8.30.2008

Yesterday's pup weigh-in [and pics]

Got the spaying stitches taken out at the vet's yesterday.

At six-months of age, Maggie now weighs 54 lbs, and Bandit weighs 64 lbs. Maggie has some of her sire's facial features, while Bandit looks like she's getting his massive body. Wow.

Thank goodness we don't have to lift the two pups into the car anymore.

[pic: a rare non-wrestling pup moment]

Their sire, Big Tony, in the foreground:

8.29.2008

Book Review: Wild Fermentation

Summary: looking for ways to prep and store food long-term, in the easiest way possible? Go get this book, now.

I often joke with Spouse “don’t ask me to cook anything with more than three ingredients... and yes, water counts as an ingredient.” It’s not that I’m a bad cook, I’m just a lazy cook (and probably one of the biggest reasons he insists on doing all the cooking).

In this book, the recipe for saurkraut consists of two, count ‘em, TWO ingredients: salt, and cabbage. Oooohhhh... I’m all over this book like white on rice, baby! Call the preacher, I’m ready to MARRY! (Wait, is marrying inanimate objects legal in this state yet?)

Chapters cover fermentation of the following:
  • Vegetables - think saurkraut, easy pickles, kimchi
  • Beans - all the different things you can do with soy and lentils
  • Dairy (and vegan alternatives) - yogurt, easy cheeses
  • Bread & Pancakes - fermenting grains for sourdough, etc.
  • Grain-porridges and beverages (soft and hard)
  • Read more at this link.
The biggest hurdle to the recipes in this book might be finding the jars or crocks that will assist in making these delightful goodies. Other than that, the author does an amazing job of making food fermentation an easily accessible, and immanently do-able process. The author also maintains a web site with further up-to-date information and resources that may not have made the final print.

Mixed within the book is some history and politics, but since it relates to the book's subject, it works. If you don’t care for these sorts of things, just skip the commentary and read the recipes, but your knowledge will be richer if you at least give the various commentaries a scan. If you're a pathological homophobe, don't bother, don't comment... and you may as well stop reading my blog while you're at it, too. Bless your heart.

Final word: This book is well worth the money, and I plan on starting my first fermented food - saurkraut - as soon as I get a container to start it in.

UPDATE: Found reasonably priced pickling crocks at Simply Natural.

8.27.2008

Storm Damage

They say the weather in the Hill Country can be wild and destructive, and those wise "they" are correct. On one hand, the storms that blow through here are incredible shows of raw force, and heart-stoppingly beautiful. On the other hand, these amazing storms can wreak some heavy damage, destroying buildings and flooding roads.

The last storm was yesterday. Over an inch of rain in probably 30 minute's time. Shredded another couple of shade awnings. Thankfully, I was able to salvage them both using our dependable patchwork repair kit of duct tape, plastic clamps and bungee cords.

At some point Spouse and I are going to have bite the bullet and build a more permanent shade structure, as we've probably lost the equivalent amount of money in what's been destroyed thus far.

[pic: one of the downed awnings]

8.26.2008

new shoes

The conversation went something like this...

"Okay, these or the other lug sole shoes?"
"D@mmit I'm a guy, don't ask me these questions!"
"No seriously - which do you think will survive the farm chores better?"
"Oh! Okay, that's different... ermm, these soles here will never let you slip, but will hold mud like crazy. The other shoes soles won't hold the mud as tightly, but have fabric vents that will be hard to clean out. Wait, which are less expensive?"
"This pair."
"Well then DUH! Get the cheaper pair!"

I'm now the proud new owner of a pair of Merrel lug-soled, low-top hikers. Slash and burn sale at REI. Men's size eight to fit my duck feet and cradle my arthritic toes. Had been thinking I was doomed to live in only sneakers or sandals all year 'round.

"Coupable? Moi? Jamais!" [pic]

"Me, feel guilty? Never!"

[pic: First name, Maggie. Last name, Gawd@mmit!!]

8.25.2008

Monday morning, 3:00 AM CDT [pic]

[pic: self, staying awake. The things I'll do to support my passions... sheese!]

8.23.2008

Thanks, Mom!

