Saturday, November 30, 2013


At last, NaNoWriMo is over!

For some reason getting my daily word count in was like pulling teeth this year.

But I managed to slog through (actually I polished off a very long novel I started in 2011) and managed to acquire a winner's badge. Younger Daughter, on the other hand, passed her 50,000 work mark seven or eight days ago. (Prolific!)

Now comes the long editing process of this 120,000+ word novel to (hopefully) get it into marketable form.

So, who else won NaNoWriMo?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cheeky chickaree

I took an early-winter walk this week.

There wasn't much to see except this cheeky chickaree who fussed at me from some branches a short distance away.

I couldn't resist taking loads of photos. He just stood there chattering at me, posing beautifully.

Although when he did move, he was nothing more than a blur.

Mighty cute, though.

Wikipedia refers to chickarees as "enchanting to watch." They're quite right.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day

This year for the first time in a long time, we didn't hold Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Instead we joined my parents, who are staying in Coeur d'Alene.

My folks come up twice a year (spring and fall) and stay in Cd'A. (Sadly, my mother's very bad asthma precludes her from vising our farm any more.) They come mostly to see the girls, and without their brave trekking between states we would hardly see my parents at all since they live so far away. They're not usually here this late in the year, so it's a rare treat to have Thanksgiving dinner with them.

My mother and I split the cooking. She made the turkey, gravy, and veggies; I made the stuffing, dinner rolls, and dessert.

I did all my cooking yesterday. I started with bread stuffing.

Two pans, ready to cook.

Making a blueberry pie.

Dinner rolls, second rising.

The day's tally: a basket of rolls, wild rice stuffing, bread stuffing, two cheesecakes, and a blueberry pie.

Cleaning up the mess...

...then indulging in a much-needed glass of wine after nine hours of cooking.

This morning after church, we joined my folks. All the bounty was on the table.

My dad carved.

We had a lovely but quiet -- and very blessed -- Thanksgiving Day. How was yours?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Smarter than the ave-er-age cow

Remember the old Yogi Bear cartoons? "Smarter than the ave-er-age bear!" Well here's a cow a far sight smarter than the average cow. It's an animated gif showing how this cow learned to pump her own water.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A senior moment

Don went into Coeur d'Alene today to do some errands, including a stop at the excellent St. Vincent de Paul thrift store where he purchased a pair of pants and a warm winter shirt. Total due: $9.00.

While ringing up his purchase, the nice gentleman cashier asked Don if he wanted the senior discount.

Of course Don said NO. I mean, really. Don, a senior? Bah.

But just out of curiosity, Don asked how old he would have to be to get the discount.

He ended up saving $2.00.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tankards are available!

We currently have a limited selection of our exclusive tankards available for retail sale. See this link for further details.

We'll have a few more up in a couple of days, and some higher-end pieces available in a couple of weeks. Happy browsing!

Poking fun at the tinfoil hats

Recently CNNMoney featured an article entitled What I saw at the Doomsday Prepper Convention. The article begins sensibly:

More and more Americans are spending money to get ready for an uncertain future -- gathering food, water, tools, and skills to help them weather anything from a hurricane to a pandemic. Contrary to images of deluded or gun-obsessed "lone wolves," many preppers are average consumers reacting to concrete worries, and their way of thinking is spreading, fueling an emerging lifestyle trend.

The reporter seems a little surprised (and maybe just a wee bit disappointed) that the attendees of this convention were so… well, normal. I think he was hoping to see a bunch of tinfoil-hat-wearing crackpots wandering around. (To his satisfaction, he finally did find a couple.)

Instead, the reporter was informed by the show producers that the “core audience is 40-75 years old. Eighty percent have college degrees. Twenty percent of those have advanced degrees.”

Ouch. So preppers are educated, normal people. Where’s the fun in that? How can we poke fun at college-educated middle class folks with the good sense to look to their future?

Critics of the prepper crowd have yet to be able to adequately explain why being prepared is a bad idea. What's going to go through their mind when a hurricane is roaring down upon them? Are they thinking how stupid their neighbor was to have what he needed in advance? Or is he thinking how likely his neighbor might be to share the necessities of life with him when the power goes out for three weeks?

People like to think that because we live in modern times, complete with instant communication, electronic marvels, and superb medical knowledge, that we are immune from the economic, political, and natural forces that have shaped history again and again and again. The arrogance of that assumption is breathtaking. As Don is fond of pointing out, the greatest arrogance of mankind is “It can’t happen to me.”

