Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Cat's Life

Here's Bruce's latest cinematic offering.  Utilizing the same process of time lapse photography he used in filming the setting moon, this time he set up the tripod in the dining area and trained the camera on Arby.  Arby spends a LOT of time practicing his sleeping technique on this pillow, so it's little wonder that he makes it look so easy.  The setting moon showed more animation than this cat -- a jar of catnip and an open can of cat food barely got him on his feet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Llamas Anyone?

Take a walk along the dam, look over the fence, and you'll probably see these guys munching away in the lower pasture.  They don't belong to us, but we let our neighbor graze them there. 

I suppose it's a little odd to have llamas in the backyard, but they really are pretty humdrum creatures.  Running into them is exciting for about one nano-second.  Then one waits for them to do something interesting.  But they don't.  They just slowly chew their cuds and stare in a slow-motion, sneering sort of way. 

OK, one fascinating thing about llamas is that they have areas of the pasture that they've obviously set aside as their personal potty places.  Unlike every other animal around here (not counting ourselves) who spread their poop out far and wide, llamas are anal (literally) about only doing their business in very specific spots.  In the middle of an open area will be a small, but impressive mound of black, shiny pellets.  When Mr. Llama feels a call of nature, he'll hurry over to the nearest mound, back up to it and take a hearty dump.  And thus, through this regular raining of pellets day after day, the mounds grow slowly taller. 

Llama poo looks to be potent stuff.  I'm thinking of asking Bruce to take the tractor down and bring up some scoops of the stuff for the compost heap.  But now I'm rethinking this.  I want to see how tall those mounds can get.  Such a dilemma.

I know you must be vastly curious to see the monuments that these two llamas have created.  Pictures to follow soon...
Never a dull moment around here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Last Day of Thanksgiving Break

Today I spent happily getting to the one thing that I haven't done since school started: weave.  I've had this scarf project sitting, halfway warped on the loom for three months now.  I'd decided to try a rather complicated lace weave for this one and, after all this time, could remember nothing about it.  Before I could start work, I had to study the directions and then clean the dust off the loom.  Yes, it's been that long.

Naturally, Arby had to help with every step of warping the loom. This is me sitting on my hard little stool threading heddles while Arby concentrates on whatever cats concentrate on. Or maybe (as I suspect) he is simply fast asleep.  Love that dangling hind leg!

Zelda supervised from just outside the sliding doors.  She glowered in from the comfort of a deck chair while leaves softly rained down on her.

Despite all the felines unwavering efforts to help, I actually managed to get the entire project on the loom and ready to weave by early afternoon. 
Tomorrow evening I can begin weaving.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Moon Over Gopher Ridge


This evening, soon after the sun went down, Bruce came by the back door, tripod and camera in hand.  "Have you seen the moon?"  he asked.  I hadn't, so tiptoed out to the deck in my slippers to take a look.     Wow!                                  
 I'm so fortunate to be married to a man who notices things like the moon.

 I asked him how he shot this, and he explained that he used a time-lapse remote shutter switch and with it took approximately 180 shots in a 15 minute time frame.  Then he used a program called Movie Maker to put all the shots together into one video (OK, so I made the man stand right behind me while I typed this so I'd get it down right).

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Last Pepper

                                            Here it is -- the last green pepper from the garden. 

Today I pulled up the last of the pepper plants and put up a sweet pea teepee. 

Arby supervised


Bruce noticed this praying mantis egg case on one of the poles, so I had to tie them up very carefully.  Don't want to go disturbing the nursery!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Very Cranberry Thanksgiving

Only six of us at the table, but it was a jolly feast -- a hobbit would say it rained drink and snowed food.  Once again, Bruce and I had The Battle of the Turkeys.  As is our custom, Bruce cooked his outside in the barrel smoker, while mine was stuffed and roasted in the oven.  And maddeningly, as usual, no one would admit that my turkey was infinitely superior, even though we all knew that his turkey was soundly trounced.  Everyone was just too diplomatic to say it.  But I'm not!  :)  

But, on this day, it wasn't the turkeys that ended up taking center stage -- it was, for reasons you will soon see,  the cranberry sauce.  I adore the sweet-savory flavor of cranberry sauce with turkey, and this Thanksgiving I went overboard and we ended up with a total of four different cranberry sauces set around the table. 