Dear Mom: I got the check. You shouldn't have, you know. You've got bills to pay, too. But thank you. *HUG!*

Everyone: the beautiful lady in the photo is my Mom, and she just sent me the money to buy a new iPhone, replacing the one that got washed by Spouse. I'm a happy, happy girl. New photos coming soon!

The Grey Lady's Day Out

Thursday evening, around 6:00 PM...

Spouse: "The grey rooster took off up the hill; how do I get him back?"
Me, half-asleep: "*mumble* Corn on the cob. Chicken kryptonite. *snnnzzxxx*"

fifteen minutes later...

Spouse: "He took off through the property fence. I couldn't catch him. Here's a few feathers for your collection."
Me: "*mumble* Fox food. Nothin' more you can do... *snnnzzxxx*"

[Of course, at this point we thought the Grey Lady was a rooster, so I wasn't too upset.]

Fast forward to today, Saturday morning. Getting ready to do the chores, I take a look around the property and pens, doing a head check. The older chickens have managed to get outside the main pen already. One of the younger chickens is out as well. Thinking maybe it followed the older girls out... but wait. It's the grey chicken! Over 24 hours out in the "wild", without the flock, and s/he survived. No obvious damage. But what I thought were previously the curved tail feathers of a rooster were now mysteriously straight. Sex change operation? "Scared straight"? Who knows what adventures s/he had.

With this obvious display of personality and character, s/he is now named "The Grey Lady" until proof of gender arises (or drops out of her ovapositer).

[pic: the grey coloring in this pic isn't obvious. ah well.]

8.22.2008

aren't they too young for this yet?

[warning: the following may be considered slightly risqué by the terminally uptight]

I'm not sure if they're just practicing or what, but it looks like the hormones have kicked in for Godzilla and The Girls. [Billy-Bob is not sure what's going on, but as he's four months six weeks younger than Godzilla, might still be catching up.] In the afternoons, one of The Girls will get into the kiddie pool with Godzilla. The rest will gather around, and Godzilla and his goose love of the moment will, ah, make woo. The surrounding geese honk and cheer them on during the event. Godzilla looks like Poseidon grandly astride a white crested wave, where the wave would be one of The Girls. It only takes a brief moment of honking and wing flapping, and then the woo is done. Afterwards, Godzilla looks content, and his goose love of the moment looks smug. Who knew geese could look smug?

Oh, and the previous post where I was concerned about the geese traipsing in and out of the goose kennel? Turns out, they're looking for safe egg-laying spots.

Wow. How quickly they grow up!

[pic: Godzilla in the Pool o' Woo. He's such a stud.]

8.21.2008

"this one goes to eleven"

The first week or so of starting a new job always throws my routine into chaos. Working overnights, plus new routines for the critters, has pushed the chaos meter to eleven.

The pups now have run of the property at night. They're not quite sure what to make of all this freedom. The most interesting thing is that they still enjoy the discipline of daily walks and training. If I don't do these things, their behavior becomes erratic, and dare I say, bratty? Yes, I dare say it: bratty. So Cesar Millan is right: dogs do better when they have boundaries and discipline. Much like the rest of us, I suppose...

[pic: Bandit trying to sweet-talk me into something or another]

8.19.2008

"with localized heavy downpours"

"...no sh*t, Sherlock?"

I was getting some pre-shift sleep when around 5:00 PM the pups started going nuts. They have a deep, loud bark when they sense something's wrong, or there's an intruder, or they just want to impress themselves (like last night at 2:00 AM). I stumbled out to the living room and discovered that I could barely see to the animal pens as it was raining so hard. Yikes!

Threw on the rain gear, and headed outdoors... aww, crap. The two goose pen shade awnings were torn to shreds, not much more than ripped poly canvas and twisted heaps of metal at that point. Thankfully, the geese were not in the pen. Nope, they were doing their usual: standing on the side of the hill, facing into the wind, and letting the rain roll off their backs.

Almost two inches of rain in probably 30 minutes time. Wow.

[pic: much lighter rain from a few months back.]

8.18.2008

quick hit & pic

The fencing is completed.
My iPhone is dead.
I start the new geek job today, and without the iPhone, will be [personal] 'net-less for huge swaths of time. The horror!

Regardless of iPhone woes, the new job means the animals will have to adjust to a new schedule. On the other hand, the new job also means that I can soon purchase a new iPhone.

