Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Nightmare After Christmas -- A Fujiko Farm Holiday: Part 1

The festivities started on the Solstice with the First Annual Solstice Mud Wallow at Dorena Reservoir -- but I'll get back to that in a later post. Maybe. If not, use your imagination on that one. On Christmas we exchanged gifts and then went to some hot springs, steamed ourselves for a couple of hours and then found a Chinese buffet that was open and feasted on sushi, crab legs, and many other things. We didn't notice the fried frog legs until we were too full and limp to feel adventurous. The next day Ronan and I raced off the coast with Valerie and Bruce to do some impromptu whale watching. I'm not sure those wispy things I saw in the binoculars were whales' spoutings or just wave spume. But it was a bright sunny day at the coast (whereas Cottage Grove was fogged in), so it was plenty of fun whales or no whales. The first picture here is the remains of a sign warning people that the breakwall is not designed for walking on, blah-de-blah, proceed at your own risk. The next photo is of Ronan proceeding at her own risk. (Or that would be the next photo, but it got deleted.) We tried to make it out to the very furthest point but the tide was coming in and getting doused, ducked, or drowned by a sleeper wave would have put a damper on the dinner (fish and chips, of course!) that we were looking forward to having, so we turned back after scrabbling two-third of the way out. My hip joints felt plenty exercised from clambering up and over all those boulders.

Then on Sunday the real fun began: we started moving the major appliances out of the kitchen so that we could tear up the floor and have a new one put in. By somebody else! Yahoo! We won't be laying the tiles!! I may just have to pull up a chair and watch the tile layers work; it will be such a treat to not be doing it ourselves. ... But WE have to tear out the old stuff and get it ready for them. And then after glorious relief of watching someone else work, I will get the job of applying the wax. Knowing our house and its many mysteries and pitfalls, we figured that tearing out the old floor would make up for any guilt we might feel for not having the thrift and spine to lay the tiles ourselves. Last time we tore out a kitchen floor -- the one in the "apartment" side of our house, we found that there wasn't anything solid underneath it. By the time we removed everything that couldn't be saved, we were left with a big patch of dirt with some water pipes running across it and the outer skin of the two outside walls. That job took one month of working every day to complete. My housemates are extremely patient people.

There kitchen wasn't small because it had room for a dinette in it. Our kitchen is on the huge side, a "farm kitchen" at 14 feet by 21, approximately. The first day all we did was get the buckets of bulk foods, the carboys of wine and cider, the two freezers and the fridge moved out and stowed in the back bedroom, the entry hall, and the dining room. We stopped early ( at 4:00 p.m.) and went to Tom and Lila's for a potluck and as much wine as we could put away without having to deal with a hangover the next day.

Later as I was looking at the now-vacant half of the kitchen I suggested to Matt that we tear up that half of the floor first, put down the plywood underlayment and then tear out the side of the kitchen with the counters, the sink and the dishwasher. I suggested this because I thought there would an open crater in the house that would be belching cold air up into the house. I hung a sheet and a blanket over the doorway to the kitchen, both to stop (or slow) the draft and to block most of the demolition dust from getting into the rest of the house. Much to our surprise and relief we discovered decking under the particle board. The decking has made this project much less of a nightmare than it could have been. Ah, but other trials awaited us .... To be continued.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

odds and sods

Ah well, so much for getting back to posting at least once a week. Here are some of the things keeping that goal as an aspiration rather than an achieved done deal. Some of these odds-and-sods are from back in November.

NaNoWriMo. (Google it for more details, and you might understand why I don't have time to throw in links or to edit my sentences down to reasonable sizes.)

I've joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because (being slow) I finally figured out what it was for: forcing yourself to generate a complete rough draft to an idea without stopping to fix everything and therefore never getting past the first few chapters. The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month of November. I am assuming it also means that your novel should have at least a semblance of a beginning, a middle, and an end and not just be 50,000 words of "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Although I hear tell, that repetitions of something like this can fill part of the middle ... whatever it takes to keep you going.

