Saturday, January 26, 2008

This Dog Hunts

My dad, the avid hunter, called one day. Seems he wanted to get a dog from this great field dog breeding and asked if he got it would I train it for the first 6 months for him. I said "Sure Dad." How hard could it be?
We went to go pick her up on the hottest day of the year. I was trying to pick out a black puppy in 98 degree weather. I ended up taking home the smallest, cutest one of the bunch. Really it was the only one that crawled out from under the bush long enough to follow me around. That should have been my first clue.
This dog had energy.

My dad named her Belle after his mother. She came home with me and within a week I called Dad and said "Belle just doesn't fit, How about Stormy?" So she became Camano Island Perfect Storm.

Stormy is turbo powered. She does everything full tilt. She is small and compact with a beautiful sleek coat that begs to be touched. After 6 months of socializing, training and starting on birds she went into field dog training. She was called a once in a lifetime dog by the trainer. Dad and I had fun taking her to trainings and hunt tests where Stormy quickly earned her Jr. Hunter title. I will forever remember this special time with my dad. But then the training got hard and intense and we weren't comfortable with it so we brought her home to just be a dog.

Stormy came back to my house, and taught my husband how to hunt birds. My hubby was not a hunter. He was an expert marksman but didn't kill anything and has been know to, on a hunting trip with above said dad, say "Shoo Shoo" to a deer coming over the hill because it looked too much like his wife's goats. So when Stormy came back here my dad gave hubby a shotgun. Hubby said "Why not?" and went out with his dog and right into a new passion.
It is as old as time. Early morning, wandering the field with your best friend and bringing home dinner. Stormy has brought dinner home 18 times this year and is doing her part providing locally grown food.

Now that's a once in a lifetime dog.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Food for Thought

I am well into "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and it causing me to think a lot about things I have never thought about before. First of all, I was off to a bad start when I sat down to read it, for the first time, while stuffing my face with a GREEK pizza. I quickly rationalized it by telling myself that at least it came from a locally owned pizza parlor and not from Dominoes. I had never thought about the carbon footprint of the food brought in from other states let alone another country. I feel overwhelmed at the daunting task of eating locally. My principal at the school I am at is reading "Omnivore's Dilemma" so we have had some lively lunchroom discussions about the food industry. The books sound a bit similar and he is going to lend me his book but doesn't really want to read anymore about it so doesn't want mine but that's OK. I have lent him books before and it takes forever for him to get them back to me. Anyway,we both are going to try to make an effort to buy more local food. I have worked out a deal with him.......I am going to trade him eggs for WINE! What a deal.
So with all this information floating around in my head I head to Albertson's to do my shopping like I have a billion times before. I know, I know this isn't at all what Barbara had in mind but it's hard to eat locally when it's the middle of winter. I was pleased to find many locally made or grown items by just reading the labels and sticking to brands that I know came from family owned farms. I was stretching a bit, OK a lot, when I chose carrots grown in Bakersfield because my son's girlfriend is from there. My hubby, who is not quite on board with this, rolled his eyes. I also found potatoes grown in a town not too far from here. Needless to say though, my cart mostly contained food that had quite a huge footprint. Well, Rome wasn't built in a day and I have to start somewhere. I am starting by just being aware and doing what small things I can and building on that. I am inspired to put in a garden this year and am lucky enough to have a woman with a fruit and vegetable stand at the end of our street all summer long. I will try my hand at canning and freezing. I will shop at the locally owned businesses, but I won't do without my coffee! A girl has to draw the line somewhere.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Today was one of those beautiful sunny days in the middle of winter that refreshes your soul. I spent the day cleaning stalls and just watching the animals enjoy the sun. As did a few of my neighbors. Everyone was out enjoying their little bit of heaven.
We live in an animal friendly neighborhood. It's not technically a "neighborhood" but we have lots of neighbors on small farms. Across the street we have a beautiful 50 acre farm that has Cleveland Bay horses, miniature donkeys, geese and about 25 peacocks that come over to my place and let me enjoy their colors. Some neighbors don't appreciate this visit of the peacocks as they have a tendency to go where they want, be it sitting on the roof of your house or your spotless Corvette, it's all the same to them. One poor neighbor left a window open in their house and came home to a few peacocks running around their living room. They had been in there for hours. Imagine the mess. I love the peacocks and peahens with their beautiful colors and little pea-babies but they have never caused me any trouble. Next door we have a horse farm with some pretty fancy racehorses. In the spring there is usually a baby or two. I get my horse fix but don't have to own a horse. I have owned horses all my life but with the cost of hay and vet care skyrocketing it is a relief to not have one anymore. I vowed to not own another horse until I had enough money to call the vet in the middle of the night, on Christmas, without thinking about how much it would cost me.
So there are animals all around us and wonderful neighbors that will help feed if we are away, will help if one of the animals is sick..............or loose! I just haven't found anyone that can milk. For this reason, I haven't had a milk goat for sometime. When my son was young and at home we stayed home most of the time so it was easy to keep the milking schedule but now that he is grown and gone we can travel more and as much as I would like a milk goat I kind of want to see a bit of the world.........well really I'd settle for the United States. Not one of my neighbors can milk for me so I have been leaving the babies on the mothers and then letting the does dry up after the kids are weaned. I have been thinking of an exchange program for people that want a milk goat but also want to take a vacation or two. Someone that can board my milk goat if I board theirs. Sounds like a good idea to me.
So after a few weeks of bad weather where I have just been feeding and then rushing back inside I got to spend the day with my favorite friends.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday, at school, a first grade teacher was doing a lesson on Martin Luther King Jr. when one little boy raised his hand and said "How could they tell if someone was black or white?"

