Sunday, June 29, 2008

Finally catching up...

Help! It's going to harvest my brain!!!


A lot has happened in our lives over the past few weeks. Some good, some not. So this post may be a bit like drinking from a firehose.

Let's see...

- We had one late night emergency room visit (for something neither serious nor interesting)

- Our 20+ year old cat Pepper was put to sleep. He had a good, long life.

- One of our chickens died - not from predators, but some other malady. The rest seem fine.

- Our cow got mastitis. She got it pretty bad and we had to medicate her and dump her milk for about 10 days. (A big thank-you to my wife for playing vet.) I was actually surprised that it hadn't happened earlier, what with my inexperience and all. But still it's a pain. As with many bacterial problems these days, it flared up again after the medication wore off, so we're back to new medicine and dumping milk for several more days.

- I took the twins to the county fair over the weekend, where much fun was had and my wallet was beaten to a pulp. And Amelia tried to escape that ride where your back is against the inside of a giant rotating drum, which then tips up vertically. Her escape attempt was basically to sit down, but that put the little safety strap above her head. My brain knew enough about physics to realize she wasn't in any danger, but I still held her arm with a death grip until the ride was over.

- Our hay was cut - though our neighbor who was doing the cutting couldn't fit his equipment through our 10-foot gates. Another neighbor stepped in and cut it for us. Unfortunately it's been rained on like five or six times since then. So, uh... hooray for compost!

- We harvested our first blueberries! They don't really grow well here because they are so picky about acidic soil. But I have such fond memories of picking blueberries with my grandfather in Connecticut (and my grandmother's endless blueberry concoctions) that I had to plant some. So I got three dwarf varieties and planted them in a big planter box full of peat moss and mulched with pine nuggets. Mmmmm. I hate to say it but they're even better than my grandparents' berries...

- Our gooseberries are almost ripe. Let's hope we get some before the chickens eat them all. The blueberries have bird netting over them. I may need to do the same for the gooseberries. And the currants. The grapes are coming along nicely. We'll have to wait another year (or maybe more) before we get apples, peaches, blackberries, or raspberries. Probably two more years for cherries. I'd guess even longer for any of our nut trees or paw paws.

- On the other hand, our "garden" is literally knee-high with weeds. I guess between the baby, the cow, and all this other stuff, something had to give. Thank you CSA for providing our garden veg, since my own efforts are doomed.

- I decided to abandon our worm bin. The chickens end up getting most of our kitchen scraps rather than the worms. A neglected worm bin generates fruit flies and the like.

- Speaking of which, I moved our "compost bin" (quotes because the chickens eat it all so I never have any compost) from it's old location between the house and the barn to a new spot right under the kitchen window. So now when cooking is done, you just crank open the window and dump the veggie scraps out. The chooks didn't have any trouble adapting to the new location.

- We saw our first eastern bluebird today. They might be my favorite bird, just because they're so rare at this point. Here's a really poor photo...

- We made strawberry jam for the first time. We got about 7 pints. Then we followed that up with five pints of black raspberry jam. Oh. My. Goodness. My mouth is watering as I type this.

- Our cow's been bred (artificially) to a Jersey bull. Our neighbor with the loaner Angus was taking too long. We're already a month or two later than we'd like. At this point I may be milking well into January. Next time we'll know better.

I did see something rather interesting the other day. I wandered out to the pasture to find Meadow. Usually when I go out to milk she's already waiting for me, with her head in the stanchion, looking expectant. But for some reason yesterday she wasn't around. I soon found out - she had a new friend. There was a red-winged blackbird perched on her back, gobbling up flies.

The flies have been a nuisance. but the home remedies didn't do anything, and the store-bought fly spray didn't do much either (and is a possible suspect in our chicken death). So instead of spraying anything, I've switched to closing up the barn to keep it as dark as I can get it. I also try to shoo the flies off her before she comes into the barn. Of course that doesn't work if she's already in there tapping her hoof waiting for me. I also hung some 3-inch wide strips of screening material in the doorway (which will make more sense after a future post). The idea was that as she walks through the strips, the flies are brushed off. It does seem to help a little, but I didn't have enough strips to go all the way across the doorway yet.

Another trick that Meadow came up with the other day, which was pretty successful, was to gallop and buck a little while swishing her tail, just before she runs into the barn. The flies all take off and she runs out from under the cloud. It's interesting what can happen when you leave the work to Mother Nature.

Speaking of which, I was talking to the vet about her mastitis problem. She said one thing that can help is to run cold water on the udder - it can get very hot and feel feverish. I thought, well, that explains why Meadow's been in the pond so much - right up to her udder.

And finally, a photo I took of Amelia one day while Lori was out all afternoon with the boys.

I call it, "Bad Father":

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

I have questions

I have a real post, with photos, words, stories, etc. I've been trying to post it for days, but things just keep tripping me up.

So here's another quick post, with some questions that I want answers to...

- Why does a new shovel handle cost more than a new shovel? Same goes for axes and other tools. Insanity.

- Why does drinking tea make me thirsty? How is that possible? The more I drink, the thirstier I get.

