Monday, March 23, 2015


That's how the last couple of months have been. Minor annoyances and stresses build up, especially in the winter, for those of us who are sun worshipers at heart. When you know a warm day and some time outside doing nothing all that important but still productive and enjoyable will melt the tension from your shoulders, watching that thermometer stay stubbornly below t-shirt temps makes things drag.

Then I lost Ziffer Cat. She was old and cranky for years, but she still picked on the dogs and begged for pets. Then she stopped eating. I got her to the vet as soon as I could after that, to say a final farewell. She was fifteen years old, which is very old for a kitten with as rough a start as she'd had. And, one of the responsibilities you take on as an owner of any animal is the one to ensure that their end is as easy as you can make it. No matter how much it hurts you, you have to make it better for them. It's not easy, but it is necessary.

Then I lost a dear friend, one of the first in my life to teach me that age old lesson that friends are the family you choose. He was one of my first "adopted" uncles, a big-bellied bearded overall wearing teddy bear. He'd survived Vietnam, Agent Orange, railroad work, motorcycle riding, diabetes, and recently a very scary bout with congestive heart failure and kidney failure... in fact he was in a rehab center getting into shape to come home after a couple of months on his back, with many close calls. And then he just... woke up dead. The doctors say his organs were trashed, and a quick look after he died showed it to be consistent with damage from the Agent Orange and the stresses of the last two months. His insides just... gave up.

It's one of those losses that sets everything in the world just a *little* off. I confess, even though I knew I'd outlive him, I never really thought of a world without him. I couldn't picture it. Even lying in an ICU bed wincing when he laughed, I couldn't imagine him dying, even while I threatened to pee on his grave if he up and died on us.

So everything is just that little bit off. But the weather is warming and the sun is being kind, and life does go on for those of us still living. I bought mom a big portable greenhouse for her plant starts, and me a small one for my tree cuttings. Dad and I went sage-hunting in the pasture, and dug up some sage plants to try and pot, on a mad scheme to sell "Old Growth, ethically collected, all organic, cruelty free, locally sourced" sage bonsai. It made me smile, and an afternoon out wandering pastures did me good.

The crows rebuilt the nest on the top of the windmill tower, but we've got the solar pump there now so they can stay. I climbed up to see if they were laying yet, and found a single egg, so spring is here.

My wonderful co-worker, the mistress of the schedule, took advantage of a scheduling rodeo to swing me a four day weekend, which has helped.

Little brother is coming over this evening so that I can finish paying him for the motorcycle, and we can go through a catalogue and get parts that are needed, and discuss parts that aren't needed but are really nifty.

Maybe I'll have the bike up and running in time for the memorial. It isn't a Harley, like he rode, but he knew about it before he died and he approved of my choice. I'll have to go buy some bib overalls, too. It wouldn't be right to show up at his service in anything else.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Book of Barkley a read for the heart

For Christmas I received a copy of The book of Barkley.  I was excited since I had been reading blog posts from this lady for a while.  She has an amazing way of looking at the world and bringing you right along with her to witness life from a slightly different perspective.
I had been trying to put my feelings for the book into mere words on the screen when I ran across a review from Kirkus book reviews.  They say it much better than I can.

"Debut author Johnson enters the literary scene with a beautifully penned eulogy to the Labrador retriever who taught her to appreciate life in the moment while helping open her fractured heart to the joys of love.
By the time Johnson was ready to bring a puppy into her life, she had shouldered a lion’s share of emotional baggage: She lost her mother to cancer at an early age, was abandoned by the father of her unplanned baby (given up for adoption)
and had freed herself from an unhappy marriage. Along the way, she became a jet pilot. She had hung up her wings and taken a well-paying job (as an unspecified federal agent) and was about to purchase a new house. “It was time for a black
lab.” Even before Barkley was old enough to leave the litter, he picked Johnson out to be his mother. As the other puppies ran around frolicking over new people and smells, Barkley sat quietly and studied her. Then he made his decision, coming over to check out her shoelaces, never leaving her side.
This memoir is the story of the 10 years Johnson and Barkley shared. But it is much more. Johnson’s writing borders on the lyrical, her prose meandering gently
to and fro through a lifetime of recollections and musings, always coming back to rest in the safe harbor of the love, trust and protectiveness she and Barkley had for one another. She’s a fan of lengthy, free-flowing sentences, and some readers
may occasionally wait a bit impatiently for her to put aside the philosophizing and return to Barkley. He was always there—the inspiration for her thoughts, the validation that life is worth living. And there are plenty of Barkley tales to
satisfy. Right up front, readers will know they need a box of tissues: The book opens just after Barkley has died. So buck up for this tender work full of humor and charming misbehavior.
An unusually full-bodied love story that will wrap itself around the heart of anyone who has been fortunate enough to experience life with a dog".--Kirkus Reviews

