11.28.2009

Goose Pool, Version 2: Success!

We weren't sick. It wasn't raining. There was nowhere we had to be. At long last, time was made to finish the goose pool on the side yard. For those who haven't been following along: the original goose pool, built into the side of the hill, didn't take into account the fact that water runs downhill. Mud and mucky runoff would fill the pool after each rainstorm, which then required draining the pool and shoveling out the muck each time. This time:

More of the hillside was carved out, and a "retaining wall" of sorts put in the side facing the hill. In a four-inch wide, six-inch deep gap/trench between the hill and the wall, the pond liner was draped to line the gap, then filled with rocks and gravel. This will act as a French drain, and redirect water away from the pool. There's a lip over the drain, which will hopefully keep water from flowing over into the pool in case the drain isn't working as quickly as the runoff. Pic below is before we added the gravel & leveled...



The inside of the pool was lined with hard, corrugated plastic sheets cut to size, to keep the geese from gnawing holes in the pond liner like they did on the last one.



Cement and rocks were added to create steps for the entry and exit. We then filled the pond, and put a couple of wheelbarrow's worth of mulch down to help smooth out the surrounding area that had been churned up by the construction.



And the geese... well, they weren't too sure about Goose Pool Version 2 at first. Am thinking they'll probably give it a gander (ha! ha! humor!) in the morning.

11.25.2009

Go for Two Outta Three?

The dogs thought it was time for human interaction. The ganders thought that the human ought to stop all that interaction. With one hand trying to set down a previously lost goose, the other hand trying to keep the dogs at bay, and one leg trying to keep the pissed-off protective ganders back (who thought I was manhandling one of their lady-loves), the human had only one leg to stand on, and lost. Miserably.

Pics of the bruises after I, uh, shave my legs.

[pic: Billy-Bob, one of the #@$!! protective ganders]

11.22.2009

Sorta Like Daycare

Spouse brings home more than a paycheck from his Houston job. He also brings home various illnesses on a regular basis. Sorta like a little kid coming home from daycare, there seems to be something new every week. Last weekend he brought home a cold, getting sick the next day. I came down with it about 36 hours later.

The latest illness has meant lack of forward motion on Goose Pool ver. 2 (a.k.a. the New Pool of Woo). We've dug an area in front of the hillside pool that will act as a french drain, and have replacement pond liner that the geese shouldn't be able to chew through as easily. Delay on the revised goose pool means further delay on the new chicken coop. Nothing we can do about either except allow ourselves to rest and get better as soon as we can.

Hoping to find Spouse nearby employment soon so we can practice disease locavorism like everyone else.

[pic: Spouse with "attention-starved" Bandit]

11.18.2009

Little Peeper: Still Indeterminate

It's been almost four months since Specklebutt Jr., aka "Little Peeper", was born. We still don't know if Peeper is a hen or a rooster. A crossbreed of an Ameraucana hen and a White Leghorn rooster, s/he's flighty and wary, made all the more nervous by the fact s/he's at the bottom of the pecking order. S/he usually sleeps away from the rest of the chickens, although the second-to-the-last chicken in the pecking order - one of the Sicilian Buttercups - will often roost with her/him.

Peeper hasn't crowed yet. The Leghorn roos were crowing at six weeks of age, but since we don't have an Ameraucana roo for comparison, it's hard to say if this is normal or not. Peeper does have some of the long-ish feathers like the Leghorn roo, but since I've not seen a Leghorn hen, can't say if this determines Peeper's gender or not either. All I know right now is that I'm gonna have to get a ladder into the tree to grab Peeper & the Sicilian companion tonight for a thorough head-lice powdering. Wish me luck.

11.12.2009

Independence Days Challenge: November 11

Haven't done an Independence Days check-in for a few months now. Well, since I started the new job anyways! For those not familiar, Independence Days Challenge is an ongoing experiment in learning to live a less wasteful, more self-sufficient manner, started by my favorite "doomer", Sharon Astyk.

The usual check-in outline goes something like this:

Plant something:
We planted our Fall garden, and the mesclun-mix lettuces are going gangbusters. The brassicas are thriving with regular applications of organically-approved Bt. Two weeks ago I planted shallots, and once it gets a good ten-degrees cooler during the days, I'll get the garlic in. Onion slips should be arriving in December. Am running out of room in the garden!

Harvest something: As always, eggs from the girls, and now lettuces from the garden. There's a "volunteer" cherry tomato plant at the nursery I've been harvesting the past few days, leaving the harvested tomatoes on the employee kitchen table. Hated to see those gorgeous tomatoes just sit and rot on the vine... oh, and they're tasty, too.

