Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bring on the Nog!

Brandon asked me this morning if it felt like Christmas to me, yet.  It really does.  Yesterday was our office Christmas lunch, and funny gift giving and stealing game, and last Saturday was our family tree decorating party.  I'm firmly in the holiday spirit.  Bring on the nog, I'm ready!  

I took a day off work last Friday, wrapped all my gifts, and spent the evening with my parents preparing for the family to gather the next day.  I tricked my mother into vacuuming all the flies from the windows (Merry Christmas to me!), and we decorated with my collection of holiday bling.  I even wrapped a long red ribbon around one of the posts in the living room.  It doesn't look like a stripper pole, either...

The mantel shelf behind the dinning room table was decked out with cedar boughs and all the trimmings. The stockings were hung with care.  Santa has already filled Brandon's stocking, but mine is suspiciously empty.  

I had to throw the card board box that holds the artificial and pre-lighted tree in the trash, because it was stored on top of the goat shed, and a chicken used it as her nightly perch.  Thankfully the tree was fine once I shook off a few chicken droppings!  I had the tree set up and ready for my nieces and nephew to decorate.  It's become an annual tradition, to come to our house and decorate the tree while the adults enjoy a cup of cheer.  We popped some popcorn and made long strands of popcorn and cranberry garland.  This year my nephew was tall enough to reach the top of the tree!   

Mom was inspired to make some of these three dimensional paper snowflakes.  So pretty! 

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Dog in the Pantry

A friend of mine has a new puppy.  It's adorable, with big eyes and ears tiny little baby teeth.  And it is so young it still has that cute puppy breath smell.  Unlike Puck, who has that old-dog breath smell!

Puck was trained to sleep in a crate when he was a puppy.  It wasn't long before he out grew his crate, and because he was so reliable (except for that time he chewed up Brandon's glasses!) we didn't worry about leaving him alone in the house when we were gone.  But, he was hooked on sleeping in a small space, and when he couldn't use his crate, he took over the bedroom closet and then the bathroom.  Now that we live at the little farm house, he has claimed the pantry as his room.  I resisted for a while, but eventually accepted it, and moved his bed to his favorite spot.  Now it's normal for me to stand on a fluffy dog bed with my feet on either side of a grumpy old dog while I'm searching for my ingredients.  My nephew told me that having a dog sleep in the pantry was "sort of unsanitary, but okay."  Ha!  

It's finally cold enough to have a real fire burning all evening long.  I appreciate the warmth almost as much as my senior pets! 

Max the cat is going to be twenty years old, which is ninety-six human years, according to an on-line source.  Puck is working on year fifteen, so he's nearly seventy-six in human years.   

Max and Puck both agree, at their age, they get to sleep where ever they want!  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


We were discussing our birth months and our astrological signs with some friends, and someone said to me, "You're a Libra? That must be why you are so pleasant."   

I take this as the compliment it was meant to be, but I have thought about this label several times lately.  Pleasant isn't the most dashing moniker!  If you only know me from this blog, would you describe me as pleasant?  I was told by a friend that she likes to read this blog, in part, because the subject matter is light.  Especially when the news headlines are most often dark or stressful.  

It's nice to think of my words and pictures as a source of pleasantness, or light.

Another friend of mine told me that she was usually stressed by what was reported to be happening in the world before she even made it to the office.  She was angry or disturbed every day, during the solitude of her commute.  The morning headlines where enough to make her feel the weight of the world even before she took on the stresses of her daily job.  

I don't follow the news.  I've stopped paying attention to things outside my sphere of influence, as a matter of self preservation.  Selfish?  Sure, but who will protect my pleasant thoughts if not me?  Stuff seeps in, through conversation, so you don't have to worry that I will live blissfully unaware of the worlds big events, because trust me, someone always takes the time to fill me in.  Bombings, shootings, tsunamis, wildfires, sex scandals - all that stuff finds it's way to me, but I don't seek it out, and I try not to let it in passively.  I like to control my own message.

I might not be able to hold up my end of the dinner party conversation with out turning the talk to the challenges of goat breeding, but otherwise, being uninformed isn't a problem.  It's actually kind of pleasant.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Donkey Drainage

What a terrible title for a blog post, right?  Don't worry, nothing is draining from the donkeys!  At least nothing that isn't pretty normal. Ha!