With the fence being up, it means the pups will now roam at night, and hopefully guard the geese & chickens who will be penned during that time.

I'm nervous as all get-out. Hoping all will work out well.

[pic: unlike sleeping geese, awake geese WILL nibble toes]

8.17.2008

tough pups!

"It's like they didn't go through surgery at all!" exclaimed the vet tech yesterday. The girls were bouncing and jumping when I came to pick them up from their recent spaying. They'd had a day to recover, and were chomping at the bit to get home, NOW, thankyouverymuch.

The pups were also almost too big to fit into the Subaru. Oof.

Bright & early this morning: Spouse looks out the window as I'm preparing the morning's goose rations, and exclaims "something's wrong!". I hope into some shoes, and sprint outside. It took me a minute to figure it out... oh, my. Bandit had managed to BEND DOWN a section of four-foot wire fencing, climbed over, and was now in the goose & chicken partition of the pen. All of this with stitches in her belly. She was at the goose pen gate waiting to be let out for the day. The geese were squawking because Bandit was blocking THEIR access to the gate.

Quick head check of all the chickens and geese, just in case - yep, all accounted for. Let out the pups, and now they're tearing around the property with their usual piss & vinegar. (Yeah, the phrase is supposed to be "vim & vigor", but I like my grandmother's version better.) I'm just hoping they don't get stupid and tear out their stitches before they've had a chance to heal. Tough pups!

[pic: Spouse with pups a few weeks back. They're even bigger now, and at over 50 lbs. I'm camera-less at the moment, so will be recycling older photos until my dead iPhone gets replaced.]

8.16.2008

Only 90 degrees F?

At 11:44 AM, it's currently 90 degrees F and 58% humidity. Taking a short break from fencing, chainsawing, and clearing. I am covered in sweat, soil and plant matter. Sexxxaaaay!!!!

[pic: yours truly]

the big @#$! stapler

To the left is a STAPLER. Not just any sort of stapler; this one will put in a super big staple into a log or other "soft" substance of your choosing. All it requires is one mighty hammer "thwack!" on the top knob, and you'll slam a staple home-run! So the theory goes.

On the right is an example of what these types of staples are made to do. Generally, these types of staples can be knocked into place with nothing more than a plain ol' hammer and a steady hand. But with a STAPLER, boy howdy, think of how much easier and faster you could put these into place! Again, that's how the theory goes.

On the left again is an example is a bunch of staples that jammed, bent, missed, or just didn't work when used with the STAPLER. I'd say this is about the average wasted for each fence post we tried to use the STAPLER on. This, my friends, is the reality of the mighty STAPLER.

This is Spouse, unjamming the stapler yet again. Isn't Spouse cute? The STAPLER, however, is not cute. The reality is that the STAPLER is @#$! useless. Stupid STAPLER.

(Spouse's uncle took one look at how the STAPLER worked, shook his head, and continued manual placement and hammering of staples. Spouse continued using the STAPLER purely out of Italian mule-headedness by that point, since he was the one who bought the d*mn thing in the first place.)

p.s. we're 3/4'rs done with the fencing at this point. W00t!!

8.15.2008

in honor of Spouse's nephews

Respond to "Because what...?", with "What?"
Wait for the response: "CHICKEN BUTT!!!"
  • Now fall to the floor, laughing.
  • Repeat from the beginning.
[ahhh, the humor of young children. Chicken butt pic: the Frau. Respect the Frau!]

geese, dogs, and "the bear"

"The bear" is a stuffed elephant. Don't recall how it came to be named thusly, but thusly it was named, and the name stuck. When we got our first two geese - such tiny things! - they were not very happy in their little brooder. Inspiration struck. I brought down Bear, and put it into the brooder. The geese took to it like it was their mama. Sleeping, snuggling, pooping on it - they were very happy with Bear. It wasn't until we put the geese outside full-time that they finally outgrew their need for Bear.

We tried using Bear with the second batch of six goslings, but they had a whole lot of each other, so Bear wasn't as big a hit. We retired Bear for the time being.

Somehow, for some reason, Bear got put outside once more. Bear was on the workshop table, minding her own business, when the pups found her. They pulled her down, and started carrying her around the property. One afternoon, Godzilla and Queenie (the original two geese) saw Bandit and Maggie carrying back & forth Bear. Oh, this would not do!

