Did a late round of chores last night to try to get ahead of this storm… Zeus helped, in his fashion… Tearing through the snowdrifts as I took bedding and water to the hens, snuggled the beehive with strawbales, and filled the wood bin… Batten down the hatches, folks. More snow on the way all day, then negative 46ish windchills on Monday. Shudder.
Panther sighting this morning … lock up the chickens!
Just kidding. It’s a starving pitbull puppy that followed the fella down our alley this morning (actually, chicken caution is probably due anyway… ha). He asked it if it wanted to come in, opened our gate and he ran right it. He called me from work to tell me we have a new dog. He has a collar (ironically with cartoon skeleton faces on it … he’s so emaciated he looks like one himself)… but no tags, and if he hasnt been a stray for awhile whoever was his “owner” isn’t getting him back. Poor guy… or rather, lucky guy for finding us. He’s all bones and waggy tail… he can stay, for now at least … we’ll fatten him up and teach him some manners… hopefully he and Zeus will hit it off… Zoo is not too thrilled right now that there’s a stranger on his porch eating his groceries.
I was trying to get a picture of these roses still blooming in our late November garden, but Zeus had other ideas… they’re pretty and apparently also delicious. He came over for a sniff, then
very delicatly snatched it from my hand and proceeded to maul it, plucking petals and strewing them about. I suppose I enjoy rose tea or jam myself…
Here’s take two… the bright side of climate change! No need to move back to the south. I can stay put and wait while it comes to me.
Hey, I’m trying to be an optimist here!
Things are pretty good here, though amazingly busy, hence the lack of updates. Unfortunately, bad news brings me back here… nothing other than a chicken murder mystery this morning. I knew something was off when the speckled sussex was out of the coop when I let the dog out for the second time this morning. I quickly put the (very excited) dog away in her crate with some breakfast and headed back to the yard to re-coop the errant fowl. She had been joined by two of her sisters (the red stars), in the garden path outside the coop run, and I started noticing more clues… I haltingly followed a trail of feathers and then with now-nervous steps, bloodspots in the snow, until I found our buff orpington in the yard by the woodshed (or what was left of her)… something pulled her under the coop-run gate (the hardware cloth was pulled loose from the bottom fence post, and there was a litter of blonde feathers where she was dragged through the wire, poor thing, then down the path, under or over the garden fence, and then found a private spot for a snack. Unfortunately the snow is days old, hard and crunchy, and already covered with tons of tracks, and I left quite a few on the garden side before knowing to look carefully. Not sure if it was our dog when the fella let her out earlier this morning before heading to his man-date doing guy things with his guy buddies (he has Pulaski Day off work), or if it was something else later this morning before I let her out again at 11ish.
I couldn’t see any heavy dog-paw prints on the garden-side of the fence leading to the coop, and am nearly certain it was a raccoon- we have them in the neighborhood, and it looks like the scuffle-signs and missing feathers start *inside* the run and maybe even in the coop itself (the coop scrub brush was knocked off its hook on the wall, there were a few loose feathers, and chaff in the cobwebs on the ceiling- signs of a midnight scuffle? Or a nestbox nabbing?), which would expunge the canine guilt-potential as there are no dog-sized openings in the fence. Whatever it was dragged the hen through and under the fence wire, which seems like typical raccoon m.o… I did hear a bit of squawking around 10:30 am, which I thought was just normal egg-song or them fighting over some tasty bit of scratch… but in retrospect might have been more ominous. Kicking myself now for not going out to check sooner. We do have raccoons nearby, but would have to be pretty ballsy to grab a chicken in broad daylight from a yard with a big dog often about… but this time of year, could easily be hungry enough to try it, or have kits to feed… or perhaps the crime happened in the cover of night and the dog was too entranced by the remaining escaped chickens to care about the carcass or drag it out in the yard (maybe she hoped we’d not find it and she was saving it for a later snack)… though I think she would have hopped the low garden fence to get at the girls in there if they’d been loose earlier- I know she’s capable and would have no qualms about it fence-hopping and chicken chasing, given the possiblity of a chicken caper, she’d choose it. Or maybe it was a really bad-ass alley cat, sick of rat-hunting and going for a bigger snack? My bets on raccoon though. RIP, chicken. Thank you for your contribututions to feeding us, and for being such a willing chicken-ambassador at the Urban Livestock Expo. You are already missed.
