Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Smell Dead Things

Normally my three-animal cleanup crew works like a well-oiled machine.  Sparky the cat flushes mice and brings them inside either alive or dead.  If alive, Maggie kills the mouse.  Then Desmond eats it, crunchy bones and all.  Desmond's gotten into the habit of making a first-thing-in-the-morning circuit sniffing the floor looking for mousy, crunchy goodness.  I've gotten in the habit of not taking a single step unless I can see where I'm putting my foot, so I can make sure not to step on a dead mouse. We go through the drill 2-3 times a week.

Sometimes however, the mouse manages to crawl under something and die on it's own.  Nobody figures it out until a few days later when I walk through the kitchen and sniff, "Hm, there's something dead around here."  Three-four times this summer, I've nose-found something dead, behind a door, next to the cat litter, under a shelf, halfway under the refrigerator.

This time though, I think it's all the way under the refrigerator.  I've checked all the standard dying places and got nothing.  I pulled the fridge partway out and it's not enough.  I'm going to have to jack that puppy up and give it a good look-see.  First, I think I'll check all the other places I can think of - it'd really annoy me if I broke the fridge, and then found a mouse, say, in the back of a cabinet, or some other easy-to-get-to place.  I think Maggie the Mouse Killer is slacking on her job!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Apples are Ripe

The first apples of 2010 are ready.  I took  a bite of one yesterday and it was perfectly ripe, a little sweet and a little tart.

Here is an apple from each of the two trees near my house.  I spent a huge amount of time last year trying to identify what type of apples they are and had found some good web resources (I'll have to locate them again, since apparently I didn't keep the links).  The left apple is streaky over a greenish base, and the right apple is a darker, more solid red.  I think the right apple is a Macintosh, it's tart like that and cooks really well, but I never pinned down the left one.  Cortland maybe.  It got mushy and bland when cooked.  I've got maybe 2-3 other apple trees that bore fruit this year, the Golden Delicious tree, the grandpa tree made a few apples, and one other tree.

I took a container up to upper blueberry hill to pick what I could pick, but there's nothing left.  Blueberry season up and went without me.  I made ice cream, sold a few pints through Melanie, and had some friends over for pickin', but that's it.  I didn't save any this year.

The guy I was supposed to meet last Thursday postponed until later this week.  After that first really good phone call, he hasn't called or emailed.  Using the philosophy that if a guy likes you, you'll know; the fact that he hasn't called is a bad sign.  I've adjusted my hopes downward.  It's disappointing, but it's not productive to dwell.  I'm meeting someone else for lunch tomorrow, and someone else for dinner Weds.  I had originally refused to meet the Weds person using distance as an excuse, but changed my mind yesterday.  Yes, this whole thing is incredibly frustrating and time-consuming, but I believe that anything worthwhile is worth working for, and I'm willing to do the work.  Plus, it keeps me moving and not dwelling on might-have-beens with the goats, which is also worthwhile right now.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some Things DON'T Like it Hot

My upstate New York yard is feeling the heat.  Badly.  The browning grass is receding, like gums around raising teeth, to expose rocks and more rocks.  First the grass turns brown, then doesn't grow back after mowing, then a rock starts to show.  My mountain is a thin skin of green over a core made of rock. Last year was lush and moist and I didn't see all these rocks. It turns cutting the grass into a random pattern of rock-avoidance.

I am a task-oriented person.  I learned this when I worked at GEICO.  (GEICO is the best place I ever worked.  It took a  while to get past my dislike of insurance in general, but afterwards, I saw that it's a very well-managed company, and the place where I've gotten my best working experience.)

One of the extensive trainings they give teaches people how to work effectively with other people (good for people like me whose job it is to make change happen).  It teaches not the golden rule (treat people the way you want to be treated), but the platinum rule (treat other people the way they want to be treated). First, it teaches you whether you're a person who is motivated by relationships or motivated by tasks, and how to identify which type of person you're working with based on what questions they ask.  "Who will I be working with?" is a relationship person.  "What will I be doing?" is a task-oriented person. If you want to successfully make change happen, you deal with task-oriented people differently from relationship-oriented people.  It's one of the most valuable lessons I've learned.  Ever.  I'm a task-oriented person. 

Normally I relish a weekend alone on the mountain.  I get a sense of accomplishment from completing farm-y tasks.  But this weekend, my first without the goats (it's actually the second weekend, but I was busy last weekend with social stuff), finds me all, "what now?," and thinking about relationships. The list of tasks that held me to the ground is gone.  I made a substitute task this week - can tomatoes, but I find myself with a counter full of tomatoes thinking, "bleh."  A real homesteader would do it anyway, because these tomatoes are this winter's food.  But I have the luxury of feeling sorry for myself and wimping out.  I wandered around the house, picked things up, put them back down and felt at loose ends and lonely.

Then I hit upon the one task that unfailingly makes me feel good - cutting the grass.  It's several hours if you include all the preparation.  I divided it over two days, added some general neatening up and that's the weekend, gone.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Day in the City

In these parts, "the city" means only one thing - Manhattan.  New York City.  Never mind that there's a small city right here.  We call this one, "Albany," and the other one, "the city."

I got up at 4:30 yesterday morning.  Fed the dogs once, then again at 5:45 when I left for the train station.  Left the still-sleeping chickens enough food to last for 24 hours.  Then took the train south along the Hudson River as the sun rose and the moon set.

I met my father and a friend at breakfast, and gave my father a lunch cooler full of hand-picked upstate NY elderberries.  We walked along the High Line, a park made on an abandoned elevated train line rescued from demolition.  It's so popular that famous architects are building hotels above the park and other cities are trying to duplicate it.  I think that white striped building in this picture is a Gehry building, but I'm not positive.  I used to really be into that sort of thing.