The drainage I'm talking about is in the donkey yard/pen.  When it rains a lot, like it has this fall, water flows from the roof of the chicken coop and from the grassy area in front of my corn crib barn, and flows directly under the gate to the donkey yard, down the slight slope, and pools at the fence line and at the entrance to the donkey shed.  The donkeys tramp through the mud, obliterating any little channels I try to excavate to move the water away from their stall.  It turns into a muddy mess, and the donkeys get their feet dirty every time they step out of their room.  

I've pondered different solutions to this.  Some of the engineering solutions, such as drain pipes, ditches, and site re-grading, would work wonders, I'm sure, but in practice, I don't have any equipment for jobs like that.  I think my best idea so far is to dump a giant load of sand in the yard.  I think this would at least keep the donkeys from sinking to their ankles in the mud, because the sand would pack down hard, and they could walk on it even when it was wet.  But, I don't have a load of sand either!  My temporary solution is to cover the mud with old hay.  

All that old hay helps the mud situation, for sure, but it doesn't last that long, and makes the drainage worse.  Organic matter is building up along the fence line and flattening the grade, which prevents the site from draining even more.  Plus, it's not a small job to cart in enough hay to keep two heavy animals from sinking.  If drainage elves were real, like I wish, they would come and remove about four inches of perfectly mixed garden soil from the downhill side of the pen, improving the drainage, and then they would cover the ground with loads of course sand.  Then they would put gutters and rain barrels on the roof of the chicken coop.  They might even build a roof over the donkey yard, so the donkeys and I could stand out of the rain.  I would leave cookies for the drainage elves, if only I could coax some in.  

Rufus doesn't see what the big deal is.  It's just a little mud.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Herd Dynamics

As you know, I'm a frustrated goat farmer.  Or maybe I should say, goat-milk farmer, since I have plenty of goat, but zero goat-milk.  

Look who met me as I parked my car at home the other day - the entire goat herd!  Somehow the gate wasn't latched, and the goats spent the day eating my fruit trees instead of staying in their pen.  I can't blame them, but I was a little worried they would get the bloat.  Thank goodness they didn't get into the feed bins.  


Don't worry, Peaches, I haven't given up on you yet.  As far as I know, Peaches is perfectly capable of producing baby goats and all the goat cheese I could want.  But, Little Buck is going to have to play his part before that can happen.  

Based on some of Little Buck's recent, quite shocking, behavior (should we rename him Louis C.K.?), I think he's getting the idea, but I don't think he has been able to do the job he's been assigned.   

I think these guys are partially to blame.  I've seen Peaches lift her tail and rub her body all over Dark River, who is ill equipped to do Little Buck's intended job.  She squats to pee, and the boy goats pick up a smell that makes their hair stand on end and then they rear up on their hind legs and slam each other.  They gang up on Little Buck too, and he can't even get close to Peaches.  She doesn't like him either, and he's not confident enough to press the point.  Sometimes I think I should lock the River brothers in a different place, so the Little Buck has a chance with Peaches, and they can't run block.   

If I'm patient enough, I think eventually Little Buck won't be so little, and he won't be intimidated by the River boys.  They don't look very intimidating, do they?  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Moving the Meat Babies

The baby meat birds are nearly seven weeks old now.  Despite their massive size, they are very much baby birds.  They make little peeping bird sounds, and spend most of their time preening their feathers and snuggling.  Occasionally, I will see two of them in a rooster stand-off, but they don't stick with it very long.  They have a wide legged lumbering gait, and love to eat and drink, but don't seem as excited to scratch around in the straw as much as little MJ, the heritage breed chick that lives with them.  

They have been living in the greenhouse, inside the brooder box, which by the time they were five weeks old was too small for twenty-three birds.  One night a few weeks ago, it was well below freezing, so I closed the side of the greenhouse, which I have always left open before.  I left for work early, and forgot to open the greenhouse plastic on one side.  It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.  

The meat babies got too hot.  They ran out of water.  The only thing that saved them, I'm sure, is that it was such a nice day, that I left work early thinking I would spend the extra daylight hours figuring out how to build them a ramp, so they could get out of the brooder box if they wanted.  

It was terrible, to find them all pale, gasping, and woozy from the heat.  Six of them were already dead when I found them.  I hurried to open the greenhouse and refill the water.  Some of them couldn't walk, so I had to bring them to the water and lift their wings to the breeze so they would cool down.  After about an hour, they regained their pink cheeks and seemed normal.  While I tended my poor overheated birds, and stacked up the bodies of the birds that perished, I had plenty of time to think about my mistake, and my regret.  At first it seemed like such a disaster of my own making, but I know in the grand scheme of things, the loss of six birds destined for the frying pan isn't quite the stuff of tragedy.  It sure felt like it though.  Poor meat babies.   