The happy group minus me: Bruce, Alan, Becky, Oma Claire and Grandpa Ian

The happy group minus Becky

Oma and Grandpa (note blue bowls of cranberry sauce - this is important)
Moments after the last picture was taken, a piece of flaming wick fell off one of the candles and set fire to the tablecloth.  Not surprisingly, this made for a bit of panic around the table.  At first Alan, who was sitting closest, tried to mash out the flame with his thumb.  This was unsuccessful (and cries of pain ensued).  Quick thinker that he is, Alan then flicked the wick into the nearest bowl of cranberry sauce (my hot jalepeno recipe suddenly got hotter).   The flame gave up and fizzled out.  Alan scooped the soggy wick out of the bowl with a spoon and heroically carried it off to the kitchen sink.  Enthusiastic applause.

The lesson: little bowls of cranberry sauce, strategically placed around the table, make fine fire extinguishers.  Who knew?  So now my used-once-a-year Thanksgiving tablecloth has a memory of this feast in the form of a small hole in the middle of it.  Pish - no worries; next year I'll just cover it with a bowl of cranberry sauce.

Despite that excitement, it was a lovely get-together.  We ended with a desert of the two lovely pies that Oma had baked.  Good food, good conversation and lots of leftovers to send home with our guests.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Day Before Thanksgiving

Today was a quiet sort of day -- I liked it.  We pretty much laid low except for Bruce going to the market to pick up a few things that we sort of forgot on the first shopping list.  We played cribbage, loafed around, and in the afternoon I began cooking and Bruce used the leaf blower to get rid of the first (of many) leaves.

Bruce also took some pictures.

Murphy: the Happiest Dog on the Planet

Raptor in a Bull Pine

I took some pictures too.  Our hens are molting and have stopped laying. We finally were down to absolutely no eggs at all.  So, while at Costco (on the same momentous day that we bought potatoes), we caved and bought a box of 18 organic free range chicken eggs.  I wanted to cry.    

The day that we brought home our Costco eggs, our flock got down to business and gave us two eggs.  Their two are on the bottom of the picture -- they look almost identical to the Costco eggs...

...but break one open and the difference is immediately obvious.

Can you tell which one is ours?  The four anemic Costco eggs are on bottom and our Frogpond egg is at one o'clock.  Fat orangey yolk -- those Costco eggs can't compete! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Curtain Opens...

Once again, potatoes have been very much on my mind -- unfortunately, not in a good way. Early last spring we planted some twenty or so pounds of nine varieties of seed potatoes which we harvested, with great pride, in July.  Washed, sorted, divided into cute baskets and labeled -- a very satisfying project.  They looked like this:


Bruce and I are hearty potato eaters.  We ate them all summer long, and anyone who visited the house had to leave with a bag of them.

Fast forward five months, and lift up the little curtain in front of the cupboard to reveal...a cheerful army very vigorously sprouting potatoes. 

Ay yi yi!    
To be honest, I've known for some time what was slowly happening behind that little curtain, but had neither the time nor the will to do anything about it.  Things finally came to a head last weekend when we were doing a pre-Thanksgiving shopping at Costco.  We stood in front of a large bin of sacks and sacks of unsprouted potatoes.  Bruce looked at me and I looked at him.  And then we put a bag of russets in our cart.

Which left me to finally have to confront my own eagerly sprouting spuds.  We definitely didn't want to eat them and it was too early in the season to plant them.  So I trundled them off to the compost heap where Bruce raked compost over them.  Who knows?  Maybe some of them will thrive in there -- I hope so.  If not, they'll make good compost.

Funny how even when things work out perfectly right, they still can go off the tracks.  Perhaps next spring I won't plant quite so many...


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tupelos from Gopher Ridge

Autumn is so ephemeral.  I'm glad that we got up the hill to take pictures today -- a brisk breeze was gusting and the wet leaves were falling thick and fast.  If we didn't get our act together, there'd be nothing left to take pictures of but bare branches.

This afternoon, after the rain stopped, Bruce and I drove up the steep gravel road that dead ends at the top of Gopher Ridge.  Bruce used his 300 mm lens and a tripod.  We had to wait for a few minutes for the sun to emerge from behind the clouds, so I used the time to plant more poppy seed alongside the road.

 I also took some pictures with my own little camera. 

