12.31.2008

Goose Pool Water, Take Two

The barrel, dolly, and drill pump didn't work out so well for recycling the soiled goose pool water. The biggest problem: just because the dolly could handle 1,000 pounds didn't mean I could easily push all that weight (d'oh!). It was slow and awkward, and although I have patience for that sort of thing, Spouse does not, and he immediately got to thinking of a better way.

["We're not spring chickens anymore", he says.
"Shut UP!", I reply.]

What we ended up doing: purchasing a submersible pump that could pull up water to 1/8th of an inch, attaching a 100' hose, and taking the hose to wherever we need to water. This is plenty long enough and reaches our current and planned garden beds. For the soon-to-be-installed fruit trees, I will probably still use the dolly method but only fill the barrel half full. I'll then fill the water irrigation bags from the barrel. Or maybe Spouse will think of yet another, better way...

[pic: the Pools o' Poo Woo]

12.29.2008

Like a Herd of Wild Turtles

Slowly but surely (like the aforementioned turtles*), we're making progress on the orchard installation. The hitch was finally installed on the car, so we can now rent/haul a digger to the property. A generous gift from Mom (thank you!) will allow us to purchase the first few trees. Still deciding whether to start with the fruit or nut trees...

The vegetable garden is high on the priority list as well. Gardens in South-Central Texas need to get started from mid- to late-January. The two raised garden bed forms have been made, and now it's a matter of hauling the soil over and filling them in. Plans for two more garden beds are in the works - just gotta scare up more of that thing people call "spare time". I also have plans for herbs on the eastern side of the house, and berry canes for the south side. Spouse is still out of commission - and will be for awhile - due to bone spurs on his spine (long story, but no more hauling refrigerators on his back), so we're making purchases of assistance devices such as dollies and carts that he can use as long as he remembers to lift with his knees, and not his back. Ahem.

The food storage class starts in two weeks. I cleaned out the closets of all the clothes I, ah, outgrew over these past few years (*shakes fist at slowing metabolism*), and now have a goodly amount of storage space available for canning and preserving efforts.

Seeing everything starting to roll together like this is overwhelming and exhilarating all at the same time. Whew! The new year is going to be something else!

* One of my grandmother's jokes about progress or lack thereof.

[Pic: Geese chewing on my slippers. Sorry, no pics of turtles at this time.]

12.26.2008

Stay Tuned

I've had to work over the holidays, but I'm not complaining. In spare moments I'm experimenting with the new Panasonic Lumex FZ28 ("aww honey, how did you know?!!"), and thanks to a Twitter notice from Wil Wheaton*, a Flip video recorder that was snagged during a one-day deal from Woot. w00t! Coming soon: new photos, short videos, reviews of the above, and more!

[pic: Billy-Bob and Bandit on a grey, drizzly day.]


* You don't know who Wil Wheaton is? Not only do you lose internet privileges for the day, you are required to hand over your geek card. Now.

12.24.2008

Find Someone to Hug

Whatever new beginning or birth of hope you celebrate, may you and yours be blessed in the turning of the season. Love and health and joy to you all. Now everyone, go find someone to hug!



Warm regards in the coming New Year,
- Spouse & d.a.

[pic: Bandit and Billy-Bob]

12.23.2008

She Likes Ice

Maggie's been in doggie heaven these past few days. The water bowls have been frozen over in the mornings, and as we pull the ice out of the bowls, she'll grab a chunk and munch. Mangiare con gusto, Maggie!

[mmm, goose spit...]

12.22.2008

Piercing Pic and Amazing Gifts

We got back from the whirlwind trip back East on Saturday night. Spouse's company paid for us to fly out for the holiday party. Wow, I guess business was good this year!

Spouse's Uncle and Aunt critter-sat for us during the trip. No injuries to any parties reported, although Uncle claimed there was a house break-in where only our new recliner was stolen, and oh by the way, did we know he now has a recliner that looks just like ours? Funny guy, that Uncle.