In nature, animals are constantly on the alert to danger. They’ve learned to trust their instincts and react accordingly. But in humans, we’ve lost that ability. We ignore red flags, disregard the signs of impending doom, and ignorantly assume “It can’t happen to me.” We expect others to provide for our needs if hard times come, rather than preparing for those needs ourselves, to the best of our ability.

Despite admitting that the conference focused on learning and products rather than conspiracy-laden stuff, the reporter couldn't help but highlight the few nutjobs he did meet. He concludes by writing, “While normalcy and centrism may be the goal for businesspeople like [the show producers], it seems the preparedness lifestyle hasn't completely shaken loose its extremists and kooks.”

Hmmm. Mr. Reporter, has it occurred to you that you're actively looking for the "extremists and kooks," while ignoring the regular folks with legitimate concerns? Why are you so determined to focus on the extremists at these events? I realize that extremism is the lifeblood of news ("If it bleeds, it leads"), but why are reporters so reluctant to admit that when smart educated people – doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. – join the rest of the "tin foil hat wearing club," maybe it's because THERE'S A DARNED GOOD REASON FOR IT?

So I ask the rhetorical question – if “ordinary people” see something worth preparing for, why are you still trying to paint them with the broad brush of conspiracy-laden idiots?

What it boils down to is these reporters still can’t admit that there are unimaginably evil things going on in the upper echelons of government. Can anyone look at America’s debt and doubt that it is unsustainable? Can anyone look at Shadowstats and see the REAL unemployment rates, and compare them to the Great Depression?

Perhaps someday these types of reporters who attend preparedness conventions will understand that the concerns of most preppers stem from a solid understanding of economics, political history, and the potential for natural disasters.

Not conspiracies.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The rest of our hay

We needed more hay for our critters. Since we had so many calves born this year, we wanted to have about 25 tons of hay in the barn (since we feed through mid-May) and were short by about ten tons.

Our next-door neighbor had baled timothy (an excellent feed grass) and had more than he needed for his horses, so earlier this month we bought ten tons from him. The bales are 650 lbs each. The problem was moving them. We needed the weather to cooperate.

We've had some early snowfalls and then a warming spell that melted everything off and turn the ground to absolute mud. Not good conditions for moving heavy amounts of hay.

But this past week the weather cooperated at last. It's been bitterly cold (10F in the mornings) and beautifully sunny. Daytime temps haven't gone above freezing, so the ground is now rock-solid and perfect for moving hay. Perfect, but cold.

It's the kind of weather where the critters will take any and all opportunities to just stand in the sun, absorbing the rays like little solar cells.

In the days preceding Moving Day for Hay, Don spent a lot of time cleaning the barn. He had tools and equipment scattered all over from building the awning, as well as miscellaneous other detritus that somehow always manages to find its way into any covered space. The last thing to do was rake up all the loose hay on the barn floor.

I use this loose hay to pad Matilda's pen after I clean it, so I didn't want to just put it on the compost pile. I ended up heaping it in the pen where little Amy spends the night (I separate Amy from her mama overnight so I can milk in the morning), which not only offers her extra insulation, but keeps Matilda from pooping in it. The chickens immediately came over to see if there was anything interesting in the hay. (There wasn't.)

It was so cold out (12F) that I finally got out some handwarmers for Don, which he slipped into his gloves and at least made the conditions more tolerable.

After the barn was clean, Don borrowed another neighbor's tractor and went next door to hitch up a trailer. Steve (the neighbor who sold us the hay) used his tractor to load ten bales at a time onto the trailer. Don temporarily took down the fence between our properties, and pretty soon came chugging back, carefully towing the trailer with the hay.

Steve followed on his tractor, to which he had put on forklift attachments, and unloaded the bales.

This requires more skill than it seems. He had to slip the forklift blades beneath the top bale, but without sliding them through the strings of the lower bale. Many times he caught the lower strings and so had to pull out and try it again.

Then as soon as the bale was on the tines, he had to tip the tines so the bale slid closer to the bucket. This not only keeps the bale from falling off, but it also doesn't over-tip the tractor. (Steve had a blade attachment on the back of the tractor for extra weight, but with a light tractor like this, over-tipping is always a possibility when moving heavy bales.)

Then he stacked each bale neatly in the barn.

It was wonderful to see the hay piling up.

Don and Steve repeated this process three times, for a total of thirty bales, just a bit under ten tons.

