Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The painting has begun.

We're working on a project for the garden. We are going to turn this

into an arbor with a bench in it.

It is going to have lattice on the sides, back and top to support climbing plants. I don't really like the look of lattice in a lot of situations, but for what we're doing, and the amount of time we have to get it done, it is the best option.

I was planning on a simple brown arbor, but my husband told me that it would need to be painted to protect it. Instead of a simple sealant - what do you call that? - that would weatherproof it and let the wood shine through, he wanted to let the girls pick colors for it and help paint it. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and agreed. It wasn't the color I didn't want, it was the painting it at all that I didn't want.

So yesterday, the first really nice day since we got the wood, we started painting. This was good because Hannah has been wanting to paint since we picked it up. This was bad because I don't enjoy painting. Or to put a finer point on it, I dread the thought of painting. The mess, the time, the mess, running kids and dogs, the mess, kids with paintbrushes, the mess. And ... it wasn't so bad. We spread a tarp out, anchored it down (because you have to anchor everything down around here including small children), put some lattice on it, and cracked open the pink paint. Grayson was taking a nap, so it was just the three of us girls and a big dog who ended up with pink pads. (The little dog was too busy chewing on new bones I'd given them just to keep them from getting pink pads.)

Ains worked really hard - on the same section - for almost ten minutes before she started dancing and riding her bike and playing with Butterfly.

Hannah lasted for the entire bucket of paint - which wasn't near enough to cover all of the lattice. We'll need to get some more.

Today we start with the purple. I'm much more optimistic about it after our experience yesterday.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Getting the ground ready for berries.

And a trip to town for lumber. That's what we did yesterday.

This looks like a lot of compost doesn't it?

When it's distributed, it really doesn't look like a lot. My husband disagrees, but he's the one who did the spreading while I moved the truck for him. This was my view.

And this.

I like my view.

The kids did a lot of this.

And playing with the horn, and the radio, and the lights, and the dogs.

Who ended up doing a lot of this.

It was a long day.

And before you think I'm a sucker about this dog, let me tell you this - my sister, who is most definitely *not* a dog person may or may not be - after one three hour visit at my house - be petitioning her husband to get this dog to go live with her. He's that awesome.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New beginnings.

About three weeks ago - right at the end of our trip to Arizona - Hannah's goat Beauty had a baby boy. Hannah named him Diamond and is torn on whether to be sad because he's a boy so he has a less obvious place in our operation or whether to be thrilled because he's a boy so she can sell him and add the money to her chihuahua fund.

Here he is with his momma. If you have the head for keeping track of these things, Beauty is Tiffany's daughter (Tiffany is the white goat with triplet babies). Last year Beauty had her first babies, a male and a female. Hannah sold me the male because he was a stellar specimen (he's my current buck) and kept the female who she named Rose, so she has two females in her herd.

Since I don't milk heavily - if at all - on a first time momma, Hannah's main responsibilities with her goat last year were helping feed and helping keep them tame. This year, with Beauty in milk production, we talked about what her new duties would include. She helps me separate the mommas and babies at night, watch her siblings while I milk, help put the goats back together after milking, strain the milk, and help make cheese. It's a lot, but it is part of owning the animals.

Ainsley showed interest in owning a goat for the first time this year, so I gave her Delta. Delta's Tiffany's long-eared baby. I named her twin sister Dawn. Don't hate on me.

Right now her only job is to love on that baby and she is amazing at her job.

I was going to have Hannah pass her first female baby on to Ainsley as a 'Pay It Forward' type move, and she was willing, but little kids just don't get excited about getting a year-old-baby. They need a baby-baby, so Hannah got to keep Rose and Ains got my Delta.

My last big momma to give birth did so three days ago. These are Physion's little boys.

Such cuties, aren't they? So bummed that they're boys.

It makes me try to think of turning them into cart goats or something to keep them. They're awfully sweet and very pretty. No more long ears, though. In fact one of them has the tiniest ear buds I've seen on any of my LaManchas.

I've got three goats in milk instead of four this year, but that's more than enough milk for what I'm planning. Perfecting cheese, drinking milk (it is so satisfying to have your daughter ask for "Goat milk, if you have it."), and making a tentative foray into soap.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Butterfly, Guard Dog (and "Why I love blogging.")

Thank you for all of your comments on my last post about this dog. They were so much fun to read.

One comment, in particular, was very helpful. Jody, who blogs at The PawPaw Patch, said "He looks like a pure bred Leonberger to me. Fairly rare. My inlaws had a Leo, he was beautiful, very gentle for his size and I would do just about anything to be in your shoes right now! They do have a very heavy winter undercoat that needs brushed out in the spring." Unfortunately, Jody's in Maryland. She has a beautiful property that he would love.

