Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to Alex!

This little fella turns 8 today. He's the reason I have kids, and will always be my first "lil' pip". Thank you Alex, I'm so glad you were born.

Hank's Epilogue

You may have read about Hank earlier this month. He came to us by accident nearly a month ago when Chris' mom found him in a parking lot. After trying very hard for two weeks to give him a home here we finally had to face the fact that this wasn't the place for him. Being a young, untrained puppy he really needed someone's undivided attention. Unfortunately the kids also each require my undivided attention, which I already can't give them, so having Hank pushed things over the top.

During the time we had him, the kids and I all fell in love with him so we decided if we couldn't keep him we had to find the most excellent home for him. I searched far and wide on the internet and had inquiries from California, Ohio, Minnesota, Arizona, and Wisconsin. We finally found the perfect home: a 70 acre farm in Wisconsin, where he is the best buddy of a 12 year old girl. He will do 4-H with her in agility and herding, and she and her mom will be able to show their dogs together because her mom also has an Aussie pup! And they are close to my dad so we can visit him the next time we head that way. These are photos of Hank in his new home with his new best friends.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My boys

I hope Blogspot works on local time because I want this to be dated May 23, 2006. Today is Scotty and Chris' 6th and 36th birthdays. I remember when I woke at about 3AM on May 23, 2000 and said "happy birthday" to my beloved husband, who promptly replied with "is the baby coming?"

13 hours later I was holding my first child in my hands. 5 hours after that I listened to Kate and Anna sing "Firstborn" on the folks' weekly radio show Home of Happy Feet on KUNM

Tonight I listened to it again and bawled as hard as I did the first time. Thanks Mom and the Guys for thinking of us tonight.

Scotty has new baby ducklings, his very own mini machine shop, some more cool K'NEX, and a big Rainbow Fish book. This evening the birthday boys snuggled together in the papasan chair and chatted the night away while I nursed Eliza to sleep.

We will celebrate with Chris' dad and Maria on Thursday and with my mom this weekend.

It's a good day.

(words and music by Kate McGarrigle/Garden Court Music ASCAP)

The silver spoon's in the mouth
Baby clothes are baby-blue
Nothing's ever handed down
Everything's brand new
Newspaper notices heralding that great event
Daddy's buddies send the flowers
Mother's friends have baby showers
Welcoming that Heaven sent

That first born son is always the one
The first to be called and the last to come
He's his mother's favorite, his grandmother's too
He'll break their hearts and he'll break yours too

For he's the first to creep and the first to crawl
The first to walk and the first to fall
Every bruise is kissed, every cry is heard
Every doubt's cast out with a soothing word

'Cause he's that first born son, he's that special one
No matter what comes next, no matter what comes along
Be it another boy or a sweet baby girl
The family's the oyster and he is the pearl

Some of them make it, some of them don't
Some of them can't, others won't grow up

In the bible of old, according to Exodus
Every first born son of a Jew got axed
But the one who survived with the help of God's hand
Led his people to the promised land

Yes he's that first born son, he's that son of a gun
Just hates to walk, just loves to run
He loves to run as fast as he can
With life held tight in the palm of his hand

Friday, May 12, 2006

Too cute not to share

This was taken last fall on the night before we left on our big Midwest trip.


Chris' dad's (Papa's) vertical steam engine. Scotty has followed in Papa's footsteps and absolutely loves the steam engines. He is well versed in the kinds of gears, types of engines, all the parts of the engines and what they do, and so on. We're pretty glad to have the engines here because as fuel prices rise they may prove quite useful and even necessary in the near future.

The sheep

Our three Navajo-Churro sheep. Ruidoso is the black ewe in the front and the dominant animal. Next there's Coffee the ram lamb, and Cinnamon is behind him with the horns. When those two have lambs, the first one will have to be named Cappuccino of course.

View from the front

Here's the view from the front of our house. Pretty much everything you can see is part of our farm. The plowed section of the field is for erda gardens, the CSA we are working with . They are putting in blue corn and in exchange we get a share of their crop, which is being grown in several locations this year. Note the wild child in the bottom of the frame. She's very tan but has no tan lines--one of the luxuries of living semi-rurally.


Nearly a week ago our lives changed. We went to dinner at Chris' mom's house for her birthday (Happy Birthday to both Moms!) and she had an unexpected guest. In her window I saw a white faced dog jumping up and down trying to see out and/or escape.

He had picked her car in the grocery parking lot and tried to eat her hot dog buns. She invited him in and he accepted. She spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do with him and was pretty stressed by the time we got there. Her friend came to visit and said he looks like a Hank. He pooped in her bedroom. We kept him on a leash for the entire evening and took turns holding it. Because it was Saturday there were no shelters open but our friend Syl offered to try him in her fenced backyard for the night. So after a long day we drove him up to her house hoping that he might be a good fit for them.