Children are colorblind.........too bad everyone isn't.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Conversation with a 9 year old

Knowing that Pavel's grandmother raised chickens for meat and eggs, I asked him at school one day, what is the best kind of chicken for eggs. The conversation went like this............
"Pavel, I am going to get some chickens for eggs. What is the best kind of chicken?"
"I don't want to give you my chickens!" exclaimed Pavel.
"No, I don't want your chickens. I am just asking what kind you like."
"Well," Pavel said. "I like the black and white speckled ones with the orange beaks because they are nice when I pick them up."
"Oh, so they are calm?"
"Yes, but if you want the pretty eggs you have to have the pretty chickens."

So I'm thinking he has Barred Plymouth Rocks and Aracaunas.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pig Tails

Daphne and Fiona have been a wonderful addition to the place. We have learned a great deal about pigs over the last few months. Here are a few things we have learned...
Pigs are very vocal and have a wide variety of noises I wish I could understand.
There is no place to hang on to on a pig.
You can't hide a pill in a banana.
All they think about is food.
Pigs LOVE to run and play.
And they need their feet trimmed. I hadn't thought of that until I got them but it didn't discourage me. My dad taught me how to trim my pony's feet as a kid. I have been trimming goats' feet for 37 years. I can trim the llama's feet. A pig can't be that hard.
I was a little concerned because most people, I have heard, get the vet out to sedate the pig and trim but that costs around $300 in our area. There is no way I was going to pay someone when hubby and I could do it.
The woman we got them from said that if we get them on their back they will stop struggling and you can trim them. She said they would squeal but that they would at least be still. So we had a plan. The plan was for hubby to pick one up and get its feet off the ground and I would trim. Easier said than done. There was no way we could get her on her back.There is no where to hang on to a pig that doesn't want to have anything to do with what you are doing. I had my tools ready.....goat hoof trimmers and some pruners just in case. After much running around the pen trying to grab a pig we got Fiona up off her feet. She squealed at the top of her lungs the entire time. Neither the goat trimmers or the pruners would cut the hoof. While hubby kept Fiona suspended I ran for the horse nippers. They were sharp enough but very awkward due to their length. Pigs have very short legs and to get under her and bend her hoof so I could trim it was hard work. All the time she is SCREAMING at the top of her pig lungs right in my ear. You see, pigs are prey animals. They always think they are going to be eaten. There is no convincing them otherwise. You just have to get on with the deed as quickly as possible. We trimmed Fiona's hooves and started in on Daphne when I sensed a presence behind me. I just couldn't look up from what I was doing to see who it was and couldn't hear a word this person was saying due to the screaming in my ear. I dropped the last hoof and turned around with sweat streaming down my face. There was our very British, gentleman farmer neighbor wondering what in the "bloody hell" we were doing to the pigs. He hung over the fence for a while and told tales of the pigs he had had. Turns out he is quite a pig fan. With the assurance we would call him and warn him next time we trim the pigs' feet he went back over to his farm. He was worried something was eating the pig girls. I tell you they are getting quite a fan club.
So we got the job done. Not as neatly as I would have liked so I was out to find the perfect pig hoof trimming tool. I happened to be in Sears and remembered that I needed something to trim the pigs hooves and found these great tin snips gone hoof trimmers (to quote my friend Marigold). I CAN wait to try them out on the pigs. They worked great on the goats!
We have learned a lot about our pigs. The most important being.......let pigs be pigs. They don't have to be anything other than what God intended them to be. PIGS.
And maybe invite my hubby's big burly friend over when it's time to trim again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Four Little Words