Look carefully: right smack dab in the center of the picture, you can see a bright spot of red: those are the tupelo trees.  It's nice to be able to point out where our house is so easily -- this doesn't happen very often.

Now here's Bruce's picture with his zoom lens:

This is what I was talking about -- three audaciously scarlet tupelo trees (not to mention the brilliant yellow Japanese pagoda trees in the background)  surrounded by all the soft greeny-greys of the native vegetation.  

OK, we managed to get our picture.  Now all the leaves can drop off!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our Wild Men Tupelos

   Tonight it's supposed to rain, but I hope that it doesn't because tomorrow we want to take some more pictures of the tupelo trees in all their glory.  We should have gone out and photographed them today.  Well, we'll see how things look in the morning.

As we settle into late autumn, our surrounding hillsides are subtle shades of greyed greens and browns.  All the colors are soft and muted at this time of year...

...until you come across our three tupelos;  flamboyant wild men decked out in gaudy reds, oranges and scarlets.  I love these trees.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Break Begins!

This week was Parent/Teacher Conference Week at school.  Every afternoon I sat with my 4th graders' parents and went over first trimester report cards.  The other 4th grade teacher and I did most of our conferences together -- I teach language arts to both of our classes and she teaches the math.  Both of us share our classes, so we conferenced together.  This meant double the conferences that each of us would have to attend, but we team together so well that this actually made things easier.  Still, it also meant for a long day.  I came home each afternoon just as it was growing dark. 

The highlight of my week was today.  On Tuesday, one of my students stood up and shared from his Writer's Notebook that he was very sad because the next day his two pigs were being sent off to be butchered.  Then he broke down in tears as the rest of the class watched in dismay.  Some of the other children began to cry too -- in sympathy, I suppose.  Finally one student picked up my box of Kleenix and began passing it out to their sobbing classmates. It was surreal and very sad. 

Later that day I mentioned that I had too many ducks and the child who was losing his pigs asked if he could take some.  Could he take some!!!  The end of this story is that Bruce came down to the school this afternoon with a box of four of our baby ducklings to give to this little boy.  They are a farm family who have chickens and other animals, so they'll know how to care for them.  The boy (a small, serious child with red hair) was ecstatic.  All his classmates were also able to meet the ducklings and, of course, they all wanted their own too (but that is another story).  The boy's grandmother and Bruce had a good conversation about how to care for the ducklings -- and off they went.  No pictures of any of this, but I'm sure that you can imagine it. 

When I became a teacher, it was because I wanted to make a difference -- I wanted to do good work.  I make so many mistakes every day and am quick to beat myself up about every one of them.  But when something right comes together like it did today, my heart is just about bursting with happiness.  A good way to start Thanksgiving...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday, Part 2 -- Burn Day

In addition to the new ducklings (who are still in the stall with their mama and doing fine), planting flowers and horseback riding, last Sunday was also the day we finally were able to burn the huge pile of brush we've been collecting since last spring. 

The strong, late winter winds brought down a number of mature trees around the place.  One of them was this old grey pine that stood on one end of the pond.  It came crashing down one stormy night and has lain massively along the path all summer long, gradually getting drier and browner.  Bruce has been steadily sawing it into pieces and hauling it up the hill to the upper pad.  Burning up here is strictly forbidden during the hot summer and early autumn months, so the pile just kept getting taller and broader with the passing weeks.

Finally, last Friday, we had a steady rain, the weather cooled down and the humidity went up.  Burning restrictions were lifted and on Sunday afternoon Bruce set to work. 

Bruce is generally very conservative when he burns anything outside -- he builds small, 4x4 foot fires that he feeds only a few sticks of wood at a time.  It takes forever.  Days.  On this afternoon, though, the conditions were so good that he used the tractor to push large sections of the brush pile into the flame.  The fire shot up, but it was safe because there was nowhere for it to go but up.  The entire pile was a mound of ashes in about three hours time.

One dog with a stick: Seal

Perhaps everything went so we because all three dogs did their part.

Two dogs with a stick: Seal and Murphy

Three dogs with a stick: Seal, Murphy and Arlo

                              Fun times!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday, Part 1

Squeaker and Brood

On Sunday, the day started with this.  About eleven of the setting duck's nineteen eggs hatched.  Mama and babies are doing well.  We're keeping them in stall #3 for the time being -- the last brood of babies were taken, one and all, by hawks within the first two days that they went down to the pond.  We admit that we have too many ducks, but will not feed them to hawks without a fight.  There is little cuter than a baby duck (Lord help us).