Wished we could have visited all our friends during the visit. As it was, we could only visit with one, and then it was only for a few hours. One of Aunties Karen & Jan's many gifts to Spouse and I was a group of nested measuring cups that look like geese. GEESE! Since no good deed goes unpunished, I've vowed that some how, some way, I'll bring them a gaggle of screaming yellow balls of gosling fuzz come Spring to give their remaining lone Toulouse goose hel... err, company.

And on Sunday: besides homemade venison sausage, canned soups and preserves, Joy gave me my very own personal Round Tuit. This Round Tuit reads:
Many times you've said
"I'll do it as soon as
I get around tuit"
Now's your chance...
Now you can do it...
Now at last you've got
A Round Tuit
Ladies, your generosity humbles and amazes me. May it be returned to you tenfold.

And for those who observe, blessings of the turning Solstice to you and yours.

[Oh, when I got the piercing done, talked to a guy about doing a cover-up tattoo of the one currently on my ankle (the original was poorly done, and is now spread and fading). I'm thinking of getting - you guessed it - a goose.]

12.18.2008

Pic: Nose Piercing for Geese?



I had my nose pierced last weekend. Yeah, go ahead and yuck it up, call it a mid-life crisis, what-evah. It would appear that one of the geese decided to join in on the fun:



Yes, we chased her down and removed the piece of hay. No piercing for you, little girl!

Getting away from the computer for a few days. Have a great weekend, everyone!

12.17.2008

If you can't chase the delivery guy...

...eat the delivery.

The pups, as noted here and here, like to drag out and chew a variety of items. Old beer and soda cans found around the property; barbecue implements, blown in plastic bags, water pitchers, wooden bowls, logs. Anything left out and within reach is fair game. They even managed to ferret out and chew into oblivion the wooden decoy egg I'd put into Cinnamon's latest outdoor nest (back to @#$!! egg hunting again).

It's not that they aren't provided chewy stuff. We give them dried pig ears, rolled rawhide "bones", and even big roasted cow bones you can get from the pet store. It's just not enough, somehow.

So, on Monday: Spouse looks out through the living room window and sees Maggie chewing on something. "Jeeze, what is she chewing on now?" He retrieves the item, and we look over it. "Looks like some sort of small carry bag". Thinking it may have been a drop or throwaway from a previous tenant, toss it aside and think nothing more of it, even though it did look suspiciously new...

Then I'm out and about the next day, doing chores and taking photos. I start picking up trash - bits of chewed plastic bag, cardboard... wait, what's that? Is that a battery recharger? How did that get on the property? Find a piece of paper; it's a receipt from Amazon.com addressed to Spouse... uh oh. Yep, there's the rest of the order: several chewed packs of rechargeable batteries, charging cord, other recharge parts, scattered hither and yon sans its nylon carry case we found yesterday. I call Spouse: "hon, you're not gonna believe this..."

Next on the home project list: dog-proof drop box for UPS deliveries.

12.16.2008

Goose Barrier

The geese are the rulers of their domain, which is basically anywhere and everywhere they can get into. Now that the pups are out of the kennel full-time, the only peaceful sleep they can get during the day is wherever the geese are not. Taking pity on the pups, I sectioned off part of the porch with dog beds, food, and a chicken-wire-and-rope barrier to keep the geese out.

I'm not sure how long this will last, and am already considering other strategies. As you can see from the picture, the geese are lining up and carefully considering how to take back their territory...

[pic taken through the living room window. please ignore the goose poop on the porch, thank you kindly.]

12.15.2008

Hide and Go Seek The Eggs

Each time I'd find her clutch of eggs (outside and away from the nest boxes, natch) Cinnamon would find a new site. Her first nest (#1) was underneath one of the spiky plants on the hill. Then it moved to (#2) beneath the rosemary bushes, then (#3) behind a regular bush, (#4) over to another spiky plant on the opposite side of the porch stairs from the bush, then (#5) around the corner next to the fireplace chimney. It had now been a couple of weeks since I'd seen any of her eggs - coop or in the other spots - so I knew she had to be laying them in a new spot somewhere.

