. I had to cancel taking pictures at a dog sports event this weekend :( and I'm stuck at the store while people pick through our last couple days open. Oh well. I was having an awesome week before this happened. Darn pillow!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lost one!

One of the chicks just wasn't as active as the rest, and I had a feeling he wasn't going to make it. Sometimes they have some internal problem where things just haven't developed correctly. Sure enough, he passed away this afternoon. So I'm down to 14 chicks.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chickies 2011!

It's chick season!

Today I picked up 15 little peepers from the feed store. Buff Orpingtons, my favorite :) Since the weather is so cold, I decided to start the little guys in a rubbermaid tub in the house. Once they've got a good start I'll move them out to the big brooder in the shed. As cold as it is, if the heat went out they would freeze - but inside they'll be safe.

Cute little guys! The dogs are going nuts because they can hear the peeping, but they are in the packing room so the dogs can't go in and bother them. The grate over the top protects them from curious cats.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Planning for horses

I'm a long way from being able to afford a horse - maybe never at this rate! But I can still dream about it and plan how I might be able to make it work.

My main concern is our soggy pasture. There's lots of good grazing for summer and fall, but it's going to have to be protected through winter and much of the spring. So I'm thinking, how can I have a horse and keep them happy in a little square paddock all winter and spring? They'll be bored stiff, and setting up a sacrifice area big enough for them to actually stretch their legs would eat up a lot of the pasture - and I want to protect as much as possible for summer. Plus I've heard about people spending tens of thousands of dollars trying to make a sacrifice area where the horses don't have to stand in mud all day.

Then I read about Paddock Paradise - it's a way of keeping horses where their paddock is actually a track that goes around the main field, protecting the grazing area, but giving the horses room to run a bit.

Here's a lovely video of a lady calling her horses back to the shelter and making them go the long way around

CNY Paddock Paradise

And another one here in Western WA

Holly's Paddock Paradise

The idea is to give your horse food in a couple areas (and putting the food in feeders that force them to eat slowly and work at it to help curb boredom), water in another, a scratching/rolling area, and have them spend their day going from one place to the other to get what they need, and get some exercise at the same time. Walking over different terrains is good for them too. I'm going to keep reading up on this idea (lord knows I have nothing but time to think about it), but I like it.


Down at the pond

I took my new camera out to the local pond to take some pictures of the waterfowl. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate, and after only a few minutes the rain started coming down hard, and I had no choice but to hide my camera under my coat and run back to the car. I got a few pictures though.

The attention-getters today was this lovely pair of Canucks.

And there were a lot of lovely red-winged blackbirds, calling to their girlfriends. Spring is in the air!

They seemed to be everywhere!

I'll go back on a nicer day and practice some more.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Still exercising and eating right!

I've stuck to my eating and exercising plan, and it's going great! I was wearing size 24 pants, loosely comfortable, and 22s that were a bit tight. Now the 22s are loose and comfortable, and the 24s are too loose - falling off! Time to go pants shopping!

My favorite part is the exercise. It feels so good! I just have a warm glow after exercising, and I really look forward to doing it every day. I had a bit of a setback last week. We did the comic show in Seattle weekend before last, which forced me to skip exercising for a few days, then just as I got back into the swing of it I had a pain in my side that wouldn't go away. I finally went to the doctor on Saturday and she said it sounded like a kidney stone! But she couldn't tell without further, expensive tests (like thousands of dollars), and since we don't have insurance she took the 'wait and see' approach, and sent me home with a warning to go straight to the ER if it got bad. Luckily it went away, and after a day of just feeling kind of tender in that area, I felt better today and was able to get back on the exercise bandwagon - and it felt great!

Eating right has not been hard, it just takes a bit of planning. Lots of fruits and veg, whole grains whenever possible, always watch the portions. Some challenges pop up, like when we were working in Seattle and had to eat lunch and dinners out. Luckily Seattle forces them to put nutritional info out for folks to read, so I could try and do the least damage possible - salads with dressing on the side, steak instead of shrimp broiled in butter with a butter dipping sauce on the side! Most restaurant meals were 1000 calories plus - and some were 2000 (steak and lobster) - and that's before adding drinks or bread! So it was challenging to eat right, and when I came home I was afraid to get on the scale, but I discovered I'd still lost 3 lbs - so there!

Yesterday was my birthday, and friends invited us over for dinner, and made me a cake - yum! You've got to eat a little cake on your birthday! But she gave me leftovers, and there's no way I should eat that much cake in the time before it will spoil - so I got an idea - I froze it! That way I can thaw out a piece and have it later when I need a piece of cake :) Hey, everyone has those days, right?

So, after all those missed days of exercise I weighed myself this morning and I was down 5 lbs from last week! That's a total of 20lbs from the beginning of the year! What great motivation to stay on track and keep at it!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Telephoto lens test

My new camera also came with a Tamron aspherical 18-200mm f3.5-f6.3 lens. So today I took it for a little test drive. I couldn't do much because we're having a howling wind storm with rain coming down buckets, but between downpours I went out on the porch for a quick test.

At 18mm

I think I see a bit of vignetting on the corners, but that might be from the UV filter on the front. I'll try another test without that next time.

at 200mm - the RR crossing down at the road

also at 200mm, Barclay in the yard

I'm impressed. This will be nice at the wildlife refuge. I can't wait to go try it out. Of course you're never close enough when you're trying to photograph birds!