Marigolds and Phlox
 It was a good sort of Sunday.  Mama came up Saturday afternoon and spent the night. We had a nice visit and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (prepared by our own Chef Bruce).  After she left, I planted some winter phlox in the raised bed by the house.  The frost hasn't gotten my marigolds yet and I couldn't bear to pull them up while they're still blooming.  Their time will soon come.  Until then, the phlox and marigolds can share the bed.
Then I got Corny out of the pasture, tacked him up and rode.  No pictures of this -- and I'm sorry about that, because he looked quite dapper in his new autumn-orange saddle pad.  Next time.  When I was a kid, riding simply involved jumping up onto a horse and taking off.  Now, I have to remember all sorts of stuff and getting the two of us ready for a 40 minute ride takes about 40 minutes in itself.  For Corny: grooming, hooves cleaned, saddle pads, saddle, bridle and leg wraps.  For me: tight breeches, tight socks, tight boots, tight helmet and tight gloves.  Do you see a pattern here?  Even my spurs are tight-fitting and must be wedged on.  By the time I'm ready to climb aboard, Corny looks pretty comfortable, but I feel (and, no doubt, look) a bit like a sausage.

Anyway, we had an invigorating walk-trot ride in the arena.  Tell you what, though: I was definitely feeling saddle sore today as I hobbled around school.  This is what comes when you only ride once every six months.

Corny still seems to be getting along all right as an only horse.  Yesterday I came out and discovered horse, ducks and dog just sort of hanging out and relaxing together in the afternoon sunshine.  That brought a smile.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Day After a Sad Day

Today was lovely.  The tail-end of yesterday's storms were still passing through in the early morning, but by mid-morning the sun broke through. The clouds streaming by were dramatic and the light was exquisite.

I took Mary's advice to heart that I should keep Cornelius's mind occupied and pamper him.  So, to occupy his mind (and work off a bit more of his mighty gut), I brought him down to the arena and worked him on the longe line for about half hour.  With his fuzzy winter coat, he was sweating in no time. 

Afterwards, we went on to the pampering part and he and I went for a walk to see the sights.  First we went up the little hill in the area behind the arena and then took a stroll around the pond. 

Corny has always loved water.  When he was a baby, he and the other yearlings used to swim in the pond on hot days.  Today when we reached the water's edge, he eagerly stepped right in.  As I didn't want to play in that cold water, I let him go out as far as he could on on the end of his lead while I planted my feet on the shore.

First, he stuck his muzzle down into the water as far as it would go... The boy kept it down there for a long time as he nosed around the bottom.  He blew happy bubbles.

When he came up for air, he waded farther out; splashing the water until it turned white and frothy.

He played in the pond like a big silly water-baby for about ten minutes. Then we went back up to the house where I proceeded to give him his final bath of the year -- shampoo and all. 

Strangely, he didn't like the water coming from the hose nearly as much as the water in the pond.

I'm a little surprised (and much relieved) by how well Corny has adjusted to being an only horse.  I don't think we'll have to be in any rush to immediately find him a companion -- we can wait until the right one shows up (but I know that another one will come along).  Until then, he can hang out with his human mommy.  I think he's good with that.

Tomorrow I plan to ride.  Corny can hardly wait!

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Sarah

She's gone.  The vet, Mike, was extremely kind and competent -- a compassionate man who took the time to talk with me.  Through it all, I was pretty brave, Corny was upset (Mike had to give him a sedative), while Bruce (naturally) was a rock.  And Miss Sarah took everything calmly.  Now that it's all over, my heart is heavy.  But I'm also relieved that we were able to do right by Sarah by releasing her from needless suffering. 

Now it's almost dark, and the rain is coming down softly.  I went outside to keep Corny company while he ate.  The rain pattered in a comforting way on the metal roof and there certainly was nothing wrong with My Boy's appetite.  So I think everything's going to be OK.  I got an email from my trainer, Mary, telling me that I should get back to working him starting tomorrow (I've...um... sort of slacked off on the Corny exercise program) in order to get his mind occupied with other things.  I'll be doing that (Corny will be so thrilled.  Not!).