But her comment gave me something to go on. I contacted all of the Leo breeders near us ("near" being a relative term since there are none in Idaho) and none have sold dogs that would be his age, but they all agree that he is, indeed, a Leonberger, which brings me to "Why I love blogging".

I've never heard of Leonbergers. I assumed he was a mutt, a cross between a St. Bernard type and, well, probably a labrador. Everything's a cross with a labrador out here. Now, not only do I know what he is, what his behaviors are likely to be, and what his strengths are, I have breeders looking for a good home for him. So, Jody, thank you very much!

About where we stand with him now...

He's decided that this is his home. For now, until we find him a new home, his name is Butterfly. You know, because he's so tiny and graceful.

But Ains was insistent. I pushed for a more suitable name like Orion or Hercules.

He's a lovely dog - very much a puppy still - and has started some guarding behaviors. First he decided that he needed to guard us against our goats. That led to a lot of barking that we were unable to stop until we were able to convince him that they belonged here. Now he barks if anything gets near their pen. I really like that.

Then he decided that he needed to guard against the cats. Big no-no. Those cats do more around this place then almost any of our animals and they are protected by me, thankyouverymuch. He got the message fast, but his original behavior led to a problem I hadn't expected - apparently our cocker spaniel is a classic bully. When he was a puppy, he tried the pounce-and-play with the cats and got a claw to the nose. Ever since then, he's been deferential to the cats - until now.

All of the sudden, I have a nasty little dog who thinks he has backup in the form of a huge dog. He'll go after the cats when they're laying on the patio chair or walking across the lawn or even playing near the kids, and by 'go after them', I mean that he actually tries to bite them. I am dealing with that behavior now.

So back to Butterfly.
He's quickly worming his way into hearts here.

But having him stay here messes up some plans. I don't want more than three dogs. If he stays, and my daughter gets the chihuahua she's been saving up for (Danni was right about that), that's three dogs. Because this one,

he's going to be around for awhile.

So that means no border collie for me. And I'm missing having a border collie very much.

So we're having Leo breeders look for a home for him and we're taking care of him until them. And training him. One chewed library book and one roast pulled off the counter ("Your horse for a dog doesn't even have to jump up, he just walked by and pulled it off!" said my husband who had cooked it.) is enough. So training has been happening. And trying to find something for him to chew that he likes - so far books are the only thing, and I don't want him chewing books - what dog doesn't like bones?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I can be patient.

I took a much-needed vacation with my kids a few weeks ago. We went to Arizona to see the sun (and my sister's family, of course). We had so much fun with both and when I came home I was dreading, a bit, stepping back into cold, windy, wintery weather.

When we were a few miles from our house, we saw the first rainbow of the year. When I stepped out of the car, I was greeted by crisp, earthy-smelling air, a light breeze, and flock after flock of geese flying over, calling out their springtime call. And my chickens had started laying.

It was the best "Welcome Home" I could have gotten.

For the next few days, we settled into disappearing snow, open windows, outside play, and the long-absent egg-drop soup.

Tuesday morning I woke up to this.

In Hannah's words, "It's turned from nice weather to crap weather."

But it's ok. I've had a taste of summer sun in Arizona and a taste of spring here. I can hold on another few weeks until spring starts in earnest.

So we're doing 'inside stuff'. Crafts, starting seeds, and working on a hammock.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Again with the dogs.

When you live in a rural area with a portion of the population being transient, one of the issues you have to deal with is packs of dogs.

We can hear coyotes howling around us at night - they really set our cocker spaniel off - and we even saw a coyote running right past our sheep pen at our last property, so we're cautious about them, but not fearful. If we get a coyote 'problem', it will start small - one goat lost, at the most two - and then we'll increase precautions beyond what we already do.

If we get a dog pack problem, though, it doesn't start small. You can lose your entire herd in as little as ten minutes with dogs killing for fun and bloodlust. The nearest dairy has had serious issues with dog packs and has had to take lethal action to stop them. Even when they know the owners and contact them, the owners don't take better care of them and they'll be back the next day. If the dairy can catch them, they take them to the shelter, if they can't catch them, they have to shoot them. The two nastiest breeds they've had to deal with are pit bulls (we live in an area with a lot of dog fighting) and - wait for it - - - chihuahuas. The chihuahuas run the baby calves right through fences where their necks get broken.