Take time to read The Book of Barkley.  It is well worth the time.  Keep a box of tissues handy and have an extra copy ready to hand to someone when they ask why you are laughing.
Congratulations LB.....and thank you.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Looking for Gift Ideas?

It's that time of year in which people are desperately trying to find gifts for people again... thought I'd help my (five remaining) readers out and plug a friend at the same time!

Horse Creek Soap is a company created, run, and entirely staffed by a gal I know here locally. She raises milk goats, then makes soaps and lotions out of their milk.

The website is a bit scanty (I'll have to bug her about updating it the next time I see her, she's got probably a dozen more types of soap plus the lotions she's recently put out) but a few of the really good ones are there. I personally love the Berry Vanilla scent, it makes my shower smell like a juicy pastry. For those of you who aren't into smelling like food there are less flavorful scents, or an un-scented, un-colored soap called Just Soap.

Of the ones not listed, Farmmom is in love with the Avocado Sea Clay soap, and I adore Face The Day, which is an awesome refreshing facial soap. She also has a ton of seasonal scents available right now, which I can't remember all of, but I'm sure she'll be happy to send you a list if you ask. (Again, I'll be poking at her about updating the site, as well.)

Some of you might be thinking that five bucks is a lot for a bar of soap... don't worry, I did too at first. But, not only is it that much better for your skin than commercial soaps (And I really do think that it is...) but it also lasts longer. I have a shower full of her soaps because I like the way they smell, and after a couple of weeks I realized that while the half-finished bar of Dove that I had stopped using was slowly melting into oblivion without being touched, the goat milk soaps weren't even noticeably shrinking other than when I actually used them.

If you're still hesitant, ask her about her sample deals. I know when she visits craft shows she offers the sample bars (which are about the size of those ridiculous "guest soaps" but last longer by at least an order of magnitude) for $.50 a pop, or five for a dollar. She's started doing that since she last updated the store so I'm not certain if it would make sense when shipping, but I'm reasonably certain she'd be willing to cut you a deal for several samples, which would make great stocking stuffers. I will note here that she does work a full time job that involves 12 hour shifts, if you're going to call her I recommend you do it Wednesday through Friday to have the best chance of being able to visit with her about her stuff.

Long and short of it, any of her stuff would make wonderful stocking stuffers or build a gift basket for your favorite bath goddess... they'll thank you for it, I promise.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ah, So

At my workplace (which, if you'll recall I don't talk about much... because I enjoy my job for the most part and would prefer to keep it) we've had some issues with turnover and available hours this year. As in, I didn't have enough available hours, thanks to being part time and hemmed in by the restrictive definition of "part time" by Obama Care.

(Small digression... the Affordable Care Act? Screwed me. Before the redefinition of part time I could have worked 36 hours and been able to afford to pay my own damn healthcare costs, like I had. Sure I made choices about going to the doctor based on what I could afford but ACA didn't help me afford the visits I would have chosen not to make, it just made it impossible for me to afford ANY healthcare instead. I sure as hell couldn't afford insurance.)