There are four little words that my hubby hates to hear.
I need another pen.
He, over the years, has built many an animal enclosure. We have gotten fairly good at it. Since we are cheap and like the idea of reusing things people throw out we have had to get pretty creative. Him and I in a constant battle. He wants to just do it as fast as he can and me wanting it to look nice too. We have, in spite of ourselves, come up with a few very cute shelters to keep everyone warm and dry.
Here is one that houses the llama and a few goats. You can't really see it in the picture but he cut out a metal horse and hung it above the gate. This use to house my son's pony, hence the horse art.

Well, I am in need of another pen. I need a bachelor pad for Ruckus and Moly. I want to keep my buck in a nice welcoming pen befitting the king of the farm. And Moly needs a place where he can relax. I believe every animal needs to feel comfortable in his home and the other goats just won't leave poor Moly alone. So we have started the discussion of where to put it. My husband, who has never been around a buck for any length of time, chose the corner closest to the neighbor, who I might add is a lawyer. After pointing out this is not the best place to put our odorous pet I suggested an area much farther away from the city folk. He quickly told me that wouldn't work for him because he really didn't want to smell him either. Go figure. We compromised on an area between the two. It will be sunny in the summer and sheltered in the winter and has two great stumps for playing goat games. The neighbors should only get a passing whiff if we are lucky. Hey, they are the ones that moved to the country.
I am hoping to get started this weekend so I'm getting my husband primed for a long weekend of building. My only competition is a new shotgun and the desire to go pheasant hunting east of the mountains.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

I finally got it. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It was on my Christmas list but didn't make it under the tree. So I went down to my favorite bookstore and as I walked in the lady said "What can we find for you?" I turned to my right and there it was waiting for me. A single copy sitting on a table by itself. I picked it up and said "This, I'll have this." I also bought a copy of The Poisonwood Bible for my son's girlfriend. She is a reader. And this is one of my favorite books. While I was there I bought a book for my husband. He is a big reader but he reads magazines. Motorcycle magazines being his favorite but he also likes bird dog magazines and the occasional car magazine but never a novel. The last book he read was The Life and Time of Lou Alcindor. If that doesn't date us. So I picked up a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance hoping to lure him in by the title. I saw a small flash of pain cross his eyes as I pulled it out of the bag. There was a slight bit of doubt in the way he thanked me. We shall see.
Also for Christmas, my son bought me The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz. This book has a beautiful cover and I do judge a book by it's cover. From my mom a copy of Jan Karon's new book. I have lots of reading and knitting so bring on the bad weather.

I needed something to trim the pigs feet. The horse nippers were just not working. Although sharp enough, were very awkward. Speed is important in the art of pig manicures. The trimmers for the goats' feet are not strong enough for the pigs. I was on the lookout for a pig, llama, goat trimming tool. We were walking through Sears the other day and they had bins of dollar stuff and I found the most wonderful pair of tin snips that are just the right size and they feel wonderful. And the best part........they were 6 dollars. I tried them out on the goats and the hooves cut like butter. I haven't tried them on the pigs yet because that is an event we had, not too long ago, and I'll wait until we need to again. Believe me, I can wait. So can the neighbors.

