Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rufus is Here!

The big day - the day of Rufus's arrival in his new home, was Monday.  I took off work so I could be there for his arrival and visit with the friends who brought him to us from nearly two hours away.  Brandon and I weren't sure what kind of beast we were going to meet, and wondered if it was going to be a miniature rodeo to unload a wild bucking bronco.  Thankfully, Rufus was calm and collected.  He stood still in the animal carrier while we tried to fit a halter on his face, and then with a little nudge walked right into the fence and into the shed.  Whew!   Welcome home.  

Rufus is a miniature donkey, and he's barely a year old.  His back only comes hip high.  So far, the fence we built seems to be more than enough to keep him safe and contained.

Rufus, you better start eating right away, because it looks like you could get lost in all that green!

Rufus says hello!

Wendigo thinks Rufus would be great fun to play with, and shows little fear of him.  I don't know Rufus very well yet, but he seems to be interested in Wendigo and more tolerant than I would be to have a puppy yap at my nose.

I sneaked up on them to check out how they were getting along and made the short video above.

Puck doesn't get the same calm response from Rufus that Wendigo does.  Rufus gets very alert when Puck is near, and is quick to approach him with a worried expression.  The one time Puck disobeyed me and entered Rufus's stall, it didn't go well for any of us.  Puck cavalierly walked up to Rufus for a nose sniff, and Rufus bopped him on the head with his front foot.  I heard the impact!  Puck didn't run away, but growled and snapped, which made Rufus try to kick him again.  I got a little excited and stepped between them to try to push Puck back out of the stall.  So he growled at me!  Poor Rufus tried to escape by crawling through a gap in the fence, which he definitely does not fit through.  We all had to take a break to calm down.  Hopefully Puck learned to respect Rufus's space.  I learned that if Rufus is freaked out, he doesn't bite or kick at me when I use my body as a dog shield. Good to know, right?    

Rufus has pretty eyes, and long eye lashes.

He also has a long funny nose, and chin whiskers.  He likes to be petted on the forehead, especially if I'm on the other side of the gate.  If I stand next time him, he's a little more skittish.  He likes to be brushed on his neck and back, but only if he doesn't see the brush.  I didn't realize I purchased such a scary looking brush!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Big Puppy

Our puppy is getting so big!  Wendigo is almost four months old now, and until recently, she's rarely had to be alone.  But Brandon's summer break is over, so she is home by herself from when he leaves for work until I get home.  

Puck stays home while we are at work too, but he stays in the house enjoying the air conditioning and a dog bed filled with memory foam.  Wendigo sleeps in the shade - on weeds and dirt.  It doesn't seem quite fair, does it?   

Puck thinks it's very fair.  After all, Wendigo gets to have legs!  Wendi's long legs don't intimidate Puck at all.  He makes sure she knows she can't just walk all over him whenever she wants.  It won't be long before she will be able to step right over him.   

Our good neighbor says he shot a fox that was after his chickens, not long after we imprisoned our flock behind an electric fence.  Since we've had weeks of fox free living, and our fox induced anxiety has finally begun to fade, the dogs and I let the chickens out in the evenings so we can enjoy their company.  We've missed hanging with the flock.  

Wendigo tries to play with the hens, just like she tries to play with Puck or the cat, but so far no one else thinks being jumped and slobbered on is very much fun.  The four young chickens that were hatched here at home are still able to squeeze through the holes in the electric fence, so they roam where they will, and sleep in the coop where we put Wendigo's dog house.  I think it's cute that Wendi sleeps with chickens each night. I also think it's a good test for me to know how much I can trust her with the birds.  So far, everyone is still alive when we open the door in the morning.  

Sleepy puppy.  

I've always heard people say that puppies with big feet would grow to be big dogs.  Just look at the size of those back feet!  

I've never seen a dog try to catch rain drops by mouth before.  She's much better at it than I am!  If I squirt water at her while I'm in the pool, she can catch it.  My dog is a genius, right?  

Brandon and I laugh at our big scary guard dog, because we think she might be a coward.  The neighbor tipped her over so he could pet her belly and she cried and peed all over herself.  When the big truck delivered the sand for the pool, she hid behind the barn and cried until we coaxed her out.  She's quick to tuck her tail between her legs and run for it if anything startles her.  She tried to play pounce on a guinea, and one of the males flew at her and pulled her hair.  She cried and rolled on her back. It's a good thing she's going to be big.  Maybe the foxes won't find out she's a wimp.   

She finds ways to get dirty every day.  Her fur is magic though, because she goes to bed dirty and wakes up looking clean.  How does she do that? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Meteors, Corn Sex, Pool Frivolity, and Sunflowers

What a great weekend!  We spent Friday evening floating on the lake with family and friends while we watched for meteors.  I did see a few bright streaks in heavens, but it seemed like other folks were better at keeping an eye on the sky than I was.  I missed lots of good ones, I think, but I didn't miss out on any of the good times.  