Finally, yesterday: the latest nest was found, same hill as her first spot, but under a different spiky plant. Had to hack and slash through the trees and brush to get to the area, but of course, that's what made the spot desirable in the first place, right? Safe from casual doggie blundering, too. How many eggs? Sixteen, count'em, SIXTEEN eggs all in one spot. Not all of them were Cinnamon's, either. My mistake, and the reason why she kept moving the clutch site? I kept taking ALL the eggs (yes, I'm a little slow, but finally figured it out). Cinnamon may have been bred in a hatchery, but she'd kept enough instincts in her little birdy noggin to figure out when a place wasn't "safe" to lay anymore. This time, I left a couple of the eggs in place to see what would happen. She laid another egg in the same spot later that day. Ha!

[Dang, how sad is it that I feel proud about outwitting a chicken?]

A week ago, I purchased decoy eggs from an antique stall - was surprised to find them cheaper there than at the feed store. Anyhow, replaced the few remaining fresh eggs in the latest nesting spot with one of the decoys. Please oh PLEASE let this be okay with Cinnamon, and that she'll continue laying in the same spot...

[Okay, now I'm begging favors from a chicken. Don't tell Spouse; he already questions my sanity.]

12.12.2008

Food Storage Class

Okay, I admit it: I'm not the most imaginative cook in the world. I'm happy with a basic dinner of a spinach omelet or vegetable noodle soup, whereas Spouse is a maestro, cooking Thai, Indian, Korean, Italian, you-name-it he-knows-it. Which probably explains why when I offer to cook a shared meal Spouse will often politely demur, saying "Don't worry dear, I'll fix myself something, uh, later." This is why I say to guests: "If you want something to eat, I can cook you something. If you want something good to eat, better ask Spouse."

Regardless, I'm hoping that my simple cooking imagination will actually be a boon in the area of staples canning and food storage.

Sharon Astyk is holding another on-line class on Food Storage this January, and I've signed up. Not only covering the basics of pantry building and food canning/drying/etc., she will also discuss how to plan a garden around canning, and how to pass on the knowledge to your local community. Spouse already knows how to can from helping his mother and grandmother when he was a wee lad, so I plan to also lean on his experience while getting started. Hopefully he's not been too scarred from past forced family labor to lend his advice. (Just kidding, Mom K! He's never said anything like that, honest! *cough*)

If you decide to take this class as well, please leave a comment saying so - it'd be neat to have some known folks in the discussions!

[pic: a round loaf of gluten-free rustic dark bread, made by Spouse. He is a minor god among mortals.]

12.11.2008

Hill Country Snow

I replied to Chance in the previous post that snow in the Austin area is a once-in-a-decade event... a person more familiar with the area says that it's more like a once-every-30-years type of event. So, an even more rare and fine happening, and I'm just happy to be here, folks! I love the way the snow sets off some of the native grass colors:



The live oaks stay relatively green, however, only losing their leaves come Spring when the new leaves push out the old:



And the dogs, per usual, remain oblivious.

12.10.2008

Sleet and Snow and Oh!

We got snow in the Hill Country! Woo-hoo! Didn't think to snap a picture on my way out to work this morning, so am hoping Spouse will think to do so come daylight.

We had heard that a hard freeze was coming through the area, so I asked Spouse if he would pluck the sleeping chickens off their preferred snooze spots on the juniper (aka Texas cedar) boughs and place them into their coop. Thank goodness he did so! The winds were so fierce, Spouse says, that the upright feeder was knocked over twice. For once, all the excitement occurred while Spouse was home and awake, and I was sleeping. Still... it's snowing! It's snowing!

I can hear my East Coast friends snickering now.

[pic: Texas State Capitol Building in Austin by John Tullis, reader-submitted photo to The Austin Statesman]

12.09.2008

Pic: Dust Bath

A powerful lure of dust, sand and barbecue ashes, it cannot be denied: dust bath time!