Back in the office I got a quick shot of Navi next to my desk. What a doll :)


Friday, March 11, 2011

Fun with my new Camera

I'm starting out playing around with the 'kit' lens - a 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 G, which is supposed to be a pretty good lens. I'm still figuring out what all the settings on the camera do, but I'm hoping to have enough of a grip on it to try and take a shot of the sky tonight - if it's clear.

For now I just practiced on whatever critters out in the yard would hold still for a minute:




And the evil 3 Musketeers - I just had to make sure they didn't spit on my camera while I was concentrating on getting the shot.

These were all taken with a fence between me and them!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

My new camera

Tonight I brought home my first 'real' camera, a Nikon D50. I found it on CL for sale along with a kit of lenses.

I can already tell there is going to be a bit of a learning curve, but I'm going to enjoy that part. I was able to get it home and get some decent pictures out of it right off the bat, so I think we're going to get along just fine.

Now I just need to figure out what all these settings do!


Got my ducks in a row

We don't always have a pond in our field, but last night there was a good rain, and this morning we not only had a pond - we had Ducks! They all were scooting around with their heads down looking for goodies. Well, we're always happy to host the local wildlife!


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Homemade canned chicken stock

Ok, I say chicken stock, but I'm not sure if it's technically stock or broth. It's thick, made from bones, and it will gel up in the fridge, so I call it stock.

I started out with my usual steps for chicken stock. I thawed out my bag of chicken parts. I save all the necks, backs, gizzards, hearts, anything I don't use when I cut up a chicken, and pop them in a big zip lock in the freezer until the bag is stuffed full. One bag holds about 4 lbs of parts! I lay it all on a roasting pan with some onion (skins on), carrots, and celery - give it all a misting of olive oil, and pop in a 450 oven for an hour or so.

Once that's done the house smells so incredible we're all wondering why we didn't just roast some chicken, but no, we're working on stock! Instead of putting it in the big pot with water and simmering it for 20 hours or so (like usual) - I put it in my new pressure cooker.

I learned to use the pressure cooker/canner at the food preservation classes I took last summer, but I didn't have a chance to actually buy one until a couple weeks ago when a friend got a really great deal on some and sold me this one, brand new, for about half what they go for in the store.

Lots of people are scared of pressure cookers, but they are not as scary as they seem, as long as you understand them and remember to always treat them with respect. Modern canners have some important safety features to protect you. As the water in the pot heats up, steam is vented through a vent pipe. Once it is ready to cook, you put a weight on top of the vent pipe which is just heavy enough to allow the canner to pressurize to the amount you want, and it wobbles back and forth letting out excess pressure. As the pot pressurizes the Lid Lock pops up and prevents you from removing the lid until it is de-pressurized. In the back of the lid is a tiny black rubber plug which is a safety valve. If the pressure gets too high it will blow that plug out and release the pressure - so no worries about the lid exploding off. The dial gauge is nice to have just so you can monitor the pressure. Gauges should be checked every year for accuracy.

** That weight on the vent pipe is probably the most likely thing to cause a problem. You put it on to pressurize the pot, but you can't remove it until the pot has cooled off and depressurized on it's own. If you remove it, scalding hot liquid could come out through the vent as it rapidly depressurizes, and that would be BAD - so once the weight is on, don't touch it again until the gauge reads zero!**

After only 20 minutes in the pot, 4lbs od chicken was reduced to a soft mash (which I gave to my chickens and they really enjoyed)!

And I had a couple quarts of the most flavorful stock I've ever made! Seriously, this tasted more like chicken soup than any I've made so far.

So once I had enough stock to can, I had to set up my canning gear. This includes:

My turkey fryer/water bath canner - just to sterilize and heat up the jars so they won't crack when filled with hot broth. Also a small pan with hot water for the lids. And all the canning tools. And towels. Gosh, what a production. And of course the pressure canner, cleaned up and ready to go again.

As I filled each hot jar with hot stock, I put it in the pressure canner to wait for a full load.

Finally they were all in, and I had to vent the air out of the canner. This is where you wait for a steady tower of steam shooting out of the vent pipe (hard to see in the picture above). You wait until it is steady steam, and let it do that for 10 whole minutes!

Then put the weight on and let it pressurize. Notice the canning weight is different from the cooking weight. You cook at 15 lbs pressure, but you can at 11 lbs. Again the weight sits there and wobbles, letting out pressure and keeping the canner at 11 lbs. Because I wanted to roast my chicken and make the stock with vegetables, I consulted with the other master food preservers and decided it would be safest to can the stock using the recipe for vegetable soup - 75 minutes processing time, instead of 20 for plain chicken broth.

I hung around the kitchen the whole time, watching the pressure gauge, making sure the weight was still wobbling away. If it goes below pressure you have to start the time over! Finally it was over, and I moved the pot off the heat to cool. There's a process that must be followed for canning, and I followed it precisely! Improperly canned stock could contain botulism, and I didn't want to chance that!

Beautiful! 8 Pints of shelf stable stock, going in the cupboard instead of filling up my little freezer!

And with the leftovers I made some Northwoods Bean Soup - and even Dave thought it was great! You can't make good soup without great stock. Making it myself is probably the one thing I have learned that really makes a big difference in my cooking.