Thursday, February 28, 2008

Picture of the Day: Some say I still pout like this..

Do you remember what it was like to be ten and be having the worst life ever? I sure do.

Do you remember what it was like to have an adorable little sister who stole all your attention, just by being so damn cute? Yup, welcome to my torment.

Do you remember what it was like having such a spectacularly hot mother that boys in your second-grade class would transfer their pledges of eternal love from you to your mom once they met her? Oh yeah. Been there. It really sucked.

See what a rough life I had?
This picture proves it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008's for the birds!!

We've noticed a new little guy visiting one of our feeders. He really likes oily black sunflower seeds. On the day I took these pictures, he sat on this feeder for much of the afternoon. I could almost hear the chipmunky little thoughts running through his fuzzy head ....

"Anybody looking?":

"I'm going in!":

A taste of the other side:

"I am SO full":

A quick escape:

"Heeey, baby!"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oh, the tricks I can do...

Some of you may know me from occasional guest appearances on this blog. My name is Roxy and today is my day. My mom has been hogging the computer for weeks, but, now, it's finally my turn. Many people ask just what kind of dog I am. On paper, I am half Cairn Terrier and half Shih Tzu, however, I prefer to identify myself as princess of the house. I am also an extremely clever dog and have decided it's time I showed you just how smart I am. My mom thinks she taught me a lot of these things. Really, though, I was going to do them anyway and I just like to make her feel good.

When she says certain words to me, I will do all the usual stuff that humans seem to like so much, like sit, lie down, roll over, and speak (of course!).
But I can also shake...

and play dead:

Then there are the things I do just because they make my mom laugh...

For example, I tolerate this ridiculous sweater:

I balance a cookie on my nose and flip it into my mouth without dropping it (this is *really* embarrassing):

I let them put superhero masks on me:

And I make a point of *always* being the focal point of every picture. Even when I'm not:

Want to see the cutest picture ever? Here's me as a pup:

But before I let mom back on the computer, there are some things I do that make ME really happy, and well, those are the ones I really wanted to share with you today.

I always like to keep an eye on my mom to make sure she's safe:

I love to visit Walter the bunny:

Without being asked, I like to pose on all the tree stumps around my new farm:

I enjoy kayaking:

And I adore running on the beach:

But I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I really need a bath, a clipping and a nail cut. Yeah, my mom's thinking that, too. But I don't like baths...

and I HATE going to the groomer.

I become Evil Dog when either of these two things happen. I can't help it. My hair gets all snarled and it's impossible to get a brush through it. We've tried everything. Unfortunately, Mom keeps telling me I smell and Dad keeps pulling huge clumps of matted fur off me, so Mom has made me an appointment at the groomer for this Friday. I'm pretending I don't know. However, I've got it all worked out. I'm going to hide the morning of the appointment and see if she can find me. It'll be really funny. Besides, do you blame me?? Here's what happened last time she took me to that place...



Do you blame me for being a bit unnerved about Friday?

Bye for now,

Monday, February 25, 2008

My first "big animal" purchase

Not the animal itself, mind you, but something for one (or two or...).

It's the February Farm Show Days Sale at Wilco Farm Supply Co-op and I wanted to take advantage of it. We bought a 100 gallon stock tank yesterday afternoon for a really great price. Two months ago, I didn't even know what a stock tank was. Or Wilco, for that matter.

I'm very excited.

Now, if I just had some big animals to drink from it, life would be perfect.

How far is far enough? How close is too close?

Seventy-five feet? Thirty feet? Attached to the house? Underneath the porch?

The title of this post gives the impression that I'm about to write an article on relationships, doesn't it? But, no. These are all minimum distances and locations I have read about for building chicken coops and hen houses. This conflicting information has left me a bit stymied as to how to proceed on my own hen house and coop.