- Why does ginger, a noted stomach soother, give me terrible heartburn? Ginger ale, gingerbread cookies, certain ethnic foods... I drank a ginger beer at a Sri Lankan restaurant when we lived in Cincinnati, and I thought I was going to die like Kane in Alien.

- How can my five-year-old out-smart me from time to time? Am I dumber than a five-year-old? Wait, don't answer that.

- What will be the next farm-oriented cliche that comes to life at our house? We've already experienced the literal versions of such classics as playing chicken, kick the bucket, and no use crying over spilled milk.

Now just to balance things out a tiny bit... wait, can you balance something a tiny bit? Isn't it kind of all or nothing? Sorry. Just to change things up a bit, I'll give you an answer to a question I'm sure you've been losing sleep over:

What is the collective noun for skunks? You know, like a pod of whales or a pride of lions. I thought a passel of skunks sounded good, but that's not the answer.

I'll give you a second....

There are actually two correct answers....

And both are surprisingly appropriate....

Well, you can either have a surfeit of skunks, or a stench of skunks. Possibly both.

Ask me how I know...

Okay, now you can sleep soundly tonight, secure in the knowledge that you can talk about a group of skunks properly. I think those same two collective nouns apply to attorneys too, so there you go.



Thursday, June 19, 2008

A song

I have some stuff to share, but no time to share it. So I shall instead share the song my son made up this morning.

"Tall as the Sea" - to the tune of "Falsetto Monotone".

I'm tall as the ocean;
I'm tall as the sea;

I'm tall as the sea;
I'm tall as the sea;

I'm tall as the sea;
I'm tall as the sea;

I'm tall as the sea;
I'm tall as the sea;

And also, I'm selfish.



Monday, June 09, 2008

Falling apart

Status changes of various household items this week:
Air conditionerBroken
Amelia's brand new glassesBroken
Automatic ice makerBroken
Glass shelf in fridgeShatteredI guess four gallons of milk in glass bottles is too much
Subaru engineSub-optimalMileage is off by 20% for unknown reasons
Subaru side mirrorBrokenOk, this has been broken for a long time, but even duct tape isn't holding up in this heat wave.
Sky chairBrokenThe one cool spot to sit on a hot day, and despite a variety of solutions, the anchor it hangs from keeps falling out, dropping the user on his/her butt onto the concrete porch.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bad jokes

Okay, so since nobody got the Meadow joke, I might as well explain. Jokes that need to be explained aren't funny any more, but... You've heard of that critically acclaimed show, The Sopranos? It's about a New Jersey mob boss named Tony Soprano. He has a beautiful daughter named Meadow. Jersey girl, Meadow... ok, never mind. Really lame joke.

But while we're on the subject, have you noticed that the art of actually telling jokes is pretty much gone? Do you remember anyone telling you a joke in person in the past, oh, ten years or so? Especially something other than a one-liner?

The internet has killed joke telling. You don't tell jokes any more. You forward them.

So now I shall contribute to the problem by passing along some bad jokes via the internet. I can't tell two of these three at work anyway...


A drunk walks into a bar with a box. "What's in the box?" asks the bartender.

"Check thish out," says the drunk, and opens the lid. Inside the box is a tiny piano, and a tiny man playing the piano.

"Wow!" shouts the bartender. "That's amazing! Does he do requests? Where did you get this?!"

"Well, thur wass this genie, see," says the drunk. "An' he gave me treeh wishhess. Fer my firsht wish, I wished fer a gallon of whiskey. Annnn' I drank it. Fer my shecond wishh, I asked fer a gallon of rrrum. An' uhh. Wull, I drank that too. Affter that it gets a lil fuzzy, becaush I don't remember my third wish," he says.

"But I'm pretty sure it wasn't for a twelve-inch pianist."


A small farmer got a visit from the local government employment office.

"I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent. "We need to make sure you're paying fair wages to your staff."

"Well," replied the farmer, "there's my farm hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $400 a week plus free room and board. The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $450 per week plus free room and board."

"Then there's the half-wit. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night. He also sleeps with my wife occasionally."

"I'm going to need to talk to the half-wit," says the agent.

The farmer replies, "You're talkin' to him right now..."


An American relocates to the English countryside to set up a small farm. After purchasing some land, he decides to meet some local farmers, in hopes of buying some livestock. He starts walking toward town.

He sees a small cottage a ways up the road. He notices it has a chicken coop. "Fresh eggs!" he says to himself, "and meat too! Perfect."

He knocks on the door of the cottage. After introducing himself to the lady of the house, he inquires about buying one rooster and one hen.

"Certainly," says the woman, "but you should know that around here we say 'pullet' instead of 'hen', and we say 'cock' instead of 'rooster.' "

"Thank you, ma'am, I'll try to remember that," he says. After paying her, he takes one bird in each arm, and turns back toward home.

On the way back, he notices a donkey alone in a pasture. "A donkey could help me plow!" he thinks, "and provide manure for fertilizer. Perfect!"

He knocks on the door of the nearby house, and a crusty old gentleman opens the door.

"I'm interested in your donkey," he says.

