Sunday, August 13, 2017

The great garage project...

I've mentioned in previous posts that we have been working on cleaning our garage.  It was the hottest of hot messes. A horrible embarrassment, and so full of stuff we really didn't know where to begin.  We use it to store animal feed, (6 big bins full) and shavings, as well as hay, and these things take up a lot of room. There was also stuff for fencing, extra feed pans, and other animal-keeping accouterments. Besides it had become a giant catch-all for things that are too good to get rid of, but not good enough to be in the house.  Add in a law mower, a snow blower, and a bunch of other tools and it was a recipe for disaster.

With the upcoming wedding, it occurred to us that having the garage clean and cleared out of all the stuff would give us a lovely extra space for entertaining.  The building itself is really very nice.. a double wide, double deep garage, sturdily built.  So we got to work. The space didn't get that cluttered and dirty overnight, and it didn't get clean overnight, either.  Rachel, Evans, Chris and I spent many hours putting the space right. Several pick up truck loads of trash were  hauled away, donations made, things sorted and packed and neatly stowed. We took down shelves and dismantled an ugly cabinet that some previous owner had built. Our burn pile grew as broken chairs and lumber scraps were added.

We evicted a lot of spiders and swept down many a web. It was a wonderful moment when the floor was completely cleared of everything except our two small chest freezers.
They will be moved, but not today.  Then we fired up the pressure washer our kind friend Scott loaned us.
Chris still had energy to ham it up a bit.  That power washer is amazing.  We washed the walls, we washed the floor, we washed and washed.  And it was fun.  Meanwhile, the hot afternoon sun beat down and in no time the room was dry and smelling fresh and clean.

And now the fun can begin.  Chris hung a quirky light fixture I recently found in a local antique store.
Next weekend... we stain the inside. In case you can't guess, it will be white.  You can expect another post when it is finished.

Words can't express how tickled I am to have this project nearly completed.  It was one of those daunting things that had been hanging over my head for too long, and it's a huge relief to have made such progress.  Chris and I worked beautifully together, with good music playing.  It was an unusual dance, fired by purpose, but each in step as we ground through the task at hand.  We make an excellent and effective team.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


I find myself, this summer, trying to make things beautiful. Here is the thing. I would like for our home and yard to be beautiful all the time.  But I often lack time, energy and incentive.  But now I have the wonderful motivation of our daughters upcoming wedding.

Soon after her March engagement, Rachel said, "I want to have a big Conner family party with a little wedding in the middle." So I am happily planning a party, and I am suddenly remembering many parties I threw for her when she was a kid.  For her 4th birthday party she said she wanted a, "purple party."  I created  home made purple play doh, had a zillion purple helium balloons, wrapped all her gifts in purple paper.  Her friends joined in the fun, wearing purple clothes and bringing purple presents.  Then there was a cowgirl party, (we panned for "gold" in the sand box, practiced roping a bouncy horse, and all the kids wore red bandannas and little western hats.)  For one party we bought a roll of bubble wrap the size of a Volkswagon and spread it out over the floor of our carport.  We let the kids jump on it. It made an impressive sound, and the children went wild.  It was so popular almost every party her school friends had that year featured the same delight.

It's been a while since I've thrown a bash like those, and I'm a bit out of practice. But I am having fun, catching up with doing things that need doing. We had the deck painted. And new back steps and a gate built.

And now we are working on the garage... and making big progress.  This delights me beyond measure.

My niece, who is good at many things, can also slap a paint brush like nobodies business. She painted our living room, front room and down stairs bath.  All jobs that have needed doing, and it feels so good to have them done.  I am grateful.

The gardens are looking very nice this year. Even the butterflies approve.

Summer seems to be flying past.  My business has been very busy, and I have not been swimming or out in my kayak even one time.  I will fix that in the coming weeks, because I can already feel the season changing. There was a nip in the air this evening as we ate supper in the back yard.

Summer is marching on, and I am , too.  Making things beautiful and getting ready for a party. Progress.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The garage project, stage #1...

When we looked at this house for sale 14 + years ago, I was smitten by the garage.  Double wide, double deep, with a lovely attic.  When we moved in we put a great many bins of things we didn't need right away right up in that attic. And as the years passed, more things piled up.  It became a bit of a mess.  Today's project was to clean things up.

I neglected to take a "before" picture, but let me say that there were stacks of  totes, cardboard boxes, and even some things left by the previous owners. There were  books, and clothes, and a variety of decorative items strewn about.  It took two of us 1.5 hours, and three of us another 30 minutes to bring the attic to look like this:

We emptied abandoned bins full of useless power cords, old paperwork,unloved toys. We organized others.  And then we moved to the down stairs, which was SO much worse.  There will be pictures of that to come.  This project has been vexing me for a very long time, and I will be so tickled when things are all in order.  We discarded a pick up truck bed full of things we didn't need, a pile of things to be recycled, and 4 bins of items to donate.  I feel.. lighter.