They followed the pups up the hill. They followed the pups down the hill. For a good fifteen minutes, I watched their determination to get that dang stuffed animal back. Squawk-squawk-squawk-squawk-SQUAWK!!! Those pups! How dare they!

I finally got the stuffed animal away from the pups. The geese looked it over, saw that it was okay, and went on their way.

Bear needs a bit of patching on the seams, but is otherwise safe and sound. Bear has done her duty, and then some, on comforting and amusing the small charges of our household. We'll definitely keep her around for the next batch!

8.14.2008

girl parts going away

What I'm saying: "Your girl parts are gonna get ripped out tomorrow! Yes they are! Oh yes they are!"

What the pups hear, according to Gary Larson: "Blah blah blah! Blah! Blah blah!"

Yes, our sweet pups are going to be spayed bright and early tomorrow morning. So, a bath this evening, and no food after 7:00 PM, which means an early bed-time for them tonight. They're not gonna like that one bit. Sorry, ladies, but the worst is yet to come...

[pic: "shark attack!"]

8.12.2008

Gotta get a fence up!

If the background check goes okay (standard Checkpoint bullsh*t), I start graveyard shift at a server call center on Monday. In the meantime, we have GOT to get that fence finished so the pups can guard/free-roam during the night. They mostly sleep during the heat of the day anyways, so the plan is to corral them when I get home, let the geese and chickens out while I take care of their water and food needs, then hit the sack for a few hours.

The contract is for three months, and if they like my work, will bring me on as a permanent employee. By then, the sun will be setting earlier, and I'll look into getting a swing shift: late afternoon to midnight. The plan will then shift to corralling the geese and chickens and letting out the dogs before I go to work. The logic, it astounds!

Okay, too tired to try to make funny. G'nite all!

8.10.2008

sleeping geese nibble no toes

A beautiful morning. The geese seem to have calmed down quite a bit now that the nephews are gone.

Mom-in-law made fast-friends with the chickens, giving them scraps from her breakfast plate in the morning. Now they come running if they see me on the porch with any kind of dishware. Spoiled rotten, fuzzy-bottomed opportunists. [Love 'em!]

Back to enjoying some coffee before we start on the fencing.

8.08.2008

Do NOT Tease the Geese

I'm not sure what it is about small children that annoys the living crap out of geese. I know geese can be territorial, but the way they go after little ones is both terrifying and awe-inspiring - sort of like watching an unstoppable force of nature.

Our geese were okay with the young nephews, at first. Then the nephews' little-boy natures got the better of them, and they'd walk after the geese, trying to pet, etc. The geese: not amused. We adults would call out after the boys, cajoling and pleading with them to sit still or leave the geese alone. At one point after I had corralled the geese then closed the gate to the pen, one of the nephews stuck out his tongue, waggled his arms like wings and shouted "neener neener neener, you can't get me!". I smacked his baseball cap visor over his eyes, and retorted "don't tease the geese, goofball."

I wonder if the geese took that as a sign that "Mom disapproves". Now, the geese charge after the boys whenever they see them, no questions asked, no quarter. Am I an evil woman to admit it gives me the giggles to see those boys run?

[pic: Geese with father-in-law. They like him, and mom-in-law as well. The boys' mom? They attack her, too. Not sure why.]

8.07.2008

Warning: carnage!

Okay, okay: I shouldn't be eating spelt or anything remotely related to wheat. It does bad, very bad things to me. Watching Spouse's Italian family scarfing down artisan bread all week, however, had made me weak. I went ahead and bought a beautiful round loaf of rustic spelt bread at Whole Foods on our last shopping trip (I swear to gawd, I'm not paid by them!).

The next day, I swallowed a handful of gluten digestive capsules, grabbed the loaf, and was oh so lovingly sliding the knife into the crust when... ---> ZZZING! "OWWWW!!!" The knife jittered away from the crust and sliced across the first joints of my index and middle fingers.

I grabbed a towel. Blood was everywhere. Probably should have got stitches. Did it stop me from finishing the slice and eating it? Or heck, even PHOTOGRAPHING the grisly outcome of my actions? Oh h*ll no - HAD to eat a slice out of spite at that point; a slice sans blood, natch.