Me, I'm at 37,212 words as of this moment and I have a comfortable 12 days left to get the remaining 13K in. I'm not counting Thanksgiving as a writing day. My success thus far is entirely predicated on cheating. The first 12K where the first couple of chapters of the novel, which I had written well before the summer when no writing happens. The next 14K or so came by cutting and pasting already typed sections from a file of notes and scenes. While cutting and pasting I envisioned and wrote the last paragraph of the whole novel, so victory is nearly assured. Jai ho! I have the ending already! Plus, if I absolutely fall down and get swept away by the holiday, mushroom hunting, quinces, wine making, working on a "found art" sculpture project with Ronan that involves frequent walks along the lakeside ... I can always - on the morning of November 30th - paste in the 31,000-word prequel to the novel, which although a stand-alone novella is intrinsic to the story and will have to be placed at the beginning of the book, when there is one. And I will have more than hit he 50K finish line.

Peach update. (Photo: "Peach is Gone". Ronan thought this was the most appropriate photo from Peach's last visit to scroung off our table. He's the gray blur there as he shoots back out the door.)

Attachment parenting really does raise healthy independent children, even when you least expect it. Peach went everywhere with us during his formative days, ate at the table, sleep in or next to our bed, had free reign of the house while learning to forage, and then started going outside for longer and longer periods of time. At first Peach would drop by to terrorize children, defend territory, taunt cats, score some treats from mom (mostly mealworms and organic goatmilk mozzeralla, what a life!), and have a bath in a pie plate full of water provided for his convenience. Now he doesn't even say hello or acknowledge that he knows us. The only way I know Peach is still alive is I because they two scrubs jays he moved in with are still flying around as a flock of three -- and, yeah, I fancy I recognize his voice even if he refuses to recognize mine. Some friends of mine chided me about the about empty-nest syndrome and said "Kids have to leave home some time and make their own life." To which I thought, yeah, and where did my kid go? He moved right back in with his other parents! I've raised someone else's Boomerang Baby! Scrub jays, though, often allow last year''s kids, both sons and daughters, to hang around and help with next year's kids. They learn more about life and get better it, making them more likely to succeed when they do strike out on their own. I don't know if mom and dad scrub jay were aware of Peach all along -- they certainly could hear him carrying on in the house -- or if they recognized him by other means. Possibly the "other means", because Peach was attacked, just once, by papa Jay shortly after he started going outside.

Soft landing for Mushy Processed Peas.
Photo: A very young Mush! plays with Ronan's "Pet Shop" toys.

Sometimes I forget that Mush! has two names: Mush! as in the sled dog command and Mushy Processed Peas, because Ronan loves the whole name and notion of Mushy Processed Peas, a British culinary favorite that comes in cans labelled with those very words and a painted illustration of something that looks like a pile of baby poo. Really, I thought we had gone to far with raising Mush! I wasn't sure she would ever figure out how to be a duck after hanging out with us, sleeping next to the bed, and watching "Bones" with Ronan and her cat. But the same open door policy that worked with Peach is working for Mush! At first I would put her outside with the other ducks and she would ignore them. When she was done exploring the world, she would potter down to the house to come in and get fed and take a nap under the dining room table or near wherever someone was studying or working. Then she started staying out all day, but hanging around outside the door at lunchtime. Now, she doesn't want to be fed extra because it means coming away from the flock for a moment.

NaNoWriMo, again. I did my 50,147 words by November 29th. And wrote the end scene to the story, too. Still vey much a rough rough rough draft, but I got it done. Now I have a novelette to finish by Tuesday evening and an essay to write for an Oregon Quarterly contest that ends January 31.

Deep freeze. Only one burst pipe so far and it was on the outside of the house. Been without hot water for three days, without running water at all for one day. But we have Stella (our cookstove) heating potable water for us and water to flush the toilets coming out of a dounspout. We're working on getting the water back on at this very moment. Gotta go!