To build a hen house 75' from our house seems awfully far away. Perhaps this is for the larger chicken-rearing operations where smell would be a bigger factor? I'm planning to start with just ten or twelve hens and "keep a clean house" - if that's possible in the chicken world.

Since I won't be attaching it to the house, and under the porch isn't even remotely an option, the 30' distance is sounding pretty reasonable right now.

Unfortunately, we are very delayed in building our hen housing. Here it is, almost March (chick time), and we've yet to even start. In our defense, we did only just move in one month ago. Still, the first chicks are being delivered to my local farm and feed store on March 6th. That's a week and a half from now! I'm not sure I'm going to be able to make this date, but I sure as hell am going to try.

The pictures below show where I've decided I want to put my hen house and run. This first photo is looking south. You can barely see our house on the left and, if you enlarge the photo, you can see my barn up the hill, also to the left, in the distance:

The three logs in the photo above (I rolled these UP the hill in frustration when I realized how much help I'm going to need building this coop) indicate where the ground starts to become level. There are five logs there now (the frustration just wouldn't dampen) and I was really sore the next day.

The photo below is looking north. You'll need to use your imagination to envision a cute little home for chickens, because I know this land here doesn't look like much now. The building on the right of this picture is our detached garage.

This area is one of three fenced fields behind our house. And they aren't really fields...they're more...fenced off areas for horses. This is what this property was before - a home for 2 horses. Nothing, really, is growing here that can be called sustenance for anybody other than, maybe, a few goats. Oh, and chickens. There are definitely a lot of bugs out there. But I digress.

My hen house. The location I have chosen is the only flat spot in any of the fields. We really have some hilly pastures! It's also close enough to the house, that if (when) predators show up, I'm going to hear about it and be able to see, relatively quickly, what's going on.

There are two potential problems - or concerns- to situating the hens here, though.

Issue #1: The proximity to the house. Hence the title of this post. To all you experienced chicken keepers out there, is this too close? The climate here is very wet...we average 36.3" of rain a year, so the humidity and mold-factor is quite high. My chosen site is approximately 57 feet, diagonally, from the downstairs door of the house. I was surprised when we measured - it actually looked much closer, but my son and I measured, and double-measured, this morning. Perhaps I am worrying about this for nothing, and the distance is sufficient.

Issue #2: There is no gate or entrance to the field from where I want to build. This is a hard one. It is DARK out here at night. The current gate is a good distance from the house, so I'm imagining myself walking out there at night, in the dark, opening the gate, and then walking back the same way I just came, but on the other side of the fence, to get to the chickens. Moving wheelbarrows, carrying feed, lugging water in winter, etc. will be a frustration very quickly.

So, here's the gate currently (if you click on the photo to enlarge, the arrow may show up better):

Here's where it needs to be:

Because the fencing is electrified, this makes any alteration complicated. And expensive. It's going to cost about $600 just to put in a small, new gate, sink new posts, rewire, recap, and reground the fencing.

Yet, amid all the complexities of getting my project going and mulling it all over in my head, a very bright spot happened today: my friend and fellow blogger, Ms. In-Between, (a.k.a. Mindi) came for a visit. She was in town on business and wanted to see our new place. Mindi and I used to work together, but I haven't seen her in probably two years. Having her over was like having a ray of sunshine in my house! She is so upbeat and supportive and there is constantly a smile on her beautiful face. She, my son, Aidan, and I talked chickens, coops, compost, gardening, etc. for at least a couple hours and it was heaven!

Here are Aidan and Mindi giving a lot of thought to coop placement (it's so sunny you can hardly see all those damn logs I rolled up the hill):

Before Mindi left to drive back home to Central Oregon, she left us some of her yummy-smelling, homemade soaps. Mmmmmmm.....