So now I'm paying for my weakness, twice: gastrointestinally, and bloody wounds to boot. Idiot.

[Thankfully I hadn't been using the Global knives, or else I may have not had any finger tips left to type this post.]

8.06.2008

Eduoard flushes instead of gushes

Very little rain up in this part of Texas. Enough to tamp down the dust for a few hours, but that's about it. "Better than a kick in the head", as my grandmother would say, but I'm still disappointed. Hope those who did get dumped on are all okay.

In other news, finally saw a rheumatologist, who may have figured out the type of arthritis I have. Awaiting confirmation from specialized tests. He gave me drugs for the meantime. Meh.

[pic: Hausfrau 2. She has pecked her way to the top of the flock. Respect the Frau!]

8.05.2008

"eyebrow raising" goose behavior

Tropical Storm Eduoard is making a bee-line towards Austin. There are tornado watches starting after 1:00 PM, and rain estimates ranging from 1-to-3 inches, to 3-to-6 inches. Of course, nobody really knows what's gonna happen.

The geese have been traipsing in-and-out of their goose kennel, en mass, this morning. This is unusual, as the only goose I've ever seen use the kennel in the past is Godzilla. In rainstorms, the geese usually head out into the open and stand with their beaks facing the wind, letting the rain roll down their backs. With the strange kennel activity, however, I think I'm gonna double-check the preps already made. Be well, all.

8.04.2008

Counter O' Plenty

If you invite any of us over for a social, and don't want us to bring anything, your wishes will probably not be honored. Sorry 'bout that. We'll at least bring a bottle of wine, or maybe some ripe fruit. If you do say "bring a little something to share", we'll bring entire bags of food. I don't know what it is, but this family has a thing about making sure there's plenty to eat for all. Except for the boxed goods, all the countertop goodies you see in the photo was from yesterday's shopping trip to Whole Foods. We'd all split up, made our purchases, loaded up the van, and then once home, discovered we'd all thought the same thing. Duplicate purchases of plums, grapes, breads... wow. I don't know how the heck we're gonna eat all that. Summer's bounty, indeed.

In addition to all that plenty, Spouse's Dad brought us a basket of fresh tomatoes from his garden. I've been sneaking them out of the basket, standing over the sink and scarfing them down, letting the juices drip from my chin to the drain. The tomatoes still taste like sunshine. Mom made an Italian "fresh sauce" from a bunch of those yummy tomatoes last night, with fresh basil, garlic, and oregano. Mmmmm....

Today's weather will be bringing another Texas scorcher. Sister and I will take the two nephews to a local swimming hole for the day. We'll take along a picnic basket of sandwiches and fruit. I can't think of a better way to spend a hot summer day.

8.02.2008

gotta get crackin'

It's a groggy, bleary-eyed morning. Spouse and I put off cleaning yesterday for some, ah, quality time together, and now we gotta get crackin'. His folks are driving down for a week-long stay, and should be here in a few hours. I'm procrastinating. Just one more cup of coffee, pleeeeeeaaaaaaase!

I like my in-laws, and am grateful that they seem to like me as well. High energy folks, however, so I usually have to take an extended nap break by the second or third day. Three adults, and two boys aged 5 and 8. I just can't keep up. So updates may be a little slow for the next seven days. Pray for me.

8.01.2008

Roo's new owners

The couple came by to pick up the advertised "granola crunching, hippie roosters" on Saturday afternoon. [Okay, so I spelled "hippy" wrong. Hit me with a tie-dyed t-shirt.] They were really sweet. Young, idealistic back-to-landers. So cute! Although Thug 1 and Thug 2 will eventually end up on the couple’s dinner table, I think they’ll have a nice life during the interim. I’m happy for the roos, and even happier that my girls won’t have to put up with those two little bast*rds anymore.

Speaking of little bast*rds, it looks fairly certain that we've got two more roos in the latest batch of young chickens. The "older" girls should have enough size and confidence at this point to keep the young bucks in line. If these new roos refuse to behave, no sweat. It won't be a problem for long. I'll just to introduce them to this cute young couple I know...

[Now I KNOW I'm getting older... I just called two fully grown adults "young" and "cute".]