Photo: Ronan with the giant ice beer bugs we keep melting and tipping out of the goats' water buckets.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

speed wedding

Matty and I had our wedding a few Sundays back. It was a speed wedding. Like speed dating, only different. I think I got the whole thing wrapped up in under three minutes, between Matt packing his sandwiches and his rushing off to work. I can't remember what job he was going off to do, but I do remember it was a Sunday because I recalled as I got the wedding (ear)rings and came down the stairs that Saturday, not Sunday, is the typical wedding day. Oh, well, I wasn't going to wait another week; I could very well have lost the earrings by then and besides, I'd just cleaned them both in hydrogen peroxide. The wrong day of the week was fitting, too, in our -- or at least my -- general wrong-headed approach to life.

How did this start?

My own marriage was a bit of a bust. It was a seven-minute legal ceremony at the registrar's office in Carlisle, United Kingdom. Being over seven months pregnant at the time, I was not of sound mind. I don't remember what I promised or even what day it was. Was it May 23? 25? Or 27? All I remember was that the music that I chose from a list of seven-minute selections was "Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity" from Gustav Holst's The Planets. In May of 1998, I was in marooned in a small town (2000 people and nine pubs -- at I time when I couldn't drink) in a country that I had lived in for less than two months and my only friend, a crazy archeologist from Leeds, nearly got us all kicked out of the registrar's office when he threw a fit, even if it was a well-intentioned fit.

As for the after-the-legal-proceeding party, I christened that "the endurance picnic." We went to a stone circle called Long Meg and Her Sisters. It was really cold and windy -- we're talking northern England, it may have gotten around to sleeting. After enduring all I could of watching the guys get loaded, I went to the car and lay down and waited for it to be over while Matt and the archeologist and a couple of the young sons of some friends of Matt talked and smoked and climbed the standing stones.

All in all, I admit, I have sometimes, for seconds on end, fantasized about having an official wedding (since a wedding and a marriage are separate actions) as a sort of do-over of the whole commitment experience. My good friend Katie thought a wedding would be fun. I like parties, at least in theory. But ...

among other quirks, I am unable to wear any jewelry other than one gold ring in my left ear. Matt could maybe wear a wedding ring. Hard to say, though, since his last wedding ring stayed on less than an hour or two before he lost it when someone overturned the raft he was in. He never saw the ring again. Besides jewelry is a work hazard for Matt. Between our two records, neither of us saw the point to spending money on the things. But ...

Matt had mentioned that he would like to start wearing earrings again -- unlike me, both his ears are pierced. A few days later, I looked over at the statue of a Harpy that's next to my computer and noticed she was holding up my one gold earring. I remembered that my mother was keeping the match to it -- so that I wouldn't lose it. I called mom up and asked her to send me the ring. I joked to Matt that we could finally have wedding rings and that I would get (or find) a nice stud for his other ear, or maybe Ronan would lend him one of hers. Best off all, this earring was nicely designed by some goldsmith in Italy: pull hard on it (or get a branch caught in it) and the earring will just unlatch and come off -- way better than having it tear through your ear lobe. So, now we've got the rings, but ...

a wedding and a reception are also separate actions.

I've been to a heap of weddings lately: five in the last five years as opposed to zero in the preceding twenty. Much as I love the people involved, I'm not great at sitting still or paying attention for very many minutes, so I've always thought that the reception was the payment offered to friends by friends not just for your wedding gift to them but for your patience sitting through their lovely and lovingly crafted ceremony. So I got to thinking about how I don't really care much for weddings and how I care way Way WAY less for fussing and planning and spending money on stupid things like dresses and flowers and - ohmigosh! - the sleeting gobs of annoying details that go with weddings of which I have been able to remain blissfully ignorant.

And I thought: Sorry, Katie, no wedding -- but maybe I will come up with a reason and a trouble-free way to throw a big party someday.