Preserve something: Have been pressure-canning jars of Spouse's homemade pasta sauce and just last Sunday, chicken stock. From one of our butchered roosters, we'll get at least 12 broth-based meals: risotto, donburi, soups, stews, pilafs. I think stretching cuts of meat is not only prudent, but also respectful of the animal's life.

Reduce waste: Coming up with a plan to re-use old wood pallets to create an open-air chicken coop. The chewed-up goose-pond liner will be re-used to make a cover for the smoker/griller and to cover the current chicken coop's leaky roof.

Preparation & Storage: Purchased 3 cases of Mrs. Leepers gluten-free dinner kits that go well with tinned meats - one for chicken, one for tuna, and one for beef. Also bought a case of Annie's gluten-free mac & cheese. We are also finally, FINALLY moving forward on getting the emergency propane generator in place! A contractor gave us an estimate on moving the electric and water pipes (long story), we've an estimate on the transfer switch install, and we've got a line on a generator we want.

Build Community Food Systems: Continuing to sell the eggs through the co-op, and doing more shopping at the local Farmer's Market. If I need the packaged stuff, I'll hit Austin and go to Central Market for Udi's bread (not exactly local, but OMFG gluten-free bread and muffins to die for!) or Wheatsville Co-Op for raw nuts, dehydrated organic fruits, goat's milk, etc. Yes, I am still avoiding Whole Foods, and believe you me the budget is thanking me for it.

Eat the Food: You betcha. All of the above.

[pic: butterfly on a shrimp plant, taken at the nursery]

11.03.2009

10-point-5 Cans of Pasta Sauce

I tried to make a deal with Spouse: I'll can his cooking if he can get it done on a Friday or Saturday night, when I don't have to worry about a long day of work the next day (Sundays are short workdays), or have to mess with a load of dishes by myself afterward when he's gone away on business. This weekend's schedule being what it was, we tried a compromise this (Sunday) evening: he gets the pasta sauce cooked early, so I can get it canned and cleaned up early.

So why is it 10:00PM on a Sunday night, and I've still a pile of big pots to clean? Not Spouse's fault, he followed his end of the deal. Pasta sauce was ready to jar at 4:30PM when I got home from work (see, dear? A public proclamation that It's Not Your Fault). After cleaning the chicken coop and spraying down the chickens (that's another post), I started reading email, Twitter, RSS feeds, blogs, and... sorta lost track of time. Yeah. *sigh*

Still, it's worth the effort. Ten pints (and one tiny half-pint) of pasta sauce, pressure-canned and preserved for those evenings when even defrosting something seems like too much effort. Grab a jar off the shelf, plop the contents into a saucepan, heat & serve. Hoping I can bribe Spouse into cooking a big pot of chicken stock next weekend to can. Unfortunately, it's looking like Sunday night will be the best night yet again to can... perhaps this time I can stay away from the computer, and get the job done in decent time!

11.01.2009

Adventures With Electricity

Spouse writes: Ben Franklin ain’t got nothing on me, at least in the electricity test-subject arena. I don’t even have to fly a kite in a thunderstorm to test electricity. I just need to walk out to the side yard where we keep the electric poultry netting/fence. The electric poultry netting is 4 feet high and surrounds the chicken/goose night-time pen in a rough circle 250 feet in circumference. The fence is battery powered and solar charged. The energizer (marketing-speak for the thing that zaps the hat off your head) is made specifically for securing chickens from predators. Of course this means it costs twice as much as your garden-variety cow/horse/stupid-nephew fence zapper. [Yes, Uncle Lynn – I am looking at you. I will NOT test a fence for you ever again.]

There is one downfall to this electric fence. Since it operates by shocking anything that completes the circuit (i.e. anything touching the ground), grass and weeds will short out the fence and reduce the hat-knocking-off effectiveness. So we need to mow or weed-whack the area under the fence regularly. To check the fence at the furthest point from the zapper to see how well it is working, I usually test with the back of my hand. Since I usually wear rubber soles shoes the zap is mostly harmless.

Last night, however, was a different story. We had come back from our neighbors’ wonderful Halloween party (D.A. can write that post) around midnight. While checking on the geese and chickens I noticed that the zapper was not turned on, so I flipped the switch. Bandit, our faithful yet attention-starved dog (from Bandit’s point of view anyway), came up next to me and nuzzled my hand for some scratchin’ behind the ears. As I obliged I guess I brushed up against the electric fence. I say "I guess" because all I remember is blinding pain and then loud yelping from Bandit. It appears that four dog paws on slightly wet ground is a good conductor. The shock went from my hand - that grazed the fence for testing - through to the other hand scratching poor Bandit. After yelping several times in surprise and pain, she took off running.

When I found her later she did not appear amused.

My dog glance translation is a bit rusty, but I think she said that if she ever finds my shoes without me in them, she will deposit a generous amount of processed dog food in them.