Anyway. There have been struggles to cover absolutely essential duties and keep me on the right side of that 28 hour part time line, since I was the most available, or only, part timer on hand. I smarted off around budget time that they should ask for a full time floater position, that way we could maybe avoid ulcers for the head scheduler and the Office Dragon. (I love our Office Dragon. She herds cats every week and manages to make things work somehow on limited budgets and with people in the office who take that fact for granted a LOT. Office Dragon is not a put down, in her case... it's an acknowledgement of the fact that I never, EVER want to make her mad at me.)

Well apparently they decided it was a good idea and made the proposal in the budget for next year. Everyone hoped, but no one was holding their breath. Then the people in charge of the budget realized that, lacking sufficient part time hours available to cover it, they were going to have to pay out a lot of vacation and comp days this year. And a full timer with the attendant benefit package was actually cheaper.

I of course didn't hear about any of this, I just showed up when I got the "We know you must hate us by now but could you possibly cover...?" calls and went on, fairly secure in the knowledge that I was going to continue as I was for the foreseeable future.

Then I went in to work the other night, on one of the oh god oh god can you cover shifts, and got pranked with the news that not only was the full time floater position approved, but that they were offering it to me (not necessarily a given,) and that it was approved to start as of December 1. They made it out as bad news and started telling me that it wasn't anything personal, but the part time budget got cut, and we really love you but we have to follow the budget... my internal panic did kick in a bit, and my mind was racing to try and figure out how I was going to make it work with less hours. Then the one pranking me got a big grin and offered me the full time position. Apparently there was a far more elaborate plan but other events made it impossible. Probably good, I might have had to kick the one who was going to prank me with it.

So, I'll continue doing what I have been doing, only more so, and be able to work forty hours instead of 28. I've been promised that I'll be worked like a rented mule (my response was "like you don't already?") and also that great effort will be made to keep from bouncing me back and forth from days to nights and back too often. I can handle it on the part time schedule because I generally have most of a week in which to recover after I've been flip flopped three times in a week... not so much on a full time schedule. It's a bit of a mystery at the moment how exactly it's going to fall out. Basically I'll cover all of the day off requests that come in, unless it will bounce me off of the sleep dep wall too hard. Filling in around that will be new duties and using my butt to keep chairs warm so that the butt that would otherwise be there can work on other things, uninterrupted.

So, starting next month I become the rented mule of the office, which I'm ok with, and I get full time, which I'm ecstatic about. Benefits will kick in, and it'll be nice to have insurance, but I doubt I'll use it any more often than I did before.

It is nice, though, to work in a job where you can honestly say you want to spend more time there with the people you work with. It's also nice to work in a job where they care enough to want to pull a prank on you with the good news. (The big boss decreed the pranking. The functional boss planned it. The subordinate boss ended up carrying it out. Yeah, I have a lot of bosses... but they all actually work together so it works way more smoothly than you would expect... and all of them defer to the Office Dragon when she decrees something.)

Not sure what it's going to mean for the blog, honestly. It's more time at a job that I can't blog about, even when it's funny. But, there is the possibility that it'll be a slightly more settled schedule for me which would open up more opportunities to be doing other things that might be blogworthy. I'm not counting on it because I know how it can be, but if anyone can pull off some kind of order out of the chaos it'll be the gal that does the scheduling.

Blogorado 2014

(All lateness on this post is my fault... Farmmom asked me to look over it, add links, and post it and I completely spaced it. Apologies all around!)

Well Blogorado is over for another year.  All the folks are home and clean-up is done.
Once again our tribe came together for conversations, laughs, food and shooty goodness.  Thank you all for coming and making our Columbus Day Weekend so memorable.
It has been an incredibly busy year for us and more so the last couple months and I wanted to thank all the attendees for the kindness and consideration on things not done!
Planning and prep work were out the window but I think things worked out pretty well anyway.
A HUGE thanks goes to aepilotjim and pediem for donating the beef for the weekend!  That was just incredible! (And we went through almost the whole half beef) This crew is a cooks dream.... you all know how to compliment the cook!
Thanks to Old NFO for herding cats, I really don't know how you do it.  I think without you the breakfast would last until dinnertime.
Thank you to Desi, Holly, Beth, and Christina for being my kitchen bitches, Sci-fi for cleaning the shop up and to all the guys who helped with firewood, trash, ect. ect. I love having minions!!!!
Thank you Hal for bringing all the full auto toys to play with, everyone had a ball with them.