At least we'll all smell good while we're building our first chicken house!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My day, with no pictures

5:00am: Alarm goes off.
5:03am: Run downstairs to see why my son, Aidan, isn't up yet.
5:45am: Son and I run out the front door with his ski gear, my laptop, my farm apparel, my food for sanctuary board meeting, my fuzzy blanket and pillow. Why do I have so much more to carry than he does?
6:15am: Get son to ski bus just in the nick of time before it leaves. I really hate being late. Or almost being late.
6:40am: Drive south to a local public transportation park-n-ride, climb into the back of my truck and take a nap.
7:45am: Wake up freezing, call my mom to see if I can come over because it's really cold in the car (and I have to pee). She says "of course". Moms are like that.
8:00am: Drink coffee and chat with my mom and stepdad. We talk about pruning raspberries, hot and cold compost piles, the book "In Defense of Food", and funny things my pup, Roxy, has done lately. I really love those two people.
9:05am: My mom asks me to help her remember her blogger login and password so that she can leave comments for me on my blog again. It takes us a bit, but we figure it all out.
9:35am: Eat a hard-boiled egg and chocolate chip cookie, both of which were made by my mom. Both are extra yummy-tasting because of this.
9:40am: Fly out the door, late as usual, and drive to the "Cat Adoption Team", a local cat rescue facility, approximately 25 minutes south, to load up about 300 pounds of dry dog and cat food for the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary into the back of my truck. No more naps for me in the back of the truck today.
10:40am: Start the 75 minute drive to the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary. Today is volunteer work party day *and* the board meeting afterwards.
12:00pm - 1:00pm: Arrive at Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary. Feed carrots to 400lb pig named Luke. Check on status of henhouse mucking out. Unload 300 pounds of dry dog and cat food into tool shed. Feed apples and carrots to sheep, goats, donkeys, Roy the cow, and Ben and Fyrefly, the horses. I get off easy today - a bunch of other people are already mucking out the sheep and the goat pens.
1:00 - 3:30pm: Farm Sanctuary Board Meeting. Difficult discussions today. We've had a hard winter. The state of the economy is affecting us. Donations are down. Animal abandonment, neglect and abuse are up. We're excited, though, because our annual Easter event is coming up, which is a lot of fun and normally brings in a lot of money for the farm. So it appears that we are simultaneously a bit depressed yet still hopeful. What's up with that?
3:35pm: Hose off black rubber boots. Mud and manure are caked almost to the tops of them.
3:48pm: Leave the farm, heading back to Portland in time to meet Aidan at his ski bus. But, oops, I've forgotten my laptop at my mom's, so another quick stop-over there is needed.
4:55pm: Hug my mom, talk to my stepdad about his poetry selection process (he writes for and publishes an incredible bi-annual poetry journal (Windfall) that focuses on poetry of place), run back out the door to get Aidan.
5:15pm: Meet up with Aidan, relinquish the driver's seat so he can drive (learner's permit), start drive back home.
6:00pm: Stop to pick up miscellaneous fast food for dinner (Panda Express and Mexican), finish drive home, hug my husband, check email.
9:12pm: Sit by a really nice fire, with glass of wine and pup by my side, and see if, when I document my day's events, whether I think anyone else will find them interesting at all.

I can't decide.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Donkeys want to live in my barn

Donkeys want to live in my barn. I can just feel it.

I have developed an extreme fondness for donkeys that I'm not sure many people understand. This affection actually extends to any member of the Equidae family and Equus genus, however, donkeys, in particular, touch me. In my experience, they are such curious:



and friendly creatures.

They are so happy to be the beneficiary of a kind voice, a pat or a scratch:

...and maybe a small treat or two:

It was one of my biggest wishes, when we moved out here to our little farm, that I would be able to continue my efforts to help animals that have been abandoned, abused, or neglected. While my son and I continue to spend a great deal of time at the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary, I would now like to bring some of this very rewarding work home.

I first heard of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue about a year ago, but didn't contact them until early December, shortly before we moved to our new property. They are a well-respected, highly organized, non-profit organization that is currently establishing Satellite Adoption Centers (SACs) across the country. I have signed up to become such an adoption center for the Northern Oregon/Southern Washington area. If accepted, I would become, basically, a foster mama for up to six donkeys, while trying to find them new families to love them and adopt them.