Another favorite thing is my new cast iron skillet from Cabela's. It is perfection in a skillet. Heavy, tall sides and best of was 15 dollars. After my son and his girlfriend, the biology researchers, talked about aluminum and Alzheimer research I decided to go cast iron. Now there is no going back. I can't wait to get back to Cabela's to see what else they have in cast iron. Did I mention it was only 15 dollars!

My son gave me a darling bag for my Chihuahua. Solomon, my Chi boy, came to live here in October when his first family had a baby and didn't want him anymore. He would have been a great dog for them to keep as he loves everyone and everything. He is not the shivering, scared toy you normally see. I have seen him with babies and children and he loves them too. But their loss has been our gain. We take him everywhere with us. I always said I wanted a "Paris Hilton" dog so my son bought me a purse to put him in. How thoughtful. Definitely one of my favorite things.

Knowing how much I love my dogs, his girlfriend sent two pictures of our shelties to an artist and she painted ornaments that look just like Miles and Grace. How thoughtful is that! They are perfect. Here is a picture of them.

It was such a perfect holiday I hate to let it go but I watched this morning as my son, his girlfriend and little dog Faith drove out the driveway and back to their life in sunny southern California. I said a little prayer for their safe return and headed back into the house to take the tree down for another year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Odds and Ends

It has been a very busy time here this holiday. It has been non stop going for about a month now. I have just had enough time to feed animals and clean out pens then on to the next event or get together. This Christmas has truly been a blessing. Our son is home from college with a degree in biology and applying to graduate schools. We haven't seen him in about 6 months and have missed him so much. Also a blessing, the arrival of his lovely girlfriend. She feels like pressure. I told my son, "She likes Diana Gabaldon books and green olives, she's the girl for me!" No pressure. I knitted and felted a hat for her. This one has a bit of llama in it. I think it is my best ever and looks darling on her. I have had her cleaning pig pens and asked if the smell bothered her and she said "No, I don't really smell anything." She chased the llama around the pasture determined he would take an apple from her. And sure enough, he did. She even took a trip to the feed store and came back with everything I wanted. Now I wouldn't call those tests....but let's just say she passed with flying colors.
The animals had a few visitors this weekend. It seems that the pigs have become somewhat of an attraction and have found a following in the blog world. Well, really it's my sister in law that sent my blog to her mother and they wanted to come see the animals, especially the pigs. So everyone came over and went out to meet the animals that they had read about. The pigs were quite unremarkable. Barely looking up from their food long enough to interact with anyone. Then I had to worry, because they had food on their mind, that they might nip a finger of someone wanting to touch their funny little nose. A pig's nose seems to be irresistible to touch, I have noticed. Try it sometime.
The goats all gathered round and got their bite of apple and the llama came over to see what was going on. Moly and Ruckus put on a good head butt display while everyone laughed. Semi Sweet (Mrs. Robinson) stuck out her tongue and molested anything that would stand still. A good time was had by all.
We will be getting more chickens this spring so I am deciding which kind. I like Americanas but would like to get an old or rare breed. I need about 5 or 6 hens and maybe a rooster. We have two very cute hens that are technically the neighbors but have "free ranged" themselves over to my place. I call them The Ladies. They have supplied me with eggs but I have to find them which really means I come across my dog woofing them down and save what's left. We have a lot of predators so these new hens will be locked up and have proper nest boxes.

We made a trip to the new Cabela store. It was overwhelming but fun. I bought two sweaters and a cast iron skillet. They have something for everyone. My husband is an avid pheasant hunter so he found a good deal on an upland bird coat. I have heard that people plan their vacation around a visit to Cabela's. I think that is going way too far but it was fun to visit.
So that's the odds of the holidays and the end of 2007. I hope 2008 brings a few hens, a few Nigerian babies and my son closer to home.