[the tired and cranky, it is starting early this week]

12.08.2008

Good Doggies

They're not yet fully grown, nor at full maturity. They still occasionally give a playful bounce towards a chicken or a goose (a big no-no, and fortunately becoming more rare). For the most part, however, their guardian instincts are kicking in and they're doing their job around the property. All we really need is for them to guard the chickens and geese, but the two pups seem to be developing specialties:

Bandit has learned how to gently herd the geese at dusk into their night-time pen. I've watched her do it, unassisted, a couple of times now. This is not something Spouse or I have specifically taught her, so I'm guessing she's learned from watching. She will also walk at my side when I herd the geese on those evenings when they need to head in early. As of last night, she worked with me in tandem to herd one side while I worked the other side. w00t! Now I just need teach her how to shut the gate, latch it, set the electric fence into place, and switch it on... what?

Maggie's specialty appears to be guarding the house. Bandit will patrol far afield (well, as far as the fenced-in eight acres will allow), but Maggie stays close. Some nights when she's by the poultry pen, she'll hear the back door close as I'm on my way out to work and come tearing around the corner, barking. Once she sees it's me, then it's nothing but tail wagging and butt wiggling and oh by the way, is there a treat? Treat? Yes?

After guarding throughout the night, they'll sack out during the day, usually sleeping wherever the chickens are hanging out at the moment (which is tough to do, as the chickens are constantly on the move). They listen for the geese, and if the geese give a honk of alarm they'll come running to check out the situation.

It's been nine months of hard work, teaching the dogs daily on basic manners and making sure they know who's the "alpha". It's finally starting to pay off. Good doggies!

12.06.2008

Ungh! Yeah!

The barrel-carrying hand truck arrived Thursday evening. Bright red, four wheels, safety strap and kickstand, this mighty dolly is welded metal and rated for a thousand (!) pounds. This thing is so bad@ss it'll survive a direct "newkular" strike. It will still be around after humans evolve out of existence and there's nothing left but the cockroaches. Yeah baby, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

[Actually, it's for hauling around the barrel that contains soiled goose pool water, but it never hurts to over-engineer.]

12.05.2008

Scooooore!

I have to do these things when Spouse is not around. It reminds him too much of his father, a good-natured man who has no problem poking, prodding, and asking questions of complete strangers. Can't have that, quelle embarrassment! If we're together, I'll warn him ahead of time, "go elsewhere for a minute, as I'm about to do something embarrassing, okay?" and he'll go.

So: there's a commercial building under construction on the commute to/from work, about 15 minutes from the house. Just looking at the amount of wood in the scrap piles while driving past made my mouth water. Finally had the time to stop by yesterday and do That Embarrassing Thing I Do. "Is it okay if I take some of this scrap lumber?" "Ask the general manager."... "Hi, I'm in the process of building a chicken coop and just can't see buying new wood for it. Would it be okay to salvage some of your scrap?" "Sure, help yourself! Another guy came buy earlier in the week, salvaging as well." Booyah! Score!

I was able to get large pieces of outdoor-quality sheet plywood, short and long pressure-treated posts, the usual 2x4's, some large trim pieces, some really nice solid wood 2x12 pieces (should make terrific guestroom & outdoor side tables), and bestest of all: two small roof trusses, just the right size for the coop. There was plenty more I could have picked up, but something inside said "eh, don't be greedy, leave some for others." I packed everything into the trusty Subaru, and made my way home.

[Still need to obtain for the new & improved coop: second hand windows & door, more hardware cloth, and an actual plan.]

This was only my second time salvaging scrap lumber, but it's clear that an in-car toolkit should be put together to help in case I run into such bounty again. I already have bungee cords, netting and rope. Thinking I'll need to add gloves, claw hammer, pry/wonder bar, staplegun (so I can staple a red flag over the longest piece of salvage sticking out the back), fix-a-flat in case I run over a nail... anything else? Being this embarrassing could become a successful side career!