This appeals to me on a number of levels: 1) it furthers my animal activism and volunteerism, 2) it gets me close to donkeys and 3) it helps these precious guys find homes they deserve.

I've reached stage four of the PVDR application process (Stage 1: initial contact and inquiry on my part, which was followed by an email acknowledgement from the founder of Peaceful Valley stating "yes, we are interested in speaking with you further". Stage 2: Follow-up phone call from SAC coordinator to interview me and request that I fill out required paperwork and send photos of my property and barn. Stage 3: Email follow-up that they've received my paperwork, that my property "looks beautiful" and that they'll "be in touch". Stage 4: A visit by one of the Rescue employees will be scheduled to check out, in person, whether I would be a good donkey mama. This is the part I'm now waiting for. Last word was that in March or April, the SAC coordinator would be coming through my area and will stop by to meet me then.

So, I think donkeys want to live in my barn.

This will make me very happy if this works out.

My son, Aidan, and his pal, Oyte (pronounced Odie) at the Lighthouse Farm:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Know your remote farmer

Shopping at our local chain grocery store recently, I noticed an interesting new tag on some of the produce. Have you seen these in your area?

These tags allow you to search online to find out where the produce you are buying has originated:

Supposedly, at this online site, when you type in the produce ID included on this tag, you can "meet" the actual farmer who has grown your produce:

Possibly in an effort to counter the growing "eat local" movement, a new campaign has been created to allow consumers to get to know their not-so-local farmer.

Now, the skeptic in me questions this immediately. It would be nice if this was a rural farmer organization's attempt to maintain a connection to their customers and address the growing concern of where our food comes from and how it is grown. Instead, I fear this is the mega-grocery corporations' attempts to soothe and placate our worried brows so that their food market and profits aren't impacted by us gaining our senses.

I decided to go to the site offered on my tag and punch in my ID number:

If I believe what is posted, while not exactly local, my onions were at least grown in my state. Grown outside the small town of Nyssa, Oregon (301 miles east of Portland), my onions travelled - after going to the local packing/shipping company and back - about 400 miles to get to my hot little hands.

Of course, I clicked on the video to meet my farmer. My farmers are Warren and Jim Farmer (kid you not). This is actually a pretty cute video of two men looking really uncomfortable for the camera:

Further investigation shows me that it is the packing plant itself, Fort Boise Packing, located in Parma, Idaho, that is responsible for the Trace Produce program.

Unfortunately, none of the info they provide addresses any of my other concerns...growing methods, sustainable growing practices, use of chemicals, transportation and fuel costs. But I do appreciate knowing that my onions weren't grown in China. :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What's next to YOUR sink?

Meg and Kelly at Future House Farm posted a blog a couple weeks ago about what is IN their sink and what it means. I've been noticing lately what's NEXT to mine.

Here you'll see a of couple wine glasses from last night (no further comment necessary), the rinsed out blender from my husband's daily protein drinks and...the beginnings of my compost pile:

I'm in awe of my collection of compostables so far. With the lids on, the contents are already starting to do amazing things inside...getting all moist and steamy and smelly. Jim, on the other hand, is starting to get a bit eeked out by my fascination with our growing collection of biodegradable food scraps on our countertop.

You see, there was peace in our home when it was just one container. However, I've been promising to stake out and start our first-ever compost pile for weeks now. And while my intention to do this remains steadfast - it is still undone. In my defense, though, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I just have so many GREAT IDEAS and PROJECT THOUGHTS constantly coursing through my head. And that there are just not enough hours in a day to get to them all. But, now that the compost container quantity inside our home has reached three, and I am now in need of a fourth, I either need to start hiding my containers or this project needs to move to the top of the list.

I'll keep you posted.