Friday, January 28, 2011

Thank you to the ditch witch...

I have discovered a new 'tool'... it's called a ditch witch.

I like this machine!  It does an awesome job.

While it was here, I tried to get the man to use it to break up a new garden area!

After  two weeks or more of 'water hijinx', I am eternally grateful to say that our
nearly 70 year old pipes running from the well to the house, which disintegrated when touched,
have been replaced....

... and once again, water flows, we have 'indoor' plumbing, toilets flush and we have clean hair!
Laundry can be done and meal preparation is so much easier.  I didn't realize how many times a day I wash my hands until I had to do it with more primitive equipment.

I hope that we're seeing the end in sight of bad run of 'aged utilities/appliances, bad weather and just
aggravating inconveniences.

The chickens also hope that the end is in sight.
They HATE the very cold.  Naturally, this is just when their bodies went through the molt.
Otherwise proud rooster without his gorgeous tail, his comb discolored from the very cold weather.

A hen, so embarrassed by her plumage that she refused to have a face shot:

Actually, she was busy running to where the ditch witch was turning up grubs and bugs.

For the uninitiated in chicken life, the molt will happen, their feathers will fall out, leaving you a comical looking bird, but during this time, they 'rest' from egg production.  When the molt is over, which takes about 6 weeks or so for my chickens, because I do not supplement with artificial light, they'll return to laying my morning eggs and filling the early mornings with their productive cackling.  Adding lights at night, to lengthen their days, will return them to condition earlier, but I give my flock it's natural break, even while I despise storebought eggs during the   ahem... layoff period... tehehehe.  Rest is good and rest is natural and as it should be in the grand cycle of things.

And might you wonder what these girls are looking at?

Tank, who was having a shy moment... something rare for him.

In his defense, this is a particularly forward batch of hens.

Stormy simply refuses to be out and about when the chickens are running loose.
She sat on the porch and guarded my knitting, just in case the plumber guys might decide to rest and knit a spell in the rockers.

I did my first of the year 'front porch knitting'... which certainly has a way of making me feel better.
Though it was nice and brisk, in the low 50's, my rocker on the porch is protected from the wind and for a while each day, is in the nicest little late winter sunbeam...  from my happy perch, I could survey the 'kingdom' and chat with the workmen, who periodically needed me to turn water in the house on and off.  I could supervise rumpus time for the puppies and start a project with the nice strong natural light.  I could hear the cluck of the rooster when he found a particularly tasty morsel and called his girls to 'come and get it'...

I spent a while chatting with the neighbor, who heard all the commotion of the machinery and came to 'check on me'... we caught up on the 'goings on' in both families and lamented over the inconveniences of the season.

I'm not sure that I say often enough how very much I love living in the country.

I do...

...while there are always trials, it abounds with blessings.
Simply taking the time to see it gives a new perspective on the troubles and reminds me that
life is best lived, one day at a time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Animal adjustments

I am trying to get a photo of this... I really am.

After nearly two weeks with the pups, the kitten has decided that they're not going away.

And she's decided that Stormy, who's inside when I'm inside, might... just might... make a suitable play date.

Yesterday, I witnessed this, and again, this morning...

She, Phoebe (also widely known as Damn Cat, hereafter on this blog she might be called DC, because even I have a hard time calling her Phoebe... I simply call her 'the cat'), was sitting at the dog food bowl.

Now, I do not have a clue as to why she wants to eat dog food and Stormy is extremely desirous of eating cat food, especially since it seems to cause digestive dilemnas on both fronts, but there she sat.

And just behind her, very quiet like, Stormy stood, tail wagging fiercely.
And in her mouth, Stormy's mouth, that is, was the cat's tail.

Now the cat has a very fluffy tail, and the tail is black, though the cat is white... and it's a twitchy, bewitchey sort of tail.  I can see how it might be something you'd want to play with.  Indeed, the boys are frequently seen attempting to attach themselves to the cat's tail, but that's another story, for another day.

Anyway, it took a solid three minutes before the cat became aware that her tail was attached to a small, but fast growing German Shepherd.  There was a pregnant moment where she (the cat) had a look of consternation, before...

... she went back to eating.