I know I'm missing so many folks that helped in a variety of ways but the brain hasn't caught up with me yet.  Next year I am going to make sure I have a day or two off work AFTER Blogorado just to catch my breath.

Love you all,
Farmmom, Farmdad, and Farmgirl

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chicken Scratch

I know I've been noticeably absent lately, and I can't promise it won't happen again. Frankly, most of what I consider entertaining/interesting is happening at my job lately, which makes it hard to come up with something to post about.

So since someone (Cough OldNFO Cough) chewed on me about posting, I'll post the only other remotely interesting thing that's been happening, and what I'm most focused on this particular week: Chickens.

See, after going to the auction to pick up some more chickens for the farm, and them being higher priced than I wanted to pay for what was available, I made the decision that I would just raise more chickens myself. Maybe order in some fun ones from a hatchery. So, I started planning to incubate some of the eggs from the barnyard mix we already had, and went to pick up some accessories, only to see that the farm store had their fall chicks in that week, so I bought a bunch, brought 'em home, hurried to finish fixing the old wood granary that we were going to use for a chick house (which precipitated some drama that I may or may not write about at a later date... for now suffice to say that it's the most expensive "what we have on hand, don't spend money" repair project I've ever been responsible for starting...) and continued on my merry way.

Now, when I was picking out chicks in the pullet tank at the farm store, I was trying to bear in mind what had sold well at the auction, so we wound up with a bunch of little red chicks that turned into little red hens (and one cockerel.) Farmmom and I also picked out four or five that looked interesting, that we wanted to see what they would grow into. Bear in mind, the plans for these chicks from the start were three-tiered: First, build up our own flock with the ones we liked. Second, sell whatever we could of the rest of them. Third, eat whatever didn't sell.  So, we figured if the interesting looking chicks turned into interesting looking hens, they'd be sticking around, so we only got a few of those.

Here, have a break from the wall of text, and a picture of baby chickens:
As chicks do, they grew, and I threw a baker's dozen plus one of the eggs from our hens in the incubator and set about eagerly waiting and chewing fingernails to see what we'd get. Meanwhile, the bought chicks grew:


 Finally it was hatch day, and thirteen of the fourteen eggs I'd incubated hatched beautifully. Well ok, twelve of them hatched beautifully, and one had a little trouble. This one, to be exact:


A few interesting things about that picture... First of all, that little black chick in my hand is a lucky bugger. She wasn't positioned right in the egg, so she pipped (poked her beak out) through the membrane that is full of veins and does the oxygen exchange for the chick while it's in the shell, so she lost some blood, and wasn't in the right position to really get worked around to "unzip" her shell. She needed a little help and TLC. So, she and a couple of her siblings, one with some feather issues and one just because I ran out of room in the transport boxes, stayed inside in the super controlled environment brooder whilst the rest of them went to the chick house.

As you can see there she was a little behind her pair of siblings growth wise. She's pretty well made it up now, a little over a month later. Oh, the other interesting thing about those pictures... you can see in the shadow of my hand in the first one the little yellow chick with the black spot on it's butt. We got one more yellow chick out of the hatch too, the other one in the second picture. Now, at that time we had one white hen who laid white eggs. The rest were light red with white markings hens who laid brown eggs. So the only eggs we could positively identify as coming from a specific hen were the white ones. Our rooster is a Welsummer, which is a very colorful and attractive bird (but he's an asshole... it's ok though he whupped a boxer mix that we thought had killed Sonic, the white hen.... shut up she came named...) Anyway... one of those chicks came from the white hen, but it's not either of the ones you're thinking of. So she's our little oddball baby all over.
Speaking of odd I did mention earlier that we had grabbed some "interesting" looking chicks for the hell of it, but I gotta say I didn't expect what we got out of them.