Urgh. Now I’m just debating what to do with the remains so I can let the dog out again… and really hoping that it wasn’t the dog’s work- though I wouldn’t put it past her! The ground is frozen solid with a light layer of snow, so this chicky may have to get a burial at the landfill, which seems like such a waste, and trash day isn’t till next Friday. At least it’s freezing out and not August… though if it were August she’d get a shallow grave with a stout rock on top near an apple tree. Oh, sigh. We’ve had a bad run with Buff Orpingtons. Such sweet birds… but lost the first to heat stroke (because the dummy was too dumb to leave the coop and nest box and go out into the fresh air like the other hens) and now this. Time to shore up chicken-Gitmo and be more vigilant about locking up the girls at night… until now we’d been pretty lucky with the dog-deterance-defense and Nite-Guard red blinky light (supposed to scare away predators), and had been putting off coop-renovations as the whole shebang is going to get moved and rebuilt when we (hopefully) close on the vacant lot next door. Need to decide soon… of course poor chicky is right in front of the woodshed entrance, and it’s time to feed the fire. There’s one big log still inside… we try to save those for banking the fire at night though maybe I’ll use it and hopefully the fella will deal with remains removal when he gets home? In that case, better get some hot vittles ready to sweeten the deal for the guy… roasted salmon with oyster mushrooms? Or oyster mushroom empanadas? Or cream of oyster mushroom soup? Are you noticing a theme here? Whatever we have for dinner, it will be fungal-flavored…
On a lighter note, we had another excellent installment of Kedz-mart yesterday… Adela Red, the Finder Things, and I were joined by Safara, with beautiful scarves and textiles from Turkey, Squasht Boutique with hats and knitware, and some other regulars who display their wares with The Finder Things. Bot Bakery brought us their excess vegan snackies from the Logan Square Farmer’s Market- thanks for the baked goods, Betty Bot! I sold some soap and other goodies, and traded soaps and brown sugar scrubs for a super-cute crusher hat from Squasht (it’s reversible, with basic grey chambray on one side, and a green, brown, and white floral on the other side that is sorta girly-urban-camo like… I likey!). Traded a bottle of patchouli oil and some egg futures for a screenprinted and handmade cat pillow that I’ve been eying for awhile, and made a couple homemade pizzas to share. Got to hang out with some old friends and neighbors, and meet some new ones. Good times! Hope to see you all at the next one… Bring handmade or vintage goods and goodies to sell or trade, and tell your friends!
In honor of the sprinkle of snow we might get today, this looks like a blast… although we’d need a LOT of obedience work before I’d let Ms. Isabella take the lead:
More on this dog team:
But more importantly, my clever friends, another engineering challenge: I need you to fabricate something like this, but that I can afford. I’ll pay you in pie, tamales, salsa, salad, soap and candy… and of course reimburse you for materials.
Would have to be wicked strong- Bella is 80# but if she sees a rabbit (or cat, squirrel, other dog, bus, streetsweeper, “suspicious character”… etc…) she has the tow force and torque of a mack truck. A hungry mack truck, with bloodlust and foam-flecked face. Seems like something like this would be a good way to get her more exercise though which she really needs- she can walk for hours and not be tired (I don’t have hours, haha)… and really really wants to move faster than I can keep up with on foot. So either I take up jogging (not likely), quit my job and hike with her all day (nice in theory, but not an option) or figure out how to use mechanical advantage to my advantage. Her former owner’s son used to harness her up and “skate-jor” on his longboard, but admitted that he had to bail out more than a few times when she went running for something other than the idea of running forwards. She does seem to love running alongside our bikes, but not as much as she likes the idea of “herding” them by cutting in front of the wheel. Not fun for us, or safe for either of us!
Most importantly, this way she could join us on long rides- she can pull me and our gear uphill, then hop in the dog trailer when she gets tired or for the downhill slolom. Genius! The fella and I, pre-dog-ownership, looked forward to at least one bike camping trip each summer… this could help make that still a reality without an expensive boarding bill or the need for a house sitter (we have nice neighbors who feed our chickens for us in exchange for keeping the eggs while we’re away). I’ve always daydreamed about eventually doing a long extended trip (like to the Ozarks to visit my family, via the Katy trail, or even coast-to-coast!), which this would be probably more practical for… most of our short weekend trips rely on taking the metra to “slingshot” out of town and save some of the more tedious peri-urban slog of getting somewhere less traveled. Without getting her a service dog vest she’s not welcome on the train… and she’d give herself away as a fraud in about 35 seconds (the muzzle she should probably start wearing in public while we work on impulse-control would be the first dead give-away). I suppose we could enlist a friend to give us a lift outside town and either ride home or get a pick-up on the return trip… though the idea of needing a car to use your bike rubs both of us the wrong way…
I do think a lot of her anxiety and issues would smooth out if she got more vigorous physical activity on a more frequent basis (doing backflips and scaring the bejesus out of anyone who walks down our alley notwithstanding), and this looks like one way to get there! Otherwise, someday the fella is going to make her a dog cart from an old canoe cart he picked up at an estate sale, and she’s going to haul downed firewood home from our walks around the neighborhood… that, or the fella once said he was going to get up and start jogging with her before work, which would do them both good (yeah, it would be good for me too, but good intentions and fantasy-land aside, that’s just not going to happen. I’ll have the coffee and kibble ready when they get home, haha). Carting would be good though. She does LOVE having a job to do… and she could earn her keep by hauling home her own kibble like this guy!