This morning, while I was still sleepy and having that first cup of coffee, sitting in 'my' chair... I realized that the cat, who was sitting on the coffee table, tail twitching was being stalked.  And sure enough, the fluffy tail was apprehended by the curious pup.  A single swat from the cat netted the tail it's freedom and some happy, yappy barking.

These two are PLAYING with each other.

There are happy hide and seek games under the table cloth in the dining room.  There is 'I don't fit behind the couch' sorts of yowling.  There are races up and down the stairs.

But most importantly, we now have some nice quiet lap time, with BOTH animals sitting quietly, side by side in the chair with me.  (Yes, at the risk of being quite repetative, I realize that she's a German Shepherd and that they are LARGE dogs!)  Last night, I was knitting when the cat joined Stormy and me, and while neither animal seemed to want to get involved with the knitting, it just seemed like too much going on in the chair at the same time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Country life moment.

So, mid afternoon, like so many other times in the last week, the puppy needed to go out.

And instead of going out the front door, I went out the back...

...because the sun was shining brightly and the deck steps were dry.

I had a cook book with me... the kind that are fundraisers for churches and such, so I sat down, there, in the sun.

Now earlier in the day I had turned the chickens out for a walkabout.
They've been penned in the bad weather, and I'll admit that I thought it would be sorta funny to watch them on the nice hard skating rink, that in the summer months doubles as our garden.

And it was funny... (not for them)... quite funny! Chickens are fun to watch on an average day, but throw in some hard, solid ice and it's a surefire giggle inducer.

I have been housebound for a week and so will take my giggles where I can get them.

Anyway, back to the sunshine and the steps and the pup.

She headed out to find a patch of grass, which we just now have resurfacing, when suddenly, she came barreling back to lodge her little pudgy self between my feet and knees... solidly in that place that all small puppies whose lives are being threatened stick fast to. 

I looked up... to see a HERD of chickens trotting as fast as their little ice skating show feet would carry them.
And they were making pretty good time.
I can see Stormy's point... they are her weight, and significantly taller and she's not seen them on the loose before.

So we sit there, soaking up the sun, reading the cookbook and hatching a plan for supper, when I realized that I had company.  Sitting on my shoulder was a chicken... for the life of me, she was just sitting there, for all the world like she'd joined the reading party.


Such a shame there was no camera.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Can anyone tell me how it can take two small, very young puppies SOOOOOOOOOOOOO long to find just the right spot to relieve themselves?

 Don't they care that I'm standing out there in my clogs without socks, freezing my tushy off?

What can possibly be more acceptable about a tiny little piece of real estate than say, that area right there, where they are standing? 

 Why must they smell every single inch of the place before deciding that 1. they need to start over, or 2. this last place will be just right?

Come ON, puppies of mine, it's COLD outside!

A walk in the park

This is the winter, snow version of the walk in the park.
Awesome beauty, just far enough away from the house to qualify as exercise, especially if you're contending with 6 to 8 inches of snow.

By the time we went walking, birds were out and about... a red tailed hawk on the hunt, song birds foraging anywhere the earth was exposed.  Bailey, of course, needed to get INTO the river to drink and it was neat to see how the creek had only a small central water flow with much of the edges frozen rather solid.

We still have snow, and plenty of it.

A week out of school, days home from work, the slow, easy rhythm of 'down days' at home, cloaked in a blanket of snow and ice.

The mail didn't run for days!  It's ok... noone wanted to stand out by the mailbox and wait.

We stayed in the house, when we didn't have to be out feeding up the critters, or when we weren't feeling punkish at having been housebound and needed a walk.  We read and and cooked and napped and ate, and knitted ...

*I knitted, the men folk did not knit and the puppy unknitted a cap for me.

We read some more... I organized a bit (one of  my resolves for this year) and netted a bag for Goodwill, two bags for trash and recycling and found some patterns and recipes that I'd temporarily misplaced. (Ok, so they were MIA for 2 years, you caught me!)

I read some seed catalogs... that gardener's January dream.  I actually feel asleep once, warm pup in lap, seed catalog open to the heirloom tomatoes... not a bad dream for a snowy winter day.