Brandon and I spent Saturday at home, recovering from our late night meteor gazing, and catching up on chores.  I did quite a bit of garden gazing and laundry, but Brandon packed his truck full of sculptures in preparation for a solo art exhibition in Illinois that he is installing this week.  

I think the corn I planted is actually going to make some ears of corn!  Corn sex is strange. The tassels at the top of the plants have the small flowers that make the pollen, which the wind knocks loose so it can fall down to the fluffy sprays of silk that have sprouted down below, on the stalk.   

If I look real close at the silk strands, I can see tiny hairs sticking up, which I imagine are helpful for catching tiny pollen grains on the wind.  Once a silk strand catches a pollen grain, it's fertilized and makes a kernel of corn.  I don't have many corn stalks, so I won't know if there's enough pollen grains to fertilize all my silks until the ears develop.  

By Sunday afternoon, we were fully recovered from the late night meteor gazing, Brandon had all his art packed up, and we were ready for friends to join us in breaking in our new pool!  It was just as much fun as I hoped it would be.  Nothing fuels the appetite like swimming, and the food grilled foods and summer garden salads were perfection.   

Getting our pool up so late in the season meant that most of the floats and pool toys that stores have carried all summer are no longer available, as they've been replaced with back to school supplies (boo!).  I did manage to find an inflatable beach ball on the sale rack at the dollar store though, and even though Wendigo helpfully poked a hole in it, we enjoyed hitting the ball back and forth to each other while we were in the water.  Our team record was twenty-nine passes before we let it hit the water!  

Hopefully by next pool season we will have a better way to get in the pool.  Right now, you have to walk down a hill through clumpy grass, step over a ditch, avoid the mud, climb a big ladder, and then cross over the pool wall onto the plastic pool steps.  The steps would be great if they didn't float!  I believe the solution to floating steps is to put bags of sand in the bottom and anchor the steps to a deck with some handy brackets.  Since we didn't have any bags of sand, or a deck, we wrapped a cement block in a chicken feed sack, and placed it on the steps.  It works, sort of, but the steps feel wobbly and the block is in the way.  It's treacherous, and after a few tasty beverages quite challenging! 

The pool water is fantastic though.  Thanks to getting full sun all day, the water is warm enough that it's not painful to get in.  And because it's not close to any tall vegetation, I haven't had to fish out a bunch of leaves and seeds like I had to do with my old pool.  The skimmer and pump with this pool is strong too, so the surface stays mostly bug free.  Even Brandon admits that the pool location we selected is good.  We couldn't admit that when we were laboring to move all that dirt, but now we can. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

It's Growing Fast

I keep taking pictures of the garden to share with you, but the garden is growing faster than I can post them.  Now there are pretty zinnias and sunflowers to admire within in all that green.  

The sunflowers all turn their faces to the sun, so they face east to west.  A friend of mine once said that he could tell who was a hippy because hippies always have sunflowers in their gardens.  My name is Rain, and I grow sunflowers...

On a long drive for work recently, everyone in the car gave accounts of their garden, and we showed off pictures on our phones.  When I went through the list of insects attacking my various plants, I was given some good suggestions on how to manage them, including some easy to use insecticide spray (Seven) that were helping one fella grow the most beautiful green beans I've ever seen.  

My beans look nothing like his tall trellises draped with perfect leaves and beans.  It's tempting to try some bug spray, but I'm going to stick with organic methods if I can bear it.  I did some hand picking and found that if I held a white plastic plate under the bean leaves, when I touched the leaves, the tricky brown beetles would drop onto the plate and I could drown them in my bucket of soapy water.  It required more bending over then spraying would require, I'm sure.  My hope is that as my soil improves, my plants will be strong enough to fight with a little help from me.  We'll see, right?  

The pumpkin vines are really taking off now.  They are getting hit pretty bad by squash bugs (hence the yellow leaves) and I already lost two plants to vine borers.  I expected that, really.  In my old garden I had nearly given up on growing vines because if the borers didn't kill them then a fungus would.  This years garden is sort of experimental, and now I know that if I want to get serious about growing vine fruits, I need to be on guard for borers and maybe use some row covers.  I squished as many squash bugs as I had patience for, and sprinkled some diatomacious earth on the base of the plants.  Will I get a pumpkin before they die?  

Other than two tobacco horn worms, which did some substantial trimming, the tomato plants are growing like gangbusters without any bug problems.  I never put them in cages, so I've lost a few of the ripe tomatoes because they were laying on the ground and I couldn't see them due to the tangle of leaves.  In my garden fantasies, I prune the branches and have tall tidy plants.   