All of this to say, we may have a dog pack problem soon. Two days ago I looked out the window and saw two pit bulls and another huge dog pacing past our chicken coop. I ran out to yell at them and the pit bulls, obviously experienced trespassers, took off with their tails tucked in. The big dog, however, turned and looked at me, wagging its tail. Realizing that he was clearly new to running with a pack, I changed my tactics and started sweet talking him, hoping that I could find his owner and keep him from getting hooked on a life of crime.

He came running over, very excited to see a friendly face, but he had no collar and no tag. And he was big.

And he is a puppy.

Very sweet boy, very lazy, very friendly.

I tied him to the porch and called my husband to have him ask around and see if anyone was missing a St. Bernard type dog. A few hours later he called back saying that no-one knew who the dog belonged to. Oh, and "Don't feed it. That will make it stick around." I told him that I was not about to keep a dog who didn't have an owner coming to get it tied up without any food. When he got home from work, I took off for a doctor's appointment. When I got home from work I found a big puppy laying down in the middle of our living room. "Ainsley's good at asking," was all my husband said.

Now I ask you, as impartial readers, which is more likely to make a dog stick around - giving it a bowl of food or letting it in your home? Hmm?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Want to know what dairy your milk comes from?

If you buy your milk from the store and want to know what dairy it comes from, you're in luck - kind of. Our Report Card posted a link today to a page created by students from Brigham Young University that claims to tell you where your milk comes from. "Yeah, yeah, it probably comes from cows, but where do the cows come from?" is the tagline on their website.

The process is simple - find a certain code on your carton and match it up on this page to a dairy. By the way, the website says that this works with most dairy items - sour cream, some ice creams, cheeses, yogurts, etc.

But when you look closer, it's not that simple. These aren't necessarily dairies they're linking to, but collection points. Katherine (at Our Report Card) noticed this too. I had bounced over to the link before I finished reading her post, so I noticed it when I realized that my father-in-law's small dairy in Wyoming wasn't listed. Then I looked again at the list for Idaho, and realized that of course it was too short to list all of the dairies (we have a *lot* of dairies in this area) around here. A few of the places listed in the Idaho section (which I've copied below) are dairies, but they are very large dairies with their own large tanks.

So all of these collection points are pooling together the milk of thousands of cows and you still don't know where your milk is coming from. I think it shows a huge disconnect from the source of your food when you don't realize (as I didn't for 20-odd years) that the carton of milk in your fridge could easily contain the milk from hundreds of cows. To me, that has the same 'ick' factor as finding out years ago that the burgers you eat at McDonald's could easily contain the ground up meat of hundreds of different cows (from many different countries, even).

So this is an interesting - and even useful in some ways - list, but it certainly doesn't tell you where the cows your milk comes from are from. I know that some of these collection points collect milk from different states. But it's a start, and what's more, it's an acknowledgment that the general public is starting to wake from a deep, apathetic sleep when it comes to their food. And that, my friends, is good news indeed, don't you think? It makes me hopeful.

I've copied the list here for Idaho, just in case it gets taken down for some reason.

Idaho - 16

Plt CodeNameCity
16-345Best Whey CoopFirth
16-24Brewster West LlcRupert
16-04Darigold IncBoise
16-16Darigold IncCaldwell
16-50Darigold IncJerome
16-371Dairy Farmers Of America - Eastern IdahoSalt Lake City, Ut
16-351Dairy Farmers Of America - Magic Valley - IdahoSalt Lake City, Ut
16-342Dairy Farmers Of America - Treasure ValleySalt Lake City, Ut
16-357Glanbia Foods IncTwin Falls
16-366Gossner Foods IncLogan, Ut
16-365Gossner Foods IncLogan, Ut
16-40Gossner Foods - Magic ValleyHeyburn
16-45High Desert Milk IncBurley
16-381High Desert Milk IncBurley
16-09Horizon Organic Dairy (Idaho Farm)Paul
16-380Horizon Organic Dairy (Idaho Farm)Paul
16-25Idaho Milk ProductsJerome
16-348Independent Milk Producers LlcTwin Falls
16-11Jerome Cheese CoJerome
16-340Jerome Cheese CoJerome
16-361Ken Hall DairiesTerreton
16-354Magic Valley Quality Milk ProducersJerome
16-05Meadow Gold DairiesBoise
16-321Northwest Dairy Assn.Seattle, Wa
16-352Northwest Dairy Assn. (Bulk Tank Unit) - Magic ValleySeattle, Wa
16-341Northwest Dairy Assn. - Treasure ValleySeattle, Wa
16-350Reed's Dairy Farm IncIdaho Falls
16-33Sartori FoodsBlackfoot
16-360Snake River Dymen's AssociationPocatello
16-03Sorrento LactalisNampa
16-344Sorrento LactalisNampa
16-193Stoker DairyBurley