"He's all yours," says the old man. "I'm too old, and he's too stubborn."

"By the way," he adds, "around here we don't call 'em 'donkeys.' We say 'asses.'"

"Right, right," says the American. "I'm still learning the little differences."

"Oh and one more thing," the old man adds, "If he won't walk, just give 'im a tickle and he'll get goin'."

"Thanks again!" says the American. With a chicken in each arm, he decides to try riding the donkey home.

When he's almost back, the donkey stops suddenly, and starts leisurely munching some grass along the roadside. The man tries to reach around and tickle the donkey, but the birds in his arms make it too awkward.

He puzzles over what to do next. He notices the woman who lives next to him coming up the road. "Excuse me!" he shouts. "Could you hold my cock and pullet while I tickle my ass?"


My sincere apologies...


Friday, June 06, 2008

Everybody loves Crunchy

You know, there's been a lot of love out there in the blogosphere for Crunchy Chicken and her family. Everybody says how great she is, how wonderful her blog is, how inspiring...

Retch. Let me ask you: What do we really know about Ms. Chicken? How carefully have we been reading her posts? I think it's time to put Crunchy under the microscope.

I've carefully examined over two of her blog posts, and I see nothing but trouble. Let's just let her own words speak for themselves...
"I was a TP whore"

"I best go get my ass waxed!"

"I even ground some crackers."

"I just make too much money"

"I've been getting a lot..."

"And then I could sell my hairball jewelry on Etsy."

"I just about sprayed Yogi Tea out my nose"

"I got back several very positive responses and started working on a website, Goods 4 Girls. It's been a busy week and since then the website is up, I've got aid organizations on board, and the donations are coming in. It's been very inspiring and I have you all to thank for the encouragement and offers of donations."

"I just wanted to fill you all in on the latest shipment of pads to Africa from Goods 4 Girls. This week I sent out 500 pads (100 kits)! They will be delivered to South Sudan in early May by the Vermont-based non-profit called the New Sudan Education Initiative (NESEI). "

Is this really a person we should be heaping praise on? Should we really be donating money to her causes?

I'll let you, dear readers, decide for yourselves...


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Monday, June 02, 2008

More cow notes

Sorry, no baby pictures this time. Actually, no pictures at all. I'm a slacker... I'll post some non-cow stuff next time. Just getting caught up on some interesting developments in this area...

I don't think I've mentioned or cow's name yet. It's Meadow. You know, because she's a Jersey girl and and all.

If you are laughing right now, you watch too much TV. If not, well, it is a nice name for a cow, don't you think?

Something cool happened the other day. A neighbor I hadn't met before stopped by. (One cool thing about living out here is that you can call somebody a "neighbor" even if they live a couple miles away.) He was initially going to ask if he could put a couple cows on our overgrown pasture (like we've done in the past), but then he heard the tell-tale mooing coming from the vicinity of our barn.

I told him we were planning for another neighbor cut hay for us. Meanwhile Meadow plaintively bawled in the background. So he proposes a solution: He'll cut our hay for us in exchange for bringing some bovine pals for Meadow. And my first thought was, wait, I thought the way barter works is that you get something of value and you give up something of value. Both halves of the trade were beneficial to me.

Obviously what we'd be giving up is theoretical future hay, based on the grass the new cattle would graze. And theoretical wear & tear on the fences. I'm told I should ask him to cut hay and ask for money in exchange for grazing a couple of his animals in our pasture. But I really do feel like we're benefiting in multiple ways, and the trivial amount of cash ($20 per head per month, apparently) is unnecessary at this point.

I mean, we'd be getting our hay cut and baled. We'd be getting additional grass cutting and fertilizer spreading. We'd be getting companions for Meadow. We'd be contributing to the local, naturally raised meat supply. And we'd be developing a relationship with a guy who knows things and knows people and who lives right up the road from us.

He's already told me he can provide us with corn for our winter heating needs (instead of driving 25 miles each way). He can provide us with an Angus bull for breeding purposes (since we now know for sure that Meadow is not bred). He can put us in touch with a small local grain mill (which apparently is hidden from the general public because I've been searching for it for a couple years now). He can put us in touch with a vet who is closer than the one we use now (and is also apparently in stealth mode). He can provide us with freezer beef (at least unless/until we grow our own). He'd be interested in buying any of Meadow's calves that we don't want to keep. And he just seems like a good guy. I'll take building this relationship over a little gas money.

In other news, we successfully made homemade ice cream. Mmmmm. No cheese yet, but we're getting there.

And we were happy to learn (or have even further confirmed) that our milk, just like our eggs, is much more nutritious than the usual suspects. I guess animals are like computers (and people, come to think of it) in one sense: Garbage in, garbage out. Or not, as the case may be.

Milk from pastured cows:
• 39% more Omega-3 fatty acids
• 33% more Vitamin E
• 60% more CLA9 (conjugated linoleic acid)
(and I suspect more, but that's all this particular study covered)

Eggs from pastured chickens:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

So.... woohoo!


Followup note: I just found this site that shows all kinds of nutritional benefits to our little backyard endeavor.


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