Then we separated for a few hours while I ran to an appointment.  I don't remember these bike lanes being here before.  Bike lanes are one of the best parts of Europe that I'm glad to see us adopting.

and we met up at Rockefeller Center, where the uniform of choice was leggings, or "jeggings," jean leggings.

Dad had free tickets to the observation deck at the top of Rockefeller Center.  I'd never been there before, and it was very nice.  Looking north past Central Park toward home.

Looking south past the Empire State Building.  When the twin towers were still standing, they were two extremely tall buildings at the southern tip of the island.  They would have stuck up just to the right of the Empire State Building in this picture, but farther down, at the end.

Finally I took the bus back down through Times Square back to Penn Station and home. 

I got home at midnight after a long day full of running and touristing.  The animals made it through their 18-hour stay without me swimmingly.  I used to badly want to live in this city.  My mother said once that she envisioned me as the aunt the kids visit in the city. Today was only touristy places though, and more Australian accents than I've ever heard here before, among the babel of languages I always hear here.  I'll be back, city, if only to visit!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Retail Therapy

I'm a big fan of retail therapy.  When I lived in DC and worked in Chevy Chase (for those of you unfamiliar with Chevy Chase, it's a retail hotspot in the DC metro area), it was pretty dangerous.  I had to walk through Hechts to get to the Metro stop.  Puhleese.

Now I indulge in retail therapy at a safer place, the Salvation Army.  I went today at lunch and made a major score.  It's an Armani sweater made from superfine alpaca, merino and polyamide (a fiber I'm not familiar with but it sounds chemical engineer-y.  Quick research indicates it's probably nylon.).  The sweater is super comfortable.  It's boyfriend sweater-sized and will go perfectly with jeans.

I got so excited about it, I decided to splurge and pay full price.  $3.99

Lets Call it the Kitchen Sink Argument

It wasn't the normal judge that listened to our arguments, it was a new judge.  He listed as the animal control officer read his report.  He listened to me tell the story of how I came home to find my goats dying behind the shed.  How I yelled at Atticus to get him off Penny and Atticus ran home.  How I tried so many people looking for someone to shoot the goats before the sheriff came and we found the goats had finally died by themselves.  How I'd been concerned enough about Atticus the week prior to bring one goat inside the house to keep it away from the dog.  How my mother is afraid enough of Atticus that she went inside and closed the door every time the dog came over.

Then the judge listened as my neighbor spoke about where she was born and grew up, how many dogs she's rescued, how beautiful Atticus is.  How she's an expert on goats because her ex-husband was nicknamed "goat."  How a dog belonging to the previous owner of my house killed a cat she was catsitting and the cat was a member of the family because it had slept in the same bed as the owner for 10 years.  How it's harsh country up where we live.  How everyone on the street has lost at least one animal and that's just part of living where we live.  How someone is leaving deer carcasses in the woods.  How she can't imagine Atticus hurting anything because she wouldn't keep a dangerous dog.  How she thinks that a wild animal killed my goats and Atticus just happened to discover it later.  How she has purchased an invisible fence (she showed it to us, still in Petsmart bags) and will install it soon, but her dogs might run through it.  How she brings the dogs out to the country to let them run because they don't have running space in the city.  How her dog doors let her dogs out, but might let wild animals in.  How she worries that if another wild animal kills another of my animals, I might blame her again.  How she installed fence for her birds and she knows how hard it is on our rocky land.  I wouldn't have been surprised if she brought the kitchen sink into her argument.  It had everything but.

She told all of this about 5 times, in one big, long rush, barely pausing for air.  The judge listened to it all and the rest of us listened with him.

Then he ordered her to keep her dogs on her property and me to keep my dogs on my property.  There's one difference.  I got a piece of paper with the judge's signature on it and the words "confine and keep on her property," referring to the neighbor and her dogs.  The neighbor got the certainty that if her dog comes to my place again, I can shoot it.

It's probably best that I'm not considering getting goats again until next year.  It looks like this thing has a little more playing out to do.  I fully expect to see the dog again.  I fully expect to call the animal control officer, to come get the dog, and then who knows what will happen.  The piece of paper says the dog can be destroyed if not kept under control, but let's see it play out.

No, I'm not happy.  I don't see any winners here.  I'm sad the neighbor has pushed it to this, but now she knows I will do whatever I have to do to keep my charges safe. This little saga has bumped forward a little bit.  And now it's time to lay more track.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Wanderings

The lockers at the firehouse with our pants lined up on our boots, ready to be quickly put on.  Official firefighter training starts in two weeks!

My stomach is tied up in knots about the court hearing tonight.  Mostly because of not knowing what to expect. That's the same reason it also gets all twisty every time I drive up the hill to the house.  I almost had a coronary the other day when Desmond wasn't in his normal place in the front yard when I drove up.  The air went out of my stomach in a big whoosh when I saw him slowly trotting around the corner of the house.  That's as fast as he goes, slow.  But it was good enough for me; happy to see everyone alive and safe.

I met another potential Mr on Monday and will meet another one tomorrow.  It seems to come in waves.  I have no interest in seeing Monday's man again (didn't really want to meet him in the first place), but am looking forward to meeting Mr Tomorrow, we had a nice phone conversation the other day.  I drove by a Home Depot yesterday and felt almost a sense of revulsion - home construction projects are just not something I want to think about right now.  I think it's OK to think about other stuff: fighting fires, finding a date, and canning tomatoes.  The house and farm structures will have to wait until I can stomach it. Need to lay more track first.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mid-August Harvest

Here's the last two of the zucchini, paired with some canteloupe and lots and lots of tomatoes.  I planted 2 types of canteloupe, one from seed and one from the store.  The seed ones haven't ripened yet and the store ones aren't very sweet.  Hm.  Not auspicious for me to plant them again.  If it were last year, I'll bet none of these would have ripened at all (or the tomatoes either).