It is funny to think that we spend years acquiring things, then years getting rid of them. I appreciate that as I get older I put less value on the "things" in my life, and more value on the people.  It is one of the gifts of aging.

A tale of two goats...

Regular readers of my blog know a bit about Luna.  Luna was my first goat, a sweet and gentle girl, as friendly as they come. She liked to snuggle, and when I was in the pasture she would stay near me, pressing her face against me, squinching her eyes shut and sighing deeply.  I loved her beyond reason and was very sad when I had to have her put down last winter. To me she was the very heartbeat of our little farm, and things were not the same without her here. She had a disease called Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis, (CAE.) The woman who I bought her from assured me she had been tested and was fine.

But of course, I got used to her being gone, (though I looked for her each and every time I went out to the pasture,) and life went on.  And then I got a message this spring from a woman who had acquired one of Luna's daughters.  "I am thinning my herd. I know you really liked that Saanen doe, would you like to have her daughter back?  I can bring her over tomorrow."

I talked to Chris.  "Luna's daughter is available, but we don't need another goat."  And we didn't. But also, because the disease Luna had is passed to kid from their mothers milk, I assumed that the daughter would also have CAE.  It would be silly to take her.  Chris said, "We have to get her."  I explained all the many reasons that it was a bad idea.  "It's our last link to Luna.  You HAVE to get her." So we did.

And to my great joy, she not only looked exactly like her pretty mama, she acted like her, too.

Hugging me sweetly, following my every step, and snuggling.  I delighted to see her in the pasture, it was almost like I had Luna back, but I felt a reserve... I was afraid to fall in love with her.

I had my good veterinarian out to give her a rabies shot, and other goat shots, and check her over.  I also had her draw some blood to test for CAE. I was certain she must have it, because she had nursed from her mother, but I had a little thread of hope, because I am an optimist.   I waited.  Three long weeks.  A few days ago I got a text message from her vet, "I got the results back.  Spirit is NEGATIVE for CAE!"  My heart skipped a beat.  "This is rare and unusual, but it does happen from time to time."  So now I am free to fall in completely in love with Spirit. She is strong and healthy, gaining weight, her coat growing in thick and glossy. She is is affectionate and seeks my companionship whenever I am near. It's just like having Luna back.

She had melded nicely with the rest of the herd, has learned her name and comes at a run when called with a recall that would make dog owners envy.  And she is healthy. Did I mention that already?  Luna lives on in her daughter, Spirit.  A happiness in my life.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Bad behavior...

Ella goat was born right here at FairWinds 5 years ago.  Her mother, Nova, died after she kidded, and I bottle raised Ella, her sister Celeste and a brother.  The brother was sold but Ella and Celeste stayed on. Bottle raised kids are very tame and friendly, because they are handled frequently and they come to rely on their humans for so much.  Celeste is a nice girl; big, placid and a wonderful milker.  Ella is a wretch. Rather than walk politely from the pasture to the garage when it is time to be milked, she races ahead of me, trying to get in the hen yard to eat their food, or gobble up my hanging basket full of petunias, or demolish my flower bed. If all those antics fail, she veers left in the garage instead of going where she knows she should, and plunges her head in the feed barrel, gobbling as fast as she can.  All the while her nice breakfast awaits on the milk stand.

Most goats seem to enjoy being milked.  The milk stand holds their head so they can't leap off, but it is not uncomfortable, and there is a big bucket of grain for them to eat.  Milking also removes the pressure a full udder must present.  Celeste stands rock still when I milk her, not even flinching if a fly lands on her.  Ella, on the other hand, pitches a fit.

She kicks, hard, and I have had the bruises to prove it.  So I got some hobbles. These are soft nylon straps that I fasten around her rear legs. The other ends are anchored firmly to the table, so she can only move her legs about 4 inches in any direction. She cannot kick my teeth out.  The hobbles slow her down some, but she is a crafty thing.  She has learned that she can buck. She lowers her head, and then with both rear legs bounces up as far as the hobbles allow. This causes the entire, heavy milk bench to spring several inches up in the rear, and then come crashing down again under the 175 lbs of goat on top of it. If she is particularly successful, the bench will scrape my shins on the way up and down, and a leg will land on my toes. Painfully. Often she dumps the entire contents of the full milk bucket all over me, the bench and the floor.

I am a calm and patient person, but this goat makes me have violent fantasies.  I threaten to turn her into sausage. I imagine smacking her with a stick.  I sometimes call her very unpleasant names.
She turns a cool eye in my direction. She knows full well I am all bluff. Chris calls her "Cruella."  It suits.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Trips and dogs and goats and such...

In case  you have been wondering why there have been no new blog posts lately, it is because of this: I'm a klutz.