The two pictures above show the gorgeous feather patterns on a couple of our oddballs. Yes, they looked very similar as chicks, but got very different ends of the color spectrum. They're the same breed, for sure, possibly different color variations. I have no idea what breed it is, in my little bit of Googling I haven't been able to find anything in an image search that really looks like them. But my favorite part about these guys isn't even the pretty feathers....


It's their faces! They're a couple months old, now, and I suspect they may go ahead and get "bearded" as they finish developing over the next few months. And one possible reason why I haven't found them Googling is because every time I Google image search for "bearded chickens" I go off on a wander through some really neat and or crazy looking chickens. For now we're hanging on to all of the "chicks" and keeping them separate from the grown flock, because we had some respiratory crud that's proving hard to get rid of come in with some hens mom picked up at the auction about a month ago. I really don't want to lose all of our grown hens, especially the first four we got. They came from a friend (that's how Sonic came named) and are friendly and easy to handle, good influences for the rest of the flock... but if it does happen, as it stands, I have a healthy flock ready to go in quarantine in the chick house. It'll take em a few more months to start laying, but we're not getting many eggs from the sick hens as it is, so we'll make do. I don't want to get rid of any until I know how many we're gonna need, and if all else fails they'll sell just as good in the spring as producing laying hens (better) as they would as pullets big enough to integrate into an existing flock now.
As to why I'm focused on chickens this week, well, a coworker of mine "accidentally" won an Ebay auction for some high-end fancy-dancy hatching eggs, and they're hatching. Shipped eggs are always more chancy than fresh, and to top it off these seem to have come from someone who thinks that you can never have too much calcium in your chicken feed for your laying hens. (Tip: You can. Out of three that have hatched so far two have needed assistance, and I may have to go extreme to get any others out of the shell alive.)
Hatching chicks is fun, assisting a hatch is nerve wracking.
Speaking of, I'd better go check the eggs again and see if any more of them have pipped...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wildlife Transport Volunteer

I are one now.

Went to a class the second of this month so that I could get approved for transporting wildlife from our area to rehab centers to the north of us.

FYI I had to put in the date because right now I'm not positive what week it is (I know that it is currently Saturday because I have to work Sunday...) due to swapping to night shifts at work for Wednesday and Thursday nights, then swapping back. I managed to sleep last night but my body is pretty much asking me what the hell I'm thinking, and I get to do it all over again next week. Though, I do have an extra day to swap back next week since I only have the one night shift.

Anywho, I went to the class where a nice lady basically explained things I already knew about wildlife and handling them.

Since the Wildlife Transport Volunteers sometimes get to be the first ones on scene when someone reports an animal in need of help, they get to be the one to catch said animal as well, so handling information is pretty vital to the whole thing.

So yeah, we got told all about how critters are sharp on all five corners and some advice for not getting bitten or scratched or otherwise mauled, and how wild animals can carry diseases and advice on how not to get them or spread them to your pets.

Anyway, me being the sucker that I am, I'm now on the call list for such things... and I'm the only one in the county, I think.

Even more fun than that is the fact that we discovered a crow's nest on one of the windmills. We discovered this when we went to turn the windmill on because that pasture was getting rented out. Five chicks, brand spanking new at that time, and it's all kinds of wound up in the mill and tied down with barbed wire.

So, we'll give em as much time as we can before we *have* to turn the mill on, and then I will go out and see if I can move the chicks to another area and get the parents to follow and continue feeding them. They're hatched, they get a chance, even if it means I have a pair of crows that hate me for the rest of their lives.

I have consulted our local wildlife guy, he's fine with me moving them, even if he is a little dubious about whether it will work or not. His main response was pretty much "good luck" though. I may call him to come stuporvise on the move, he's constantly trying to get pictures of the wildlife and such in our area and share with the locals... and with crows it does promise to be at least mildly entertaining in the process.

I'll see if I can at least get somebody to take some pictures when the time comes, to share the adventure with ya'll. If all else fails though, we're getting into orphaned kitten time of year, so we'll probably have some cuteness pictures before the summer is out.