The cherry tomatoes are sungold from seed.  I will definitely plant those again - they're wonderful!  The larger tomatoes are brandywine from seed, and early girl and better boy from the store.  I'm not impressed with the taste of any of them compared to the taste of the cherry tomatoes.  I think next year I'll do the sungold again, and some different full-sized tomatoes.

I've been drying and freezing, but it's becoming apparent that I need to learn how to can, so I can save some of these tomatoes.  The source of all wisdom (the internet) leads me to believe that it isn't difficult.  This weekend's project perhaps?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Being Quiet

When I thought about starting this blog a little over a year ago, I didn't want to start it until I knew I would post close to every day.  I've kept up with that.  When a lot is going on I've posted multiple times in a day - but I've mostly always posted daily.  But this past weekend found me with absolutely no desire to blog. No oomph to have my voice heard in the internet realm.  I didn't sit still though.  I ran errands and did social things on Saturday, and puttered around the house and put food by on Sunday. 

It's much quieter around the house now that Bo is gone.  I don't have to be alert for catastrophe every second.  Sparky the cat happily came out of hiding as soon as I came home with an empty car.  The chickens, who had stopped laying, have begun to make a few more eggs.

Losing the goats has left a big hole.  There's more time in every day than before, and more time available in my future plans than before.  It doesn't feel good, but I can't deny that more time is a good thing.  I've revisited plans I turned down or curtailed and realized that I can be away from the house longer than before.  That will come in handy when I meet my father in "the city" for a day this weekend.

There is a court date set for Wednesday when I will do my absolute best to make sure I don't ever see the neighbor's dog again.  The hearing is to determine whether the dog is "dangerous" or not.  I've done a tiny bit of research and it appears that NY has left it to the municipalities to set dog laws and my town doesn't have a leash law.  I'm probably wrong, but it's possible that the only way I can get her to control her dog is to get it declared a "dangerous dog," which is what I hope to do.  The law says killing farm animals is enough to qualify.  I think the neighbor hasn't been at her house since Tuesday.

It was a dark, rainy and windy day yesterday, it seems the first this summer.  It was really nice to stay inside and do inside things without guilt about missing sunlight.  And this morning when I drove down to work, I saw a tree down  over the neighbor's driveway.  Seems like she's having a bad spell, too!

PS - If the dog is declared a dangerous dog, then the judge has several options.  Likely, he will tell her to keep the dog confined, but he could also tell her to carry an insurance policy on the dog, or he could require that the dog be evaluated.  I'll let you know - but in any case, I seriously doubt the dog will be put down.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Layin' Track

It's layin' track time.  After every big event, there's a time where the main thing is to put time in between now and the thing.  Yesterday was my first day driving home after a full day at work, and I thought, "the last time I did this, I came home to catastrophe."  A few more days of track to lay and I'll say on Monday, "last week today, it happened."  And days and weeks will pass and the track will get longer, and my feelings about the event will lose their sharp edges.

I was terrified on Tuesday that my neighbor would do something unreasonable, that Sparky had been hurt by Bo.  Of just about everything.  My stomach twisted into knots and my thoughts took me to daydreams of getting away to a place where everything is always nice, where there aren't any hillbilly neighbors or dangerous dogs.  I did research about places to go and I felt like I was doing something.  (I have a long history of moving when the going gets tough.)  But Tuesday passed without incident.  And then Wednesday and Thursday. The knots in my stomach started to untie.  Slowly.  Layin' track.

This morning I caught myself humming, and I saw how beautiful the sun was filtering through the reddening trees.  I'm off balance, but not knocked off my basic core of happy like I was last year.  Tomorrow I'll take Bo back. The stove will be repaired tomorrow.  Tomorrow it will be just me, the cat, the dogs and the chickens - and a working stove.

There's a song Nanci Griffith sings, called Late Night Grande Hotel that fits my life in several ways.  Partial lyrics below:

I'm working on a morning flight to anywhere but here
I'm watching this evening fire burn away my tears
All my life I've left my troubles by the door
'Cos leaving is all I've ever known before

It's not the way you say you'll hear my heart when the music ends
I am just learning how to fly away again

And maybe you were thinking that you thought you knew me well
But no-one ever knows the heart of anyone else
I feel like Garbo in this Late Night Grande Hotel
'Cos living alone is all I've ever done well

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bye Bo

He's going to go back to the rescue organization.

He's a really great dog, but he developed an unhealthy interest in the chickens yesterday.  He almost broke the door of the chicken coop trying to get in, and I had to put him back on leash to control him.

On Tuesday morning, when I was maximally upset about the goats, Bo chased the cat into the roughage and I didn't see the cat for the rest of the day.  I spent Tuesday worrying about the neighbor and worrying that Bo had hurt the cat.  In my head I started to tie Bo together with the bad stuff going on, (even though he had nothing to do with it) and decided to take him back.  Then the cat showed up for dinner, I changed my mind and decided to give him another chance.

But after yesterday and the chicken incident, it's clear that Bo can't live here.  This morning I went to feed the chickens and brought Bo with me (on leash).  I had to bring him because he's jumped through screened windows twice when I try to keep him inside.  A hen got out.  Bo was under control because I had him on a leash, but Maggie got excited and started to go after the chicken.  I called Maggie off and ... she listened and left the chicken alone.  That's the kind of dog I need.  Interested, but still able to listen to the boss.  Bo is uncallable with the cat and with the chickens, but comes promptly otherwise.