[p.s. Spouse isn't mortally embarrassed by his dad or me, but the forthrightness with strangers does make him a little squeamish. On the other hand, he sure did admire the haul, and wondered why I didn't get more lumber while it was available.]

12.04.2008

Book Review: The Book of Geese, by Dennis Holderread

If you want information about raising chickens at home, there's a boatload available on the Internet. If you want information about raising geese at home, the info is much harder to find. Geese are literally tough birds - healthy, hardy, and adaptable - but they do have needs that differ from chickens. The Book of Geese: a Complete Guide to Raising the Home Flock by Dave Holderread packs a huge amount of information into a small, 209 page book (including index).

Chapter titles: Why Geese?, Some Points to Consider, External Features, Behavior, Selecting a Breed, Acquiring Stock, Incubation, Rearing Goslings, Managing Adult Geese, Sexing, Health and Physical Problems, Butchering.

Appendices: Formulating Goose Rations, Symptoms of Vitamen and Mineral Deficiencies, Predators, Goose Recipes, Using Feathers and Down, Using Geese as Weeders, Show Time, Goose Breeders and Hatchery Guide, Sources of Supplies and Equipment, Suggested Reading, Organization...
...and a whole bunch of illustrations, photos, and tables that provide organized info on the above subjects.

From birth to death, from rearing to slaughtering, he covers it all. I love this book, and even though I've read through it once already, I find some new nugget every time I pick it up.

Interested in a copy? Feathersite says
"I would suggest ordering this directly from Holderread's Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center, PO Box 492, Corvallis, OR 97339; 541-929-5338. You'll get it much quicker."
I also found new copies on-line at Sheepmagazine.com for $18.95. Do a Google Search for other on-line purveyors of the book if you like, or order through your local bookstore. On the other hand, if you don't mind paying $32.00 and up for a used (used!!) copy through Alibris or Amazon, go right ahead. And when you're done, I have a deal on a timeshare I'd like to tell you about...

UPDATE: Found out the Farm has a web site, but you must order the book through their catalog. $18.95. They have books on ducks, too, which farm mom from Children in the Corn recommends!

[pic: another "I can has shoelace?" moment]

12.03.2008

Dirty Photos



Another "too pooped to post" entry. Today's pic feature: our dirty, dirty critters:


A day of light rain last week - less than a quarter inch - and the dogs somehow manage to look like they've wallowed in the biggest mud puddle they could find. GP coats shed dirt quickly, however, so they didn't look this way for long...



After chewing open a thick paper bag of charcoal (thankfully, just plain ol' burned wood charcoal, and not the chemical-laden briquette type stuff), the geese decide to do a taste test. Can't decide whether they look more like chimney sweeps or modern goths. At least the photos show them in their more usual state: mouths open and squawking.

12.01.2008

Don't mess with the 'Meg

She's the only chicken molting this Fall, and she is none too happy about it. Nutmeg, our little Cubalaya chicken-dog and pecking order enforcer, is cranky and uncomfortable. She does not want to socialize, be picked up or otherwise touched thankyouverymuch. I miss having her birdy company on my lap or shoulder, but heck, if my hair was falling out like that, I might not feel very sociable, either.

Sly Lady Grey has been trying to take advantage of Nutmeg's discomfort to upset the pecking order. Grey is over a third larger and twice heavier than Nutmeg, so you'd think it'd be an easy win. Don't count on it. Nutmeg is laying the holy smack-down on any attempts at usurpation. I've seen her go into the air with Grey, neck feathers (well, what's left of them) puffed out and claws extended. Spouse saw Nutmeg not only smack-down Grey, but chase her halfway across the yard to make sure Grey understood the lesson:

Respect the Frau, and don't mess with the 'Meg.

[pic #1: Nutmeg. She's lost all her tailfeathers, too! Pic #2: Lady Grey. Pretty girl, determined, but ultimately doomed to failure.]