By the end of the hay moving (which took about three hours) both men were seriously cold, even though the temperature had moved up to a balmy 25F. The handwarmers (I gave a pair to Steve as well) helped a lot and at least made working conditions bearable.

We're now Officially Set for winter. Whoo-hoo! (Thanks to all those who pointed out the typo, LOL!)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Objections from a drunken sailor

Reader Steve in Alaska forwarded something he found on The Blaze, to wit:

As the wife of a former sailor, both Don and I got a HUGE laugh out of this.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cow care

We had some weather move in late last week.

Wind and snow.

But that's okay. Thanks to the new awning on our barn, the cattle were protected.

But we learned the awning had an entirely unexpected side effect -- the water from the roof drained into the adjacent bull pen and congregated in the bull pen shelter.

This not only made a soupy mess at the entrance to the shelter...

...but it left a goopy stew of "quick mud" inside the shelter that was about eight or ten inches deep. Truly ugly nasty stuff. We realized our poor critters had been unable to use their shelter during the storm.

While eventually we'll have to install guttering and drainage systems, we needed a more immediate solution. And the most immediate solution we could think of was to load the pen with gravel.

You see, about a week ago we got in a load of gravel in anticipation of next spring's garden. (For new readers, I'm transitioning to a raised-bed tire garden and cutting weeds with a combination of billboard tarps and gravel. It's worked wonders so far.)

Without much option, we cannibalized the pile of gravel in order to back-fill the bull pen shelter and create a gravel base. But how to move that much gravel into the bull pen? Trundling it over by wheelbarrow would take hours and require pushing the wheelbarrow through a lot of sludgy mud.

So Don decided to disassemble the backside wall of the shelter and use our neighbor's tractor to move the gravel.

We used a cattle panel (sometimes called a hog panel) to block the bull (and the cow/calf who's with him at the moment) and keep them out of the shed.

Then Don removed four of the sheet metal panels from the side of the enclosure.

Armed with a shovel and rake, I got gravel duty. Don carefully maneuvered the tractor bucket between the girts in order to dump the load.

While he drove around to scoop up another bucket-ful of gravel, I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled and shoveled. But no matter how thick I laid on the gravel, it just seemed to disappear into that horrible mud. This is my boot, sinking.

I lost track of how many times Don dumped another bucket-ful of gravel, but it was a LOT. He estimates we went through three or four cubic YARDS of gravel, and ended up raising the level in the bull pen shelter by eight or ten inches before we finally conquered that mud.

This diminished the gravel pile by quite a bit, so at some point we'll have to pull in another truckload (or two) for the garden. But I am mighty grateful we had that gravel to begin with.

Then we broke open a bale of hay and spread it out. We figured the critters were entitled to a little bit of spoiling after all that mud.

Here Samson peers into the pen, wondering when he'll be allowed to start eating. Soon, big boy!

But first we had to reassemble the outside sheet metal paneling.

The animals certainly enjoyed their dry digs!

But wait, we weren't done. Yesterday morning, well before dawn, Lydia kept barking both inside and outside the house. But I didn't hear a thing from outside, so it was with considerable surprise when, at first light, I saw every single cow out in the driveway. (Usually when a few cows escape, they all bellow. Since this time ALL the cows had escaped, no one was bellowing...the sneaky little turds.) No wonder Lydia kept barking.

It was 6:20 am when I woke up Don. He said news like that is better than coffee for waking up. Not as enjoyable, mind you, but certainly better. Adrenaline will do that.

Ends up the animals had somehow managed to knock over all the cattle panels separating the awning from the barn. (The cattle panels are temporary; we're in the process of building feed boxes across this length.)

The camera flash revealed some of the animals had climbed up the hay bales for additional snacking. Aarrrgghh!

The critters cavorted around in the early morning light. Once we closed the driveway gate, we decided it was more important to have our morning coffee/tea before tackling the roundup.

However we skipped the morning feeding, since the cattle were already glutted.

After his dose of caffeine, Don reinforced the cattle panels by screwing some long boards across the barn side...

...and then wrapping baling twine through the panels and around the boards. This strengthened things considerably.

This wall of cattle panels is temporary. Don has permanent feed boxes planned which will regulate feeding much more efficiently (as well as waste less hay).

Bonus pix: chickens in the slushy driveway.

Life on a farm. It's never dull. True, we tend to lurch from crisis to crisis, but that seems to be par for the course.