From then on I left the greenhouse side open, always.  Last weekend, I moved each bird to the big chicken coop.  Because they don't try to fly, I could just set each bird in the bottom of a bucket and carry a bucket in each hand to the coop.  Some of them were curious enough to stick their heads out of the bucket and look around, but most just settled in to the bottom of the bucket.  These are very accommodating birds.  Brandon saw me carrying buckets back and forth and asked me what I was doing.  You know, just hauling buckets of chicken.  

The meat babies are settled in the chicken coop now.  They don't seem interested in coming out to explore, but I'm glad they have more room to move around.  I'm learning some things about raising meat birds with my set up, for sure.  Even though these birds grow fast, and don't try to fly out of their space, I'm still not sure I don't prefer to raise the heritage birds that have a little more independence.  Taking care of meat babies is like taking care of babies.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Big Dog, Little Donkeys

Oh my!  Wendigo, you are too big to be a lap dog!  She will never agree though.  If she could cuddle up in our laps and take a nap, like she did when she was only months old, she would.  It's fun to have such a cuddly dog.  As long as we don't mind sporting long white dog hair all over our clothes! 

Wendigo is nearly as tall as Rufus.  Rufus and I practiced walking around the farm with the lead rope.  He is really getting the hang of it now, and as long as I walk forward with a sense of purpose, he follows along nicely, even deep into the weeds and brush, to visit Brandon while he cuts fire wood.  

Wendigo might be nearly as tall as Rufus, but Rufus is pretty small for an equine.  

While Rufus and I were out on our adventure visiting Brandon, Hattie was left behind with the goats.  Even from the far corner of the little farm, I could hear her braying for her brother.  Rufus finally answered her back, and nearly deafened me with a long, loud, bray.  

When I walk Rufus on the lead rope, Hattie falls into place behind him, and we meander around the pasture like we are in a congo line.  I haven't gotten brave enough to bring them both outside the fence at the same time though, because I can't figure out the logistics of the lead rope for a donkey bringing up the rear.  Should I make them learn to walk side by side?  

Monday, November 27, 2017

I'm Into Cats

Someone came by my office and asked me if I wanted a stray kitten.  I said no.  They said it was the cutest little kitten and it needed a home.  I said no, again, and I must have been very firm with my answer, because then they asked "So, are you just not into cats?" 

Ha!  I was asked this on the same day that I nearly filled my phone with pictures of my cats. I'm definitely into cats.  Three cats is plenty of cats.  

I've been working on my official crazy cat lady status since I was a kid.  But these days, I even have cats climbing my ceilings!

Leaving the ceiling beams in our upstairs exposed changed the room from a closed-in tight space into something interesting and open, but it also added a unexpected bonus. 

The cats can leap from beam to beam, entertaining us with their acrobatics!

Newt, our adventuresome calico girl, is really the most agile climber.  She likes to surprise me by jumping down from above when I'm not paying attention.  Ditto, my sleek but timid boy, is more comfortable when he has all his feet on the ground.  

Isn't he beautiful?  I think so, but then again, I'm into cats. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cutting Flakes and Mixing Dough

Some of us thought this snowflake was the most beautiful of all the snow flakes my nieces and I created yesterday. 

My nieces got to spend the night with us on Saturday.  We made popcorn on the stove top, and settled in to watch Swiss Family Robinson, one of my childhood favorites.   It's been years since I watched it, and I forgot about all those animal scenes.  This movie must have been filmed before the promise that no animals were harmed, because I'm pretty sure two dogs fight a tiger.  For real!  

The kids come with some of their own entertainment.  The eldest is reading The Chamber of Secrets, and youngest had several national geographic books full of interesting facts.  They also have a smart phone, which was very helpful to us when we were trying to learn how to fold paper for our snow flakes.  We had to watch the youtube video very closely, and push the pause often, before we finally figured out what we were doing.  None of our flakes looked much like the video, but they were all pretty when taped to the window. 

Our flakes were even decorated with glitter!  They sparkle, just like real snow. 

We made pizza for lunch too.  We even mixed up a gluten free crust.  Unfortunately, the tomato paste we used for sauce was too tangy for their taste buds so there were lots left over.  I guess that's one way to make sure they don't eat too much pizza, huh?   

Puck wasn't very helpful at making snow flakes, but he was very involved in the pizza making, and diligently patrolled the kitchen licking up any dropped cheese shreds or pepperoni pieces.  Good times were had by all! 

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