It's OK.  This rescue organization will keep trying to adopt him out until they succeed.  He will be loved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I think all of us who are new to owning farm animals learn on the job.    We all get our first animals with a mixture of fear and hope, and try to do the best we can while learning as fast as possible how not to kill them.  Most of us are lucky and the animals don't die.  Eventually we become farmers.

Penny and Coco didn't have the luxury of being with me as I fumbled through our first years together.  The one deadly thing happened that most owners dread and only some owners prepare for.  I could have done more.  I could have gone to the neighbor as soon as I got the goats and asked her to keep her dogs confined.  I could have strange-dog proofed the fencing. I could have had a livestock guardian.  But I didn't.  I have 2 dogs and I thought it was sufficient.  I didn't do great, but I did OK.  In some worlds it would have been enough.  Not in this one.

In one instant I went from being a goat owner to being a person who doesn't own goats.  My to-do list still has, "build milking stand" on it.  It still has, "finish the website for goodearthgoats," something I was working on in my free time.  My camera still has goat pictures on it.  I feel like I'm learning a new language or a new skill.  My mouth feels strange making words.  I walk into a room on the way to doing something and have to stop and think about whether I still need to do what I walked into the room to do.  Or has the goats' death made whatever task I was going to do irrelevant.  I have to re-learn what it's like to not own the goats.  This whole thing has been one big push on the "rewind" button, except now there's bad blood with my neighbor.

It's been really helpful to read that others of you have had similar things happen.  I'm not beating myself up (too much).  I wasn't a perfect mommy, and it's obvious that I wasn't even a good enough mommy.  I made a beginners mistake by leaving that one weakness open and the goats paid with their lives.  I won't make that mistake again.  I'm sorry Penny and Coco.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I called in sick today, feeling like I could use a day of puttering around the house, and acclimating to a life without goats.  Plus, I didn't sleep a wink last night and didn't think I'd be able to concentrate.  What I really did today is stew, grow even more raw nerves, and worry, worry, worry.

About mid afternoon, I realized that there is something I've been putting off that would be a perfect task for today.  I bought a gun.  It's only a tool, but it's a tool I didn't have yesterday.

PS - Huge thanks for the outpouring of support.  It means a lot to me.

Rest in Peace Penny and Coco

The neighbor's dog killed them yesterday.  They were dying when I came home from work.  All I could do was pet them and hope they died quickly.  When the Sheriff got here, they were dead.

I went to feed the chickens this morning and heard them bouncing about their shed and heard the "maa."  Except I didn't.  It wasn't there.

I am without words.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two Week Trial

This is Beau in the center (I think I'll change his name to Bo), Desmond and Maggie on both sides.

Bo is about the same size and color as Maggie, but he's wider and his eyes are wider-set and darker.  He's a Newfoundland mixed with something small.  Webbed feet, love of water and extremely well-mannered and smart.  And house trained.

And he plays!  He plays rough.  Here he is behind Maggie.

He's met the chickens and the goats and the cat and there aren't any red flags outside of the normal getting-to-know you stuff, ... so far.  Right now I'm at work, the dogs are outside, and he's in a crate on the porch.  It broke my heart, but it's the best way to make sure he doesn't damage any property or animals while I'm gone.  He's on trial.  If he fits in well, he can stay.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Befores and Afters

Who was wielding a weedwacker at 6:30 this morning clearing a path to set up a new area for the goats?  Yup, it was me.  I put off the brambly business too long.  Here's the befores and afters on the last area they were in.

Before: (couldn't see the road)

 After: (road is visible)
Before: (grampa apple tree is not visible)

After: (you can see the old apple tree easily)
Their new area is behind an older area.  I weedwacked a path to it, and then weedwacked all the way around.  Saved labor in putting up the fence, but still ended up sweaty and a mess.  It's difficult to see the path I wacked out in the below pic.  To the right is an area the goats were in for a few weeks at the end of May.  To the left of the path is an area they were in in late July. 

Here you can see them beginning to feast.

It's been a busy weekend (what else is new).  I slept outside under the stars Friday night and it was quite a treat.  The Perseids were still in full meteor mode.  Every time I opened my eyes, there was a streak of light across the heavens.  Yesterday was a fire department party, where I met the medical director of the fire department - the man who owned MY house from 1985 to 1991.  He still lives in the neighborhood.  Needless to say, there was a bit of an interrogation.

In about an hour, a dog will come to visit, maybe to stay.  A potential playmate for Maggie.  The rescue organization that gave me Maggie and Desmond had an event yesterday.  I liked this dog, but so did someone else.  A lady from the rescue org is bringing the dog to both of our houses today, to see where the dog will fit in best.  Highlights tomorrow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Food Post

Once again, a week has gone by with me in full speed ahead mode.  Every evening this week has been filled with something time-consuming I HAD to get done, until last night.  Last night I did a little catching up and a little relaxing and went to bed verrry early.  I feel SO much better today.

I sliced and put some cherry tomatoes into the dehydrator.

I harvested basil.  Here is a Bag 'O Basil ready to be made into pesto this weekend.  I remember buying basil in bags like this from the oriental grocery store on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland.  They were $4 for a huge bag.

And last, but not least - I made more ice cream.  Peach and cherry to add to the blueberry I made Wednesday night in anticipation of a dinner guest who ended up canceling.  This ice cream is so good that I think about it during the day.  I'm not too upset that the guest didn't end up coming to town - more ice cream for me! 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Goat in the House!