7:30 the next morning she called to say he'd been escaping repeatedly all night. He pooped in her house too. OK, bring him down and we'll keep him until Monday. Chris took him next door to his dad's place so he could hang with their dogs and be in a large fenced yard. He did pretty well over there until he pooped in their house too. Not looking good for old Hank! I was away all day working at my mom's and when I returned the dog was in our house with Chris. I sat down on the floor and the dog immediately put his head on my feet and fell asleep. Have I mentioned that he is a puppy? And that he's totally adorable? And friendly, and very tolerant of the kids, and loves people? Still, we both agreed that he was gone ASAP. Chris spent the night sleeping with Hank's leash in his hand so if he needed to go out he'd wake Chris up. It was also the first night outside for the chicks so it was actually good for Chris to wake up a few times to check on them. So Monday we got a paper, scoured the neighborhood for signs, took him to get scanned for a chip, and made some more calls. Meanwhile he started to be a pretty good dog. He responded well to "no", stayed close most of the time, and didn't poop in our house!

By Tuesday we had had no luck finding an owner. We had also decided that we couldn't send him to the pound. Here's the best part: he's an Australian Shepherd. He has strong instincts for herding. This was very clear as he had much more of an interest in the cows and sheep than in the baby chicks. He also likes to nip the kids' heels as they run through the house. He needs a place where he can work and run. Gee, did we know of a place like that? Slowly the idea that he might stay began to creep into our minds.

On Wednesday he actually helped me return a wandering cow to her pasture! She tried to run past me and he turned her around and got her going the right way. Without his help I would have been running all over that field. But that evening he got in with the sheep repeatedly and chased them around their pasture. One step forward and two steps back for Hank.

By Thursday he was doing much better with the sheep--still getting in there but stopping when we scolded him. I had been online looking for dog training info and started to use some of the techniques with him. He took to it immediately, learning very fast. Our friend Jean came over with a crate for him and some accessories and said she thought he'd be a great dog. She also told me about the BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet which really appeals to me and makes a lot of sense. I checked the classifieds again and found an ad for a lost male aussie shepherd and I have to admit my heart sank a bit. But the ad was for a dog who had one blue eye and one brown--Hank's are both brown.

Today I researched food sources for BARF and got Hank a pinch collar. We went for a walk around the neighborhood and he learned to heel very quickly. The main problems I am having are with him leaving the property (which is dangerous because our neighbors who own livestock have every right to protect it which often means lethal force) and with keeping Eliza from being too rough with him. He's very tolerant of it, but even the nicest dog has his limits. So, as with the other animals, constant vigilance is necessary. Also I haven't dared leave him alone yet. He is woefully unhappy when left alone and that is when he'll destroy things or poop in the house. Chris has been in the field the last two nights, so unless Hank can come with us we haven't gone anywhere (like the grocery store for example). He is becoming more comfortable with his crate so pretty soon I'll try locking him up in it for short periods. And he can always visit the dogs at Chris' dad's if they are home.

With Chris away it has been a comfort to have a dog in the house. He has also really bonded to me and seems quite sure this is his home. So now I accidentally have a blog AND a dog.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Chicken energy

It's absolutely amazing how much energy a chicken can produce. A mother hen must keep her brood warm for weeks on end. For just one week we have been brooding our nearly 50 chicks at an average 90 degrees Farenheit. The single 40 watt bulb that has done the job has been running 24/7 and has brought our electrical system to its knees. We have a small off-grid system, designed thoughtfully to use minimal energy and cost as little as possible. All winter we ran our efficient, DC refrigerator and freezer, our TVs and computer, our vacuum cleaner, power tools, microwave, and compact fluorescent lights. Nearly every day we were able to recharge our batteries fully without any noticeable sacrifices on our parts. Sure, we keep lights off when not in use and we unplug appliances to avoid phantom loads, but we were never in the dark or without TV or radio due to an energy shortage. Until tonight.

This morning we hit the lowest point so far in battery capacity, and due to cloudy weather today we only recharged a fifth of what we needed to reach 100%. So this evening the kids and I decided that we would use no electricity tonight. We made a bonfire outside and stayed out there until dark. Then we came in and used candles while getting ready for bed. Both easily fell asleep moments ago and now I'm cheating a bit just long enough to make this blog entry.

Point being, we are getting an idea of how much energy our modern society really uses. All of the "conveniences" that we take for granted, all the lights left on day and night for show, for security, for convenience, or for raising chickens amount to an unfathomable amount of energy used. It makes us, as a small family, feel insignificant in the little we are able to save. It also makes us wonder how people ever raised chickens before there was electricity. I guess they did it the old fashioned way--they let the hens do it!

The good news is we planted 10 tomato plants today--all different, some with fun names like Pink Ping Pong and Hillbilly. Eliza helped me put them in their holes and as she put each one in she told it that it was a sweet little plant and we were going to take good care of it and keep it safe and sound. Surely her words will benefit the little guys on their first night in the garden. We also put in some parsley, borage, and basil. Yesterday we seeded in some carrots and some more flowers on the west side. The kids fed the sheep about a pound of corn last night while I wasn't looking and though I cleaned up as much as I could the sheep got enough of it to have some runny stools today. I hope they are OK by tomorrow. We put the corn out of the kids' reach so it shouldn't happen again. The chicks are growing and doing well despite the best efforts of Eliza to accidentally harm one.

Signing off now to get back to the voluntary blackout. I guess I'll have to go to bed early tonight!