Frozen fennel, beautiful in it's own right, reminded me to spend some time on the herb garden this year.  26 years ago, the herb garden was my very first ever Mother's Day gift from my husband... a gift that has given so many flavors and depth to life, much like the little girl that joined us.  Few days go by that I don't run out and grab some rosemary, or thyme.  Dreaming of summer basil right now, I can almost smell it.

The fields that were pasture, which are no longer needed for pasture, are being planned for our 'next round' of orchards.  Many of the fruit trees that were planted when we were married were dwarfs, with relatively limited lifespans and few remain.  Orchard Round II will be heirlooms and standards.

Massive cedars, towering majestically in the snow, make such awesome natural Christmas trees, that it makes me wonder anew why in the world we go to all the effort of late December... a few short days brought us the natural beauty.  This snow was particularly light and fluffy on the initial fall, and we escaped the heavy icing of so many winter storms, thereby retaining our electrical service.... for which I am grateful!

The sculptural beauty of the crepe myrtle is season-less, the smoothness of it's bark wrapped in a blanket of snow.

My smallest walking companion would give it a go for a while, but when she got the shakes, she hitched along, in the warmth of my jacket, little feet safe from the cold and ice.

Enough already... spring can't get here fast enough!

Monday, January 10, 2011


Morning came and Bailey was the first one out!
A veteran at snow and pretty much everything else that happens here, she was full of energy and excited to see the puppies.

Tank has turned out to be amazingly well trained to the crate at night.  He's so full of himself and excited to not be at the pound.  I'll have to post better photos of him later, as the camera batteries quit on me right in the middle of feeding up round this morning.

Stormy is shorter than the number of inches of snowfall... which looks to be about 8 inches in most places.
The snow continues to pelt down, rather hard, in fact, hard enough to hurt your eyes as you walk about.
I'll admit that walking around the backyard this morning with my eyes closed wasn't the smartest thing, as I stepped in a fed pan and took a tumble.

Daisy followed me to the chicken coop and amusedly enough discovered that one of the empty coops was blissfully free of the cold white stuff  and she's happily holed up in there.

And true to form, the well pump quit, totally unrelated to the weather adventure.  The well pump man braved the storm this morning and will return, if he is able to find a motor and if the road stays passable.  Until then, we're in full out camping mode.  In anticipation of the weather, we'd gathered up plenty of drinking water and water for cooking, and a bathtub full for the extra stuff.  Let's hope the water gets back up and running and the power stays on. The last time we had a snow of this magnitude, we had one little child and the power was out for 4 days!

I look forward to getting out with the camera and a fresh set of batteries when the snowfall lets up a bit.
What with all this little dog housetraining, I'll have ample opportunity to enjoy the weather up close and personally.

Here's to a big pot of soup, a loaf of homemade bread, a bit of challenging knitting and three good books by the chair.  If you don't hear from me again, know that we're better equipped than most.
The old house was built at a time when heat was had from the fireplace and the firewood racks are loaded and full.  Every person here is capable and prepared for emergencies and noone here is very spoiled.

Well, maybe Stormy, who will have to outgrow this business of lap sitting before she grows up, but for today, for this snowstorm, a little warm dog asleep in your lap is a nice, nice thing.

Ya'll stay warm and cozy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

You just never know what will happen...

Some days, most days in fact, I go about my day without worrying too much.  I tend to be a happy camper and am seldom prone to being down and out.  I'll admit to an occasional blue day, but most days, I find too much to do that's positive to let it keep me down too long.

I often deal with the doldrums by employing the 10 minute rule... go ahead and have a pity party... but only for 10 minutes, then, for goodness sake, get up and get on about something constructive.

It's sure worked with what can, at times, be a challenging life.

But lately, I've really struggled with the loss of the dogs.  Inside of 6 or 7 months, we lost Nick, Maggie, Nana and Booger.  And the place is too quiet... when I drive up, there's no welcome wagging... when other people drive up, there's no audible warning... Mornings and nights, there's no companionable four legged pals who 'help' me feed up, or sit with me on the porch.  Bailey, who is more than 9 years old, has felt it too.  She's my daughter's dog, really, but has lived here all of the education years.  She's always been the head lady of the pack, usually even when the other dogs have been bigger.  But she's slowed down a lot, and spends a lot of her mornings visiting my neighbor.  My neighbor, who's in her 80's, loves the company and I can't bring myself to try to make Bailey stay home.  There are no roads to cross to get there... honestly, I enjoy walking up there and sitting a spell myself.  Daisy, bless her little neurotic heart, has never been a companion animal.