Some of the corn has tassels!

The corn is visited by solid black bumble bees.  They have large yellow pollen sacs on their back legs.  

I'm still amazed by the difference in the plants growing where the turkey was buried (in the back of the photo), which are tall and dark green, and the pale version growing where there was just smothered sod.  Just imagine how well the garden will grow once I incorporate organic matter into the entire thing!

The seeds I spread on the long soil pile that was generated from the pool excavation have had better success than I originally expected.  Mostly the buckwheat is flourishing, and has hundreds of honeybees visiting it each day.  A pair of cardinals spend their time eating the ripe seeds too.  

There are a few sunflowers that managed to grow, and some zinnias and some kind of vining gourds.  I think the tall green plants that look like corn are grain sorghum, which will make good chicken food.  

It's time now to pull up the carpet between the rows and plant some fall crops, if I'm going to do it.  Maybe this will be the weekend that I make it happen!  

Or maybe I'll spend the weekend playing with our dirty puppy and swimming in the pool!

Monday, August 8, 2016


Finally, the POOL IS OPEN!!  We did it.  We got the pool put together and filled with water, and oh boy, was it a big job.  All the youtube videos we watched used three or four men to install a pool, but Brandon and I managed to do it ourselves.  It took us two days of hard labor and a day or regular labor, but still, we did it.  We don't ever want to do that again, but we did it!

A giant truck arrived before eight in the morning, and dumped four tons of sand into the hole we've been chiseling for the pool.  Four tons of sand is heavy.  My shoulders and arms were tired from raking it smooth before the sun even burned away the morning mist.  

Wendigo thought we invented the best game ever, and kept us entertained as she played king of the mountain on the sand pile.  Why she wanted to eat so much of the sand, I don't know.

The pool wall is a long piece of metal that unrolls and slips into the meal track that was leveled along the bottom.   

We figured out to put the heavy roll on a piece of plywood so I could spin it and feed out the wall while Brandon put it in the track.  This is the part where the videos said to have people there to hold the wall in place as you work.  Instead of people, we pounded in fence posts and used clamps and bungee cords to hold it in place.  We named one fence post Jamie, and one fence post Joe.  But even with all the help from Jamie and Joe, we still had trouble getting the wall to all fit in the track all at the same time.  So frustrating!  And heavy!

We were so glad to get that part over.  Little did we know, that wasn't even the hardest part.  Then, more raking to get the bottom smooth and to pile sand along the bottom edge.     

After Brandon finished installing the vertical rails along the outside, and the metal piece that fit along the top of the wall, he looked so sweaty and exhausted that I had to take his picture.  He looks like he just crawled out of a mine!  There's just enough room between the pool wall and the embankment to walk, but it's not enough room to move freely when you have to get down on the ground and fit big pieces together with screws.  I heard lots of grumbles coming from the other side of the wall while I raked sand.  

Um.., Brandon, I think we were supposed to put the liner in first before you put those on... Doh!  It's been years since we took the pool down when it was given to us, so we had to do some guessing about how the pieces fit together.  This meant that everything we did, we did it at least three times before we figure out how it should go.  And, of course, we did it in hot and humid weather.  If only we'd had a pool to keep us cool while we worked, right? 

The liner was a beast to install.  I'm not sure if the pool isn't exactly round or what, but when we measured the over lap all the way around, it didn't work like it was supposed to.  Youtube said to make sure not to get it too tight, or the pool wall could collapse, but not to get it too loose, or it would be all wrinkly.   How do we know? We pulled and kicked and struggled with it for hours before we gave up got it right and turned on the hose.  

The whole time I'm kicking wrinkles out of the bottom, I have to wear these stylish foam pieces on my shoes so I don't leave foot prints in the sand.  The backs of my legs are sore in places I didn't realize could get sore from doing an awkward backwards scooting hop over and over.  

Even though we have the liner that was in the pool when we took it down, and it looked to be in good shape, we decided we would never get the holes lined up with the skimmer and the inlet pipe, so Brandon made a run to a pool store for a new liner, pump, and various other hoses, chemicals, and pieces.  

While he was gone, I lined up all the rocks that were generated by our excavations which were piled near the pool hole, hoping to create a visual barrier that will keep us from forgetting to be cautious around the top of the embankment.  We have thoughts and plans about vegetation and decking that would cover the embankment and make access to the pool easier, but that's a project for later.  

By Sunday evening, the pool was full of water, the filter and pump leaks were under control, and we finally got to swim.  Ahhh.... it was definitely worth all that work.  If you are looking for me during the remainder of the summer - you can find me at the pool!
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