Two weeks ago at dog training class my dog zoomed  through a series of hoops and towards me in a way I was not expecting, running under my uplifted foot/leg as I was walking briskly.  I stumbled, and felt myself going down.  Of course, when one falls it all happens in just an instant, but I did have the thought, as gravity grasped me, "ROLL LEFT!"  This is because last year I fell and dislocated my right shoulder.  I have just recently begun to feel like that injury is completely healed, and I did not want to repeat the ordeal.  So, I twisted my body in such a way that all my weight landed on my left knee when I fell.  It was a rather innocent little fall, really, and on thick rubberized matting, so I felt quite fine when I popped up.  My knee felt funny, but I figured I'd walk it off.  Moments later that knee was so swollen my pants legs were tight and I realized I had done a bit of damage.

I came straight home and filled a gallon zip lock bag with ice.  Bravo looked on with interest as I propped my knee up and applied the cold stuff.  By the next morning I was mighty sore, and some impressive bruising had begun.  But the knee joint seemed fine, so I treating the injury as any soft tissue damage, with rest, ice, compression and elevation.  OK, maybe not so much rest, because there were goats to milk and feed to carry and dogs to exercise and grooming to do.  After a week, it was worse. Much worse. Two nurse friends scared me enough  that I went to the ER.  I was scolded, xrayed, ultra-sounded and cat scanned. After all that they sent home to rest, ice, compress and elevate.  With emphasis on the REST. So that's what I've been doing, while my endlessly patient husband and amazingly generous daughter do all my chores, cook my food, do my work.  Ok I've been doing a little work,
with my leg propped up on the grooming table, an ice pack wrapped in place.  I am feeling a bit better, and will hopefully resume blogging at a more frequent pace.

Meanwhile,  I finally got around to putting out some on-line advertisements to sell some goat kids.  We had 7 kids born here this spring, and sold two when they were quite young because they were bottle babies.  The remaining 5 have grown fat and happy, drinking mothers milk and dining on pasture.  I have to admit, I like them. But it was time for them to go make someone else laugh at their antics, so I took pictures and put the word out.

And today the phone rang. "Hi, I'm calling about your kids for sale. I'd like to buy the doeling."  Well that should have been good news, but I found myself stalling.  I couldn't bring myself to just say, "OK, come on over."  I had to grill the poor woman.  Did she have other goats to keep my girl company? Did she have appropriate shelter for goats? Did they have fenced pasture? She answered all my questions correctly, and 2 hours later her handsome, young husband pulled up.  "I'd like to buy a wether (boy), too," he said." 

And as quick as that two pretty babies were bundled up into the back of his truck.  Secure in a large dog crate, with a nice comfy pad for them to stand on, too. 

They protested. Loudly.  Meanwhile, back in the pasture, their mothers ignored their piteous cries. 
Off they went, to live on a 150 acre farm.  I hope they will be happy and loved and have wonderful little goatie lives.  I'm going to miss them. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy mistakes...

I make a lot of mistakes.  Some turn out ok.  For instance, marrying a man who proposes the first time he meets you, after only 8 dates, is a Mistake with a capital "M."  But after 33 years I can say that things worked out just fine.

When I ordered 25 Cornish-x chicks to be delivered at the end of April, I also made a call to have them processed, because these things need to be planned in advance.

In the past we have planned the date 7 or 8 weeks out.  These birds grow insanely fast.  But I wanted birds that were a little bigger, and the website where I ordered the chicks recommended a 12 week growth period.  So, I followed their suggestion set the schedule up. It was a mistake.

I realized my error when the birds were about 8 weeks old. They were huge.  Destined by genetics to grow large, they had the added benefit of eating grass, weeds and bugs on pasture, PLUS a gallon or so of warm goat milk to drink every, single morning.

They were so big they couldn't easily get in and out of the hutches they slept in at night, so for several weeks we had to catch each of them in the evening to put them in the safe enclosures.  In the morning we would set out food and water, and tip the hutches on their sides so the birds could waddle out to the pasture. I wished I could change the plan, but those processing dates don't change easily. 

 I spent the next few weeks worrying about how big they were getting. Yesterday was the date.  We packed them snugly into hay-lined crates in the back of my truck.  When the strong guys at the butcher shop unloaded the crates, they groaned and remarked at the weight of the things.  

When we picked the processed birds up this morning the staff marveled at the size of the birds.  "You will cook one chicken and eat for days!"  they said.

Rachel pulled one of last years chickens out of the freezer and weighed it.
Four and a half pounds.  They were all about this size.

Then she placed one of this years crop on there.
Just shy of 9 pounds. And this was not the biggest one, either.  I'm pretty sure the biggest guys were around 12 pounds.

This years crop of meat birds caused me some time fretting.  But now I have two freezers packed full of enormous,  pastured, milk fed, home -raised chicken.  There will be good eating ahead.  I can hardly wait to see what mistake I make next!