Here’s a good primer on dog carting, from which I borrowed that last image!
Ok crazy dog lady. Time for work! I’ve got Orange Chai Spice soap to make, and will be whipping up some Brown Sugar Scrubs and maybe other yummy bath and body goodies for Sunday’s Urban Folk Circuit market at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market. Hup to it!
So, the fella forwarded me an invite to another of our friend’s quarterly farm supper events… and had one of his always-pragmatic suggestions… that “instead of writing dear diaries to the internet world, maybe you can plan and execute farm dinners. hmm. just a thought.” Those who know me know that this is a frequent day-dream of mine… I just have a hard time a) with the current state of our venue(s), and b) with the idea of charging my friends to come over for dinner.
As far as issue a)… either I could get creative and use someone else’s space… (Catington Station? Ahem?)… get a hustle on and get our house put together, or capitalize on the current rough slate we’ve got. Sure, we’ll just throw a tarp over the double stack of insulation and work-related mess, issue our guests parkas at the door, and charge them double for the grittiness of it. Free dinner for anyone who manages to shoot the rat.
Yes, the rat, which has set up camp behind the oven, evaded numerous pellet-gun assassination attempts, tip-toed around the jumbo glue-traps placed on either side of the rear of the oven, and stolen the peanut I used to bait the snap-trap on the counter. Ew. Crafty little bastard… and I can’t poison it as I’m afraid it will die IN the oven. The fella of course countered that the rat could be the first course… “organic indoor raised free range rat”. I’ve eaten ‘coon. I’ve eaten squirrel. I realize the hypocrisy, and I’m sure the difference is purely semantic, but I can’t see myself trying or preparing rat unless actually starving. Our friend, to whom we related our woes at New Years, said he’d dispatched many a rat when he resided at The Grand Manor, and suggested sardines as foolproof bait. I’ll be trying that this afternoon… as soon as I figure out how to ensure that I don’t catch a Rott instead. I guess that’s one way to train her once and for all to stop counter-surfing when we’re not looking… but a little too harsh for my liking as it could actually really hurt her instead of just teaching her a hard lesson. Hm.
As far as the charging for dinner thing… I guess that’s my own hang-up and inner-cheapness that I need to get over. I love feeding people… most folks love my food… and cooking for people is what I paid a LOT of money to learn how to do well. Most people spend a lot of money going out to eat… why shouldn’t they support what we’re doing at the same time? That said, send me an email, or comment if you want to get added to the email list if and when we put one of these together!
10.5 at work. More time from home reading, writing, and answering emails.
4 hours on my bike (28 miles).
7 or more hours shoveling wood chip mulch after work (a truckload or two at least? The pile has sort of mushed together so I’m not sure how many loads there are…).
2 dog walks.
2 pots of coffee.
9 eggs from the hens.
in the kitchen: raspberry custard pies, blanched tomatoes for salsa, dehydrated 10 trays of eggplant and other veggies, sauteed and froze two gallon bags of eggplant, sliced cukes for pickles, and of course dishes, cleaning…
Whew! Now back to the kitchen- need to make those tomatoes into salsa and can it up, check the stock that’s in the crock pot, fill the dehydrator with more onions or potatoes, check the bees, take the salsa scraps out to the chickens, do a load of laundry, feed the worm bins, make something for dinner and the fellow’s lunch tomorrow, maybe surprise him by stapling up some insulation in the ceiling before he gets home, and if there’s any daylight left, work on stripping the front door trim for a bit.
Bella and Harley had a playdate. I don’t get to see much of my old pal Harley since her papa moved out of the ‘hood, but he brought her over a while ago for a visit. So much rott racing and romping… I wasn’t sure if our backyard could contain it.
There was one moment of drama when Harley disappeared inside, and reappeared… carrying Bella’s GIANT bone that she’d snatched from her crate. Harley just stood there looking at her sheepishly, head cocked with a goofy grin, looking as innocent as possible while holding the purloined beef femur. I’ve never heard Bella growl so deeply… and luckily Harley thought better of her prank and promptly gave the bone back, which Bella proceeded to knaw, reclaiming her prize. We took it away from both of ’em lest any further fits of jealousy be sparked… and a good time was had by all!
Ok, time to pack it up here, head to the studio, and make soap! I’ve been scheming on a new recipe for awhile and it’s time to jump in and do it… coming soon… Treehugger! A blend of spruces, pine, a touch of patchouli, tea tree, spice, and other woodsy goodness, speckled with blue spruce needles… still need to tweak the blend but it should be a nice addition to the line! It will be cured and ready by the second open studio… something to look forward to! But first, some glam shots from today’s back porch photo shoot… and there will be more tomorrow!