I also thought: I am pretty sure I never liked those vows I couldn't remember. But I also didn't intend to spend hours, days, whatever, thinking of the perfect handcrafted vows. Quickly, I rousted Ronan, our best man/maid of honor/ring bearer/flowerless flower girl out of bed, grabbed the audience (Mush! the duck) and carried her downstairs (the audience/duck, not my daughter, who does stairs fine on her own). I gave Ronan the box with the freshly cleaned earrings in it, spun Matt away from the counter and sang the tune of "Here Comes the Bride" as fast as I could. I skipped from there straight to my vows, which were: "I promise to look out for you and second guess you to the best of my ability." Matt answered with: "I promise to look out for you and not to second guess yo--"

at which point I reminded him of how much I need someone to second-guess me sometimes, so he amended his vows to:

"and to try to keep you from doing stupid things." I put his earring on. He put mine on. He grabbed his thermos of tea. I sang that "Wedding March" song really really fast. We kissed. Ronan smiled. The duck twittered. And ...

I forgot the date. It doesn't matter, because ...

I do all my measuring of the length of our relationship from the day we met. It's a day I can remember: April Fool's Day, 1991.

P.S. Our best man/maid of honor/ring bearer and flowergirl also turned out to be our photographer. Perhaps it was the time constraint she was under, but all the pictures came out blurry. She said the digital camera was twitchy, I say she must have - somehow - already had too much. Above left (way above) is the happy couple. Above right is Mush! looking very attentive. We forgot to tell Mush! it's not appropriate to wear black to a wedding. Another nonconformist in the family, oh dear.

P.P.S. Matt's students at Kennedy Alternative High School think his wedding earing is cool. They noticed it right away.

P.P.P.S. My housemates were offended they weren't invited. How could that be? Even my mother wasn't offended. The wedding was at eight in the morning. "Did you really want me to wake you up for a three-minute wedding?" I asked. That settled them down.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

website for hikers detained in Iran

Hey there everyone, I'm back from the Spirit World of Sun Dance; Hambaleceya; and a very busy June, July, and first part of August; and a sleepover on Dorena Lake aboard an 18-foot sailboat with three tweenagers and a week-old duckling (the duckling came along as our expert swimmer and also because it's imprinted on Ronan's ankles). I hope to be posting entries again soon, but in the meantime here is my tiny part in helping people get or stay informed about Josh Fattal and his friends. Josh was a coworker of Matthew's at Aprovecho and is a member of our community in Cottage Grove.

The link to a wesite the families of the hikers have created to help with the international negotiations is

The families would appreciate it if you visit their website and also go from there to the associated Facebook page. Thank you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

empty nest -- not quite

My apologies that this entry is a bit dashed off. We have to go get the year's strawberries picked and processed and Ronan and her friends have a sailing lesson with Dean in the afternoon.