A riot happens at the 'stead every day when I arrive home from work. Dogs are happy and excited and barking, goats are bleating (or whatever goats do), chickens are making a ruckus - the source of food just came home!  It starts in the yard, and as I go inside the dogs follow and mill around the kitchen along with the cat.  Desmond is the barker, but since he's mostly deaf, he can't hear himself bark.  So he barks REALLY LOUD.  Picture dogs milling, a cat underfoot, and LOUD barking - until food bowls are set down and the whole thing calms.

Yesterday, as I was driving up the hill, the neighbor's dogs came out and chased me up the last 1/8 mile, so there were 2 more dogs than normal.  Then, as I was getting out of the car, into the barking and milling, I noticed a goat in the front yard.  Penny waited all day inside the fence with Coco and then came out after she saw my car come up the drive.  Gasp.

I'm comfortable that the goats are safe with MY two dogs, but I don't know about the neighbor's 2 dogs.  It would be extremely cool if one of my dogs were to protect the goats, but that would be dreaming at this point.  What to do, what to do?  The only thing I could think to do was bring the goat into the house while I fed everybody.

So there we were, two dogs, a cat and a goat milling about the kitchen.  It was pretty amusing.  The kitchen isn't big.  After I fed the dogs and cat, I got a leash and took the goat back to her eating place.  I took a moment to find the camera and snap a quick shot (being verry concerned about goat pee in the house).  Here's the picture.  Penny being curious about Desmond eating his dinner.

P.S.  The Perseid meteor shower will be at it's peak tonight (actually tomorrow in the early morning hours).  It was cloudy last year for this shower, and it will be this year as well.  That's not a terrible, terrible, bad thing though, because the shower will last another week or so.  The Perseids are so named because they come from the constellation Perseus, which is near the horizon in the north.  So, look north young man!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just Plain Fun

Here's a picture of me last night at the weekly fire drill.  I'm in borrowed turnout gear that doesn't really fit, big in places and tight in other places, sneaking a quick picture break because I think this is SO cool.

We're playing with a donated car.  A few weeks ago we practiced EMT stuff, how to stabilize a person and get them out of the car.  Last night we practiced how to get into the car.  I got to break a window, and later I got to use a HUGE pair of hydraulic scissors to cut stuff up.  Big man toys.

There is virtually nothing in my life that can make me forget the constant list in my head, the constant question of, "does spending time on this activity take me where I want to go," or "am I spending time on the right things?"  Except this.  I go to the fire station and my other life completely disappears from my head.  I am completely in the moment, learning how to be a fireman, playing with man toys, learning the words and where to put things and how to be a productive member of this team.  It's pretty neat, and for me, just plain fun.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Fates' Messages

I think the fates have decided that I should not have a working oven.  I'm far from an expert in these fate-y matters, but when something is decided, it's decided way above my pay grade.

Sears came out, determined that they do not have the part to fix my stove, ordered the part, and can come back - in two weeks - to put the part in.  That will be almost three weeks with no oven.  I've put the pot roast in the freezer.   Funny, but it being hot and humid outside, I didn't feel that I really needed the oven until they told me I couldn't have it.  I had the roast, some quiche, some bread in my baking plans.  I did manage to live moderately successfully without an oven for a year and a half until three months ago when I bought the new stove that just broke.

It makes me think of another time when it seemed like the fates had decided something, and darn it, that's what was going to happen, no matter what I thought about the matter.  In, oh, about 2001-ish, my brother-in-law totaled a Ford Explorer by accidentally driving off the road and into some woods.  The brother-in-law and the car were in Oregon.  I was in South Carolina.  I bought the car from salvage, had it repaired, and got a salvage title.  Then a friend and I flew across the country and started to drive the car back across the country - on Christmas eve. 

We drove two hours west first, to put our toes in the Pacific Ocean to symbolically start the journey.  We were going to end the journey by putting our toes into the Atlantic Ocean at South Carolina.  This was the second time for my friend and I to drive cross-country. A few years earlier, we had driven from LA to Cleveland.  It was Christmas Eve, just in case you didn't get that when I wrote it earlier.

A snowstorm blew up, just east of Pendleton, Oregon.  My friend, who was driving hit a patch of black ice.  We spun and tipped against the mountain ending up facing the wrong way on the road.  We got towed to an Indian Casino in Pendleton and spent Christmas Day waiting for someone, anyone to come back to work.  It was the Worst. Christmas.  Ever.  We were both so depressed that all was could do was lay on our beds and watch some makeover show on TLC.   When an insurance agent came back to work and looked at the car, they said it was totaled.  Again.  We made our way in a Planes, Trains and Automobiles sort of way back to Portland and flew back east.

I think the fates knew what the car's destiny was.  It was never going to be my car.  It was going to be ... a total loss.  I/we succeeded only in keeping it from that fate for a few weeks.

The story ends well.  We were both unharmed.  My friend's insurance policy paid for the car.  The money helped me get out of South Carolina and move to Washington, which was big, very big.  We are still friends.  Every time I tell this story I get thankful for all the ways we were lucky.

It's happened a few times in my life, where it becomes obvious that something bigger is going on than my little plans. I take it as a message that I need to slow down and stop Trying To Get So Much Done.  I know it's only a stove for chrissakes, but I also know it's a message to slow down and chill.  Pay attention to things and appreciate.  I listen to those messages. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Wild Trend in Lawn Care

Fox News blog says that using goats for lawn care is a "wild trend," here, excerpted below.