Morning, noon and night... I miss my dogs.  Achingly silent, the barnyard and the front porch is not the same.

This week, while filing another   "missing in action"  report on Nana, I took a walk through a large regional shelter.  Chock full to capacity of black labs and pit bulls and mixed breeds of every type, they all looked at me with their big sad eyes, or barked and tried to get my attention and it only made the loneliness deeper and more real.  Luckily, people who work at pounds know what to do and what to say to women who stand and bawl like babies.

I left the big animal shelter and headed home.

Then, without much effort at all, I turned and went to the small local pound where I got Nana.

Now, it's never very good when the pound worker looks at you and recoils and says "Oh, I remember YOU!"  " You're the lady that came every day for a week before you made up your mind!"

Yeah... that'd be me...

and here I am, again.

A very friendly, helpful animal loving sort, he nearly drug me to see a genteel, old, very fat golden lab.
And yes, he was a sweetheart (the lab, not the man... though he's a great guy too!).
But he wasn't 'mine'...  We looked at all the dogs. 30 had been removed just this week by rescue groups, as this is a shelter where your time is up in a certain number of days.

After much mind wrangling, the very thing that I wanted most was a German Shepherd, a young one, female preferably.  The breed generally suits my needs of companion and guardian, intelligent and quiet, very trainable and a strong, big dog.  I'd seen no such dog.
One of the deals with going back time and again, is making sure that I don't make a mistake.
It's not like we don't get 'dumped out animals' often enough, where we have to make choices based on stupidity on the part of other people.  I'd rather not make a hasty choice, or choose some animal when I know, in my heart, what I want.

There was one male pup, a Rottweiler, who came close to meeting a lot of the qualifications... and he was precious... engaging enough, but after a few attempts, he simply sat down and looked at me with those droopy sad eyes. His story was that he'd been brought in on abuse and neglect charges, so he was not waiting for his owner to come find him.  He'd not be going home.

I looked, smiled and said "If I think about it, I'll see you tomorrow!~" and left.

Less than two miles from the pound, was a small, hand written sign.
...German Shepherd Pups...

I turned down the tiny little dead end road, feeling both hope and trying hard to keep myself from 'going there' in my head.  Without running on forever, after a few minutes of what can only be described as 'something you knew that you shouldn't do, but you keep going", I was standing in a whelping pen with 14 6 week old German Shepherds.  Surrounded by happy leaping, healthy pups, I saw her... over by the tree, quietly sitting, watching me intently.  She watched my every move... every pup I examined, ever move I made.  
I could hardly breathe...  the very pup that I was looking for.

There are more details, maybe for later... what you need to know is this...

She likes to sit in my lap (yes, I realize that she'll get big)...
... we like to read... I like to look at her while she naps...
As a matter of fact, her 'safe place' is that chair... if she happens to lose track of me in the house, that's where I can find her.

She's quiet and oh, so handsome!  She's quite popular.

In the face of the coldest days of the year, and in the face of house training a tiny little dog, I had to hit the sewing machine and whip her up a fashionable sweater, to stave off the shaking and quaking during our frequent outside forays.

She weighs 7 pounds, is 7 inches tall.

Her name is Stormy.

 She's my girl!

And for reasons that I cannot explain... with many thanks to my long caring husband, who has been down this road before and who NEVER flinches when he arrives home to discover 'surprises'...

you should also meet Tank...


He's between 3 and 4 months old... we'll know more when we see the vet next week.
We're treating some injuries and some degraded skin.

He's wild and  rambunctious...  the most surprising thing about Tank so far, is that he's vocal... very, very, very vocal.  He grunts and yowls, he howls with all kinds of intonation... he 'talk's all the time...

He's all big head and big feet.  He's an excellent barker... with a nice booming bark at appropriate times.

He's my boy!

So, there's lot of puppy breathe around here... and it feels so much more like home.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Knitting galore!

December was truly a knitfest romp here!  With time on my hand, and without a steady paycheck, it was time to do some serious production line knitting.