We did get an aviary of sorts rigged for Peach. Just in time for the big fundraising party we held for Megan (The party was a success, allaying my fears and exceeding my expectations. With the additional benefit of a lot of left over beer in the keg that I enjoyed giving away almost as much as I enjoyed drinking it.) Peach's aviary is in the back bedroom that I am planning to make into a pantry. She took to the room right away. Even put herself to bed in it one night when we were up past her bedtime playing a board game called Wildlife. After a considerable time spent playing T-Rex with the plastic figurines, she settled down to thieving money from the bank and defacing the currency. (Again, that's my girl! No respect for the value of money.) She also helped me annoy my fellow players in a closely contested game by taking the money due them from the bank out of my hand and delivering it to anywhere but the hand of the other party. Then, just as Ronan won one roll before I really should have, Peach disappeared. I found her on the wire shelf unit she prefers as a perch, all sleepy and meditative the way she gets after dark. Several days ago we opened the window in the aviary room and took the screen out. Ever alert to novelty, Peach flew to sit on the windowsill right and sat there looking out for some time before flying back into the rest of the house to ask for food, steal pencils, and harass me when I'm talking on the phone. Although she's a sub-adult now, Peach regresses to a toddler when I'm talking on the phone. Hopping from hand to foot, pecking at toes and fingers and the phone receiver, fussing and screeching. Ronan, who has been experiencing some silbing rivalry and jealousy with Peach, has taken on the job of doing predator practice with Peach, chasing her around the house and trying to catch her. It helps Ronan relieve her frustrations about her spoiled little sister (who is now older than her), who messes with her things and appears to have cached an accessory to one of Ronan's Pet Shop toys that she had only just bought that day with her chore money. She hasn't hidden that item in any of her usual spots, either. These days I have to check my shoes before I put them on for stashes of blueberries or rocks and sticks. Matt in particular has to protect his ears from being used as convenient holes for caching mealworms. Anway ... on Wednesday evening Ronan chased Peach into the aviary room. This is "base" for Peach so Ronan broke off the chase right away. Soon Peach went to sit on the windowsill again and after a few minutes of thinking about she flew out and into the cherry tree. For the next hour or so while I made dinner Peach sat in the cherry tree basking in the sun, often with her eyes closed, her beak open, and her wings held open and drooping. I occasionally called to her from the open windon so she would be sure to know how to get back, but she acted like I wasn't there. We had dinner. I fretted but figured this had to happen someday and still thought she might come in at roosting time. After dinner I saw Peach explore the ticket the cherry tree is in and find her way up to the top of the holly tree where the nest she had fallen out of probably still is. I'm not sure if she had an encounter with her biological parents but as I was sitting outside talking with my housemate, Pat, Peach flew into the workshop and let us know she was back, and ready for dinner. I got her some food she flew up to the upstairs balcony so I went in the house and out onto the balcony. Peach came to my shoulder and I took her back in and she's been ignoring the open window ever since. For now. Rather like sister Ronan, Peach is a thoughtful person who prefers to study new situations and then ease into them rather than fly off half cocked. More on the sibling rivalry: Ronan likes to steal Matt's tobacco pouch out of his shirt pocket. Peach clings to his suspenders while she works at liberating pencils from his pocket that she night then stash in his shoulderbag. Both kids are picky eaters and both make quite the fussy at being given something they don't want or no longer like, but only Ronan gets bent when I make a point of how much the other sister likes my lasagne, or pancakes, or bread.

Pictures: Peach on the teapot - all grown up. Peach checking the dirty dishes for yummy treats. Peach working out String Theory. Last picture is Peach messing with (and on) her friend and admirer, Jay Seeley.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wind turbines: they won't just kill birds and bats

Having my own much more happy goat and bird adventures over the last few weeks, I just now got a moment and enough memory to look up this article. here it is for interested parties. Thanks go to my parents for telling me about in the first place.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Peach: The Teen Days

Peach is a full-blown teenager now. I'm doing the best I can at my usual style of mostly child-led parenting.

Peach graduated from the basket nest to a cage a week or so ago and now doesn't want to be in the cage. I've laid newspaper down under her favorite roosts (she loves Matthew's clothes-drying racks) and let her play when the cats are away.

Like most teens she wants to get around on her own, now. No more perching on shoulders (much). We concerned parents (all three of us) let her. We cringe as she heads for a parking spot and just hope she doesn't crash. When she does we fish her out from behind the couch and she's off again.

Peach has become a picky eater. Before she was just a gaping, squeaking hole that accepted any nutritious offerings. Now ... Peach turns her head as the food is coming towards her so she can get a look at it and scoots away if she doesn't want what you've got. Soaked cat food is o-u-t these days. Cooked egg yolks are not favored. She still likes whites sometimes. She likes my bread a lot. (That's my girl!) Soaked in goatsmilk, please. Also fava beans and raspberries.
Earthworms are great when she's hungry. When she's not hungry but just yelling for no good reason she takes whatever you give her and holds it in her mouth. Last week she would spit it back into my hand but this week the cheeky bugger looks askance at my hand, sidesteps down the branch (or dowel) and then spits it onto the floor as though to say, "Don't even think of giving me that again."

Peach is learning to use her bill. For all kinds of stupid things. Like humans teenagers she believes that mouths are for oral fixations, parents are for food. Last week she would peck on anything that did not look like food: the rod she was sitting on. The wooden arm of the chair. Her feet. the metal wire of the cage. Today for the first time after several session of foraging practice that seemed to go nowhere and while I was ignoring her, Peach flew to the dining room table and instead of asking for food she started gulping down the rice and crumbs I hadn't cleaned up off the tablecloth yet. An untidy house can be a help in raising a jay.