The latest trend in lawn care doesn't have four wheels. Try four legs. Across America, goats are being put to work in the backyards of homes and businesses alike, from New York to Washington and Pennsylvania to Colorado.

Read more: http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/08/08/goat-mowers-a-wild-trend-in-lawn-care/#ixzz0w8lcpdvp

Maybe it really is a trend.  The Wall Street Journal had a video on the goats at Vanderbilt Mansion August 3rd (here) and an article on it August 4th on the front page of the Personal Journal section, here.  (or maybe someone at the WSJ likes goats???)  ...  (How do I get that person's name?)

I would really like for this "wild trend" to slow down so that it doesn't jump the shark before I'm ready!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Destroy, Destroy, Build, Build

Several things went down this weekend, and several things went up.  That's the cycle.  That's how it goes.

The old roof came off the shed and a new roof went up.  The guy who offered to do the roof regrets charging so little as the roof was several layers deeper than he thought and the job took most of two days rather than the one he was expecting.  He took it down to wood, replaced some rotted pieces, put drip edge, heavy felt paper and then shingle up.  The shed may fall down, but it won't be because the roof leaked!

The zucchini and the squash were pulled, due to a case of powdery mildew.  The cucumbers are beginning to get it and I hope, hope, hope the melons aren't affected.  That's a strong argument for not planting things as close together as I did, and not planting the cukes, zukes, melons and squash right next to each other.  From reading other bloggers, it looks like this stuff is common.  I did get plenty zukes and squash before I had to play destroyer.

It's another testament to the power of reading blogs.  I was catching up on Engineered Garden's blog, where he mentioned that he had powdery mildew - that made me look it up and that's how I realized that I had it too.

I mostly built the hay feeder and got all the pieces cut for the milking stand. Finishing the milking stand will have to wait until I can get a few things at the hardware store.  Story of my life!  This hay feeder's a bit of overkill for 2 goats, but it's the size of the panel and I won't have to build another one for quite a while as I get more goats.  This is something I think my goats need to grow into - they're not full-size yet.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The World Tilts, Then Straightens, Then Tilts Again

I always feel a little uneasy when stuff isn't right, like the world is tilted a bit. 

For the last month, my water has been surging, as a valve clicks the water pump on and off, on and off, on and off.  After dark, my lights would flicker with the water pump, and I was worried that the problem might have an electrical basis with my small electrical box loaded up with an electric water heater on top of all the other stuff, and worried about the cost of a fix.  Earlier this week Susan wrote a blog post in which she wrote about getting help for a nonworking water pump, and I jumped on this man (figuratively!).  He fixed my surging water, and charged me .... $43.  My world straightened out.

He also showed me how to turn the water off to the house if something ever springs a leak.  My world straightened some more.  (Can you believe that I lived here for almost 2 years without knowing how to turn off the water???  I had been in South Carolina for only 5 months when a pipe froze, causing a fountain in my back yard.  I didn't know how to turn off the water then, either.  Amazing how much not-knowing I'm comfortable with now.  Or not-so-comfortable.  My world has been a little tilted for years now, a constant, small level of unease that if a pipe freezes here in the frozen north, I'd be Out. Of. Luck.)  See how much this guy rocked my world?  (in a taking care of my house kind of way, that is.)

Anyway, as if the fates had decided my world needs to be a little off-kilter, the electronic brain of my stove broke less than an hour after water guy left.  I can use the top of the stove, 'cause I've got matches to light the gas, just like old-timey people did.  But the pot roast I bought last week and was looking forward to cooking today will have to go in the freezer for a later date.  At least until after Tuesday when hopefully, Sears will fix it. (The stove, that is.  Not the pot roast.  I'll have to fix the pot roast.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Like Wildfire

I had plans for the evening that went all to heck when I got home.  The goats were IN their area when I got home, but then the goats decided to visit me in the house.  How do they make it look so easy?  I spent an hour or so taking down a whole section of fence and putting it back up through a different path.  I think they're pushing down a branch so the branch pushes down the fence, and then walking over the "bridge".  In addition to learning how to eat everything under the sun, they're learning creative ways to visit mommy!  Then I spent some time online, looking at computer systems for my mom.  Aaand, that's about it for the evening.  My precious three hours a day, gone, just like that.  I don't mind.  My plans were to start building the goat feeder and milking stand.  They were only plans in the sense that if I don't have plans, I don't get anything done at all.

I've gotten SO much more comfortable with the goats being loose that I didn't bother to try and pen them as I moved the fence about.  Maybe it would have been better if I did!  These cute little critturs followed me everywhere, staying mostly within a few feet of me.   When I was ready to put the goats back in, I lifted a section of fence and they walked under it, and that was it.  It was kinda fun.

Oh.  One more thing.  A local friend has an ice cream machine that I've been lusting after ever since I heard that she has one.  I'm not alone.  All of her friends are lusting, and she's got lots of friends.  So she sent out a recipe for frozen something, that can be made in a food processor - posted by Melanie at Our Wee Farm, and I just HAD to try it.  It feels like this frozen food recipe is spreading like wildfire!  I want Sue to post it on Allrecipes so I can wax poetic about it and give it ten stars.  I want to give it a name like Gourmet magazine used to (back when Gourmet magazine actually existed).  We can call it Ice Cream (Sue's last name) and it can sound really fancy.  I made the stuff with blueberries and blueberry sauce, and it deserves every star.  I couldn't wait until it completely hardened before I dug in!  I've been hankering after an ice cream flavor I used to have when I was young - peppermint stick ice cream.  Maybe I can make it!