First, I made myself something. (And I WILL get someone to make a photo of me wearing it, as I'm wearing it often and loving it.) Worn as a scarf, it's provided the certain something that I needed for the holidays, proving once again, that I should knit more for myself than I do.

These weird light photos do nothing to display the color of this amazing hand dyed from Miss Babs' yarn.
Thank you, Miss Babs for my treat yarn and the inspiration, even after a rough year with the fire in your studio.  This would be a color indicator, until I can get you a shot or two of the finished garment.

Yes, I realize that's not a way to get going on the gift list.  But I'd purchased my 'treat' at SAFF and it just kept calling my name.  The day the pattern came in, I was consumed with the notion that I should sit and knit and not feed anyone, nor do any housework, nor do anything else that might be construed as productive until I'd finished the Damson.  I seldom purchase patterns, but this is one that I not only purchased, but I recommend highly.  It was a fun pattern to knit, well written and simple enough, once I started over three times to get the numbers right.  To do this, I actually laminated my pattern and used a dry erase marker to keep track of what line I was one... you see the pattern gives you a line by line breakdown on where you should be, number wise.  The designer of this one is Ysolda Teague, an awesome young Scottish designer with a style all her own. 

Next, I made a stack of caps for band kids.  Back in November, the band director assigned classwork where the kids were allowed to choose a person to whom they would dedicate their performance at the Christmas concert.  I got four of the types of letters that both warm your heart and wet your cheeks... the sorts of notes that remind you why you spend endless hours helping out where you can.  I decided that they needed a tangible object as a token of my affection and so produced these... (Two of them did not manage to get photographed, it seems... will chase those two down soon, now that school is back in session.

 This cap is a free pattern called Rib a Roni. Pattern designer is Jane Tanner from Knit Jane Knit.  It's an easy, fun knit... so easy and so much fun in fact that I believe that I've made 4 or 5 of them this season.  It rolls a bit at the bottom, so I ran a row of single crochet along the bottom to stop the roll.  It has an awesome decrease feature.

This pattern is also a free pattern called Dean Street Hat.  Designer  here is Nina Machlin Dayton.  The pattern contains a variety of sizes and two different bands.

Another free pattern that I've done several times this season is The Natural by designer Homero Luna. It's a very nice unisex cabled cap with a just right amount of cabling.  I got ahold of the pattern before errata was posted, but figured it out for myself on the fly.  I made this one in a blue heathered wool and also in a cream alpaca.

I wanted to include a scarf as part of a gift with the cream alpaca cap and not finding a pattern that would match closely enough, I wrote up the pattern as I knitted.  I will share my pattern here as soon as it has been test knit for errors and technical glitches.

I knit a pattern called Snowtracks Cap, by designer Timothy Peters for my daughter. It was published by Stitch Nation.   Ironically, as I sat down to knit it on Christmas afternoon it began to snow.  Made of soft pink alpaca, it was a happy, feel good knit.  A slightly more complicated pattern with a lovely celtic knot, this cap kept me busy for a bit longer than some of the others this season.  It was worth every minute.

See this cute smile...yeah.... worth every minute...

We could go on... and on... by last count, over the Thanksgiving to New Year holiday, I've knit 18 caps.

I still have a few to finish up... caps for a favorite family and caps for a pair of special girls. If I can land some yarn, I might just make the Damson in a dark red.  If the cold weather holds out, I'll wind up this knitting frenzy just in time to spend a few days with the seed catalogs.
You see, seed catalogs are my other 'cold winters night' indulgence.

An amazing resource, and an excellent way to get lost in cyber space is Ravelry.  If you knit and if you have not begun to Ravel, then you should join the more than one million enthusiasts who gather there.  It's a user friendly social media where you have your own space, friends, projects and where you can keep track of all things knitting.  I recommend it as a frugal resource as well, as it's a clearing house for so many free patterns.

Last but not least, I'll again reiterate... when the world around me feels like it's spinning all out of sorts, or when I need to soothe my mind, or for simply no reason at all, I can head to my chair (front porch rocker, van seat, rock at the river or insert any other seating locale you can imagine) with a ball of yarn and needles and set the world to rights with a peaceful, rhythmic past time that in the end produces warmth and comfort on so many levels.  In a meditative prayerful way, every stitch begs a blessing for the recipient and for me as well.