One more thing.  I think this is going to be the year I replace everything in the house except the floor.  Except for the things I replaced last year, this year I've got a new water heater and stove.  My water pressure is surging and Sue's well guy tells me he's sure it's the tank.  I'm trying not to use much water until he can get here tomorrow because this surging can burn out pumps, and my water's been surging for several weeks.  That's on top of replacing the shed roof, the entire woodshed, having the "barn" built, and replacing the (gulp) roof on the house.  Someone did some roof repairs last summer that we'd hoped would get the roof through 2 years, but since multiple places in multiple rooms get wet now when it rains, we're thinking the roof can't wait another year.  Sigh.  Isn't it great to be a homeowner that bought a really cheap house?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Think It's Called Hubris

When I proudly write that me and the goats are ready for our first paying job, and then I spend the evening putting them back inside their fence.  They were inside their fence when I got home, but apparently couldn't bear to be apart from me, and showed up in the front yard a half an hour later.  This picture is from the second jailbreak.  Penny came to visit.  Coco decided to stay in.  Penny is the more social of the two.

I paid attention to the lesson though, and found the weakness in the fence.  The wire had come free from the energizer, so the fence wasn't shocking them.

After I put Penny back the second time and fixed the energizer, you can see her testing the fence with her nose.  Smart beast!  It kept them in for the rest of the evening though!

An example of hubris that I see frequently around the house is the spider.  (below is from here)

The Story of Arachne

Athena, goddess of wisdom, was a proud and talented, young goddess. In times of peace, Athena taught Grecians about the arts. She herself was a skillful weaver and potter and always took pride in her pupils' work, as long as they respected her.

One of Athena's pupils was a maiden whose name was Arachne. Arachne was a poor, simple girl who lived in the country. Her father was a quiet man of humble birth. He dyed sheep's wool to earn money for a living. Arachne wove beautiful fabrics of delicate designs, and people began to comment to her that surely she had been taught by the goddess Athena. Arachne denied this and stated that she was certainly better than Athena and that she had learned little or nothing from Athena's teachings. She even went as far as to say that she was a better weaver than Athena !

Arachne was known to have said,"I have achieved this marvelous skill due to my own talent, hard work, and efforts."

Soon Athena heard of the boastings of Arachne and decided to speak to her. Athena disguised herself as an old woman and went before Arachne stating, "It is foolish to pretend that you are like one of the gods. You're simply a mortal who talents are paled in comparison to those of the goddess Athena."

Arachne charged back to the old lady, "If Athena doesn't like my words, then let her show her skills in a weaving contest."

Suddenly, the disguise of the old woman was removed and there stood the radiant goddess Athena standing in front of Arachne. Athena accepted the contest challenge.

As the contest began, it was clear that the beauty of both Athena's and Arachne's tapestries were lovely. However, the goddess worked more quickly and skillfully. Arachne's attitude about her work showed that she felt her weaving was more lovely, but Athena felt it was an insult to the gods. This angered Arachne especially since Athena requested an apology. Arachne refused, and Athena slapped Arachne in the face. Almost instantly Arachne felt her head begin to shrink and her nimble fingers grow into long, thin legs.

"Vain girl, since you love to weave so very much, why don't you go and spin forever." Athena had turned Arachne into a spider.

So it is said that all spiders have been punished for Arachne's boasting, since they are required to live within their own webs. Since then spiders have been called arachnids.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Upstate New York Goats For Hire

The goats are attacking their job with gusto. 

I'm really happy with how the training for the goats (and me) is going.  They are acclimated to eating all different types of stuff.  They are portable electric fence trained.  They are leash trained.  Whenever I put them in a new area, they just stick their face in something and start eating.  You can see one of the goats bringing a branch down to get at the good stuff.

I wanna try and get them a paying gig sometime this year.  Some minor job where I can practice setting up the fence, and loading and unloading the goats into an area that's more than a short walk away.  I'm thinking that if it's close enough, I'd like to transport them to and from the job every day to make sure they're safe at night.  I'd like to get some nominal money from it, mostly so that I can show that I'm making progress, that I've actually made money and so that I can start expensing some of these start-up expenditures on my taxes.  It'll put me in a better place for next year when I'll want to ramp up a bit.  I drive right by a few fire department folks' houses, and I'm thinking of asking one of them if I could try it for a few days at one of their places.  The only problem with that idea is that their places look so nice and neat!

I'm pushing it quite a bit with the title of this post, but I want to see what kind of hits I get from search engines.  I already get hits from search engines about "what can goats eat," or, "can goats eat ... (something)."  I'm far from an expert, but it points out how public this is, and how I have the opportunity to provide useful information as I learn it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Apples, Goats and the Weekend Projects

The apples on the Macintosh apple tree look pretty good ... from a distance.  They're bigger than last year and getting red.

Up close however, they look like this.  They've got scab, same as last year, and something new that makes these pale splotches.  Since I didn't do anything to the apples to stop scab (other than hoping it would magically not appear this year since it's been a dryer year), I shouldn't be surprised.  Thankfully it doesn't harm the usability of the apples.  I'd like to make cider again, and store some apples either by canning, drying, or just in a basket in the basement.  The lesson is that if I want better apples next year, I'll have to actually DO something to prevent the scab, plum curculio and whatever the splotchy stuff is.  And waiting until April to think about it (like I did this year) is too late.

I took a portable chair and a glass of wine over to sit with the goats for a bit last night.  They're such interesting creatures. This is Coco.
And so curious.  It's like they use their mouths to feel new things.
It was really nice not to have to run, run, run for a change.  I finally got the new wheel attached to the hand truck and the new chicken waterer hung, both 10 minute projects after I finally got to them.

A commenter mentioned the other day about getting the goats acclimated to the milking stand, which sounds like a great idea.  First, build a milking stand....  I also need to build them a hay feeder, so them're this weekend's projects.  I pulled plans for the milker and the feeder from the internet, and I think I have all the materials in scrap wood from other projects.  Hm. Maybe I am a homesteader after all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Am I A Homesteader?

I am not.  I hadn't really thought about it until a series of posts on other blogs got me to thinking about whether or not I am a homesteader.  Here's the definition from Wikipedia:

As of 2010[update] the term may apply to anyone who follows the back-to-the-land movement by adopting a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. While land is no longer freely available in most areas of the world, homesteading remains as a way of life. According to author John Seymour, 'urban homesteading' incorporates small-scale, sustainable agriculture and homemaking.

I gave this blog a name with "Homestead" in it a little over a year ago.  It was aspirational in that I'd like to support myself wholly from the land.  Eventually.  Right now I have a good-paying full-time job in the city.

So there I was, thinking that I'm working towards being a homesteader, when some recent blog posts brought me up short.  The discussion was about something else, but I realized that some of the issues apply to me, how I spend my time and money, and the choices I make.

If one of my crops don't work out, I stop by the grocery store on the way home and buy a replacement.  I couldn't come half-close to feeding myself on the measly beets, broccoli, and tomatoes I planted.  I never even really thought about what it would take to feed myself year-round.  I would starve if I had to feed myself.

As long as I have this job, I'm going to buy wood instead of splitting my own.  I tried to split my own wood last year, but threw in the towel after several sweaty afternoons and little progress.

There are a ton of other examples where I've taken the easy way out because I have a paycheck to cushion me from hard decisions and hard work.  Take my recent decision to skip picking blueberries for market because it's, "too time-consuming."

There's a term I've heard used, not endearingly, about people like me.  It's, "Hobby Farmer."  Here's the Wikipedia definition:

A hobby farm is a smallholding or small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary source of income. Some are merely to provide some recreational land, and perhaps a few horses for the family's children. Others are managed as working farms for sideline income, or are run at an ongoing loss as a lifestyle choice by people with the means to do so.

Here's where I catch a break.  It's in the expectation.  The 'stead may be a small (very very small) income stream right now, but I expect it to be my primary income some time in the future.  I'm a homesteader wanna be!  There's lots of us in various stages of homesteaderish-ness.  Some of us are still in our city apartments or suburban homes dreaming of a little space and a few plants.  Some of us, like me, have the plot but don't know how to work it.  But it's getting better.  Every year I'll learn more and get closer to the goal.

So I'll leave "Homestead" in the title of this blog and work to be worthy of it.

There's one last thing.  If I had to feed myself off this land, I wouldn't starve!  I know people that are real homesteaders around here.  If I actually had to feed myself I could barter my muscles and work for my food the old-fashioned way.  Just like real homesteaders do.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Melon! Caprese Salad, and .... Stuff

I picked my first melon yesterday and ... ate it!  It wasn't very sweet.  Someone told me today that they get sweeter if you let them sit for a few days before eating, so that's what I'll do with the next ones.  Not a problem.  Unless something drastically bad happens, I'll have plenty of chances to try it.  There are 13 more melons in various stages of getting ready for my plate.  Many people around these parts are happy that this summer has been so hot.  I think the melons are!

This is what dinner was tonight - caprese salad with my tomato and my basil.  The mozzarella cheese is from the grocery store, unfortunately.  I stopped by the dairy to get raw milk today, and they had NO milk.  Good thing I spent an hour driving out of my way for that.

The part of dinner that's not pictured is the open-face tomato sandwich, toasted white bread, slathered with mayonnaise and a thick slice of tomato on top.

My plan is to try another place for raw milk, maybe tomorrow.  I wrote a few weeks ago about getting a pH meter, because apparently pH is important when making mozzarella.  I did some research, and decided NOT to buy a $100 pH meter, and instead got some litmus paper for less than $2 that I think will get me close enough.  Hopefully there'll be some fresh homemade mozzarella cheese by this weekend.  The cherry tomatoes are ripening and the brandywines are getting bigger and bigger, but not getting red.... yet.

I made up a new area for the goats and put them in this morning.  Here they are bouncing, ears flapping up and down, enjoying their space.  This area's big.  It touches the last 30 feet of the road on one side, encloses more than 6 large blueberry bushes, an apple tree and who know what else in the excessively brambly undergrowth.  I came to the conclusion last week that with a full-time job and a 45-minute one-way commute, I won't have the time to pick blueberries for sale.  Melanie gave me some advice on improvements to make next year's berries bigger and easier to pick.  (Think pruning.)  I've been picking these bushes for 3 weeks or so already, so it doesn't pain me to give the rest of their booty to the goats.  There's plenty more berries for me both down here and up on the upper hill.

In the last 3+ weeks, I've made match.com a priority.  I met 6 men.  Three wanted to date me and I don't want to date them.  Two I wanted to date.  One clearly said that a romance isn't where he wants to go and the other one said he wants to see me again, but is too busy to email or call (but not too busy to log into the dating site multiple times a day).  I get the message.  The last one I met today.  I'm so burnt out from this, I don't really care one way or the other if I see him again.  The mismatch is what kills me.  If it's one in ten that I like and one in 10 that HE likes, what are the chances that both of us will roll the right numbers at the same time?  So, so small.  It's back to the garden and my homestead for me, ... and the zucchini.

Which would work out splendidly, except the zucchini disappeared!  I was drowning in the stuff two weeks ago, but there was nothing to pick this weekend.  Maybe the zucchini boat left without me?