Sometimes when I would be watching Peach try to eat the armchair or not know what to do with a worm that wasn't perfectly positioned in her mouth for her, I would think, am I a failure or is my kid slow? But then I would hear drifting in through the kitchen window all the shrieking teenage demands coming from the top of the holly tree and I would know that the other jays weren't faring any better at getting their teens to seek gainful employment. At least I'm keeping up with the Joneses, in Jayland.

You may be thinking "What happened to the aviary idea?" Well, it pretty much went out the window. Along with the some of the other advice online at bird rescue websites, such as "feed your baby scrub jay chopped mice". Forget it. I'll dig worms and buy her mealworms but I am not catching and chopping mice for her. An aviary was going to be a lot of work keeping her happy in it and cleaning it up afterward and I got to thinking about how we raised Webster and Eggbert - they just hung around with us until they took off for longer and longer periods and then forever. I guess I'm going for the improvise-as-it-comes method.

Peach has gotten way better at flying in the last few days: she showed off a tight aerial u-turn just this morning. She may soon be able to hold her own against a cat, even in the house, should she encounter one. We're still keeping the species separated, though, because Peach spends an unnatural amount of time hopping about on the floor yelling at passing feet, especially during "hoppy hour," which is around eight o'clock in the morning and again at eight at night. While her desire to perch and observe from on high is a demonstrable jay trait (her parents spend a lot of time hanging out on the disused TV antenna on top of our house, getting a break from the kids, no doubt), this floor thing doesn't seem like anything a real jay could get away with. Considering how active Peach has been, I really don't understand how the jays in the holly are learning to fly without winding up on the ground. Although maybe that is what is keeping jays from running the world.

Raising Peach has been a fulfilment of one of my many lifelong dreams. I always wanted to have a corvid, if only temporarily. They're so smart, chatty, and (so I've found) fairly laid-back and easy to take care of. I am also cured now of wanting to find a baby crow or a raven. Once Peach hit her adolescence, she got pretty prickly. Her claws were no longer comfortable on my skin, but a thin shirt was sufficient as a buffer. Not so with the claws of the larger corvids. One would have to deck oneself out like a falconer for those guys.

I have some nice pictures of Peach begging for food at the dining room table and wrestling with a hanging thread on a throw, but for some reason my camera is not speaking to my computer today. Maybe later.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The word of the moment is "gazingstock". I wanted an obscure word for "miracle" to post as the next "word of the week/month/whatever" and this is what I found. The "stock" part only made it more appropriate since O'un is our gazingstock.

O'un is doing grand. She is alpha goat again. Not quite as obnoxiously pushy as she often was before. When she rams another goat out of her way, you can see that she's not putting her whole heart, soul, and weight into it.

For anyone wondering where the "Fujiko" in "Fujiko Farm" comes from, here is a picture of Fujiko with thunderheads. Fuji
ko is also the mountain (hill, really) pictured on the blog's header when you are at Fujiko's real name on a map is "Shortridge Hill" but I think that name is dull and the mountain is peerless. There is a way to write Fuji in Japanese - as in Mount Fuji - so that it also reads as "no two" (without peer). Because my hill is little, especially in comparison to Fuji, it gets the ending "ko". To me this all adds up to mean "Little Peerless One." If you click on the picture, though, it should get a little bigger for you.

I'm still pretty scatteredbrained from the last few days. So I'll just close this by saying Ronan's favorite snack food of the moment is a glob of honey wrapped in rose petals from the scented roses. She would probably suggest you try it, but she's at school today. O'un's favorite food today is Japanese knotweed. We have not yet remembered to get some knotweed when it is young, but it supposed to be very good food for humans, too.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

There is probably something I'm supposed to be getting out of this besides stressed out

O'un, a.k.a. The Resurrection Queen, has just had her third trip to hell. Her third near-death experience. Her third Vision Quest. The rest of us have had one rough last couple of days.

Just after we sold O'un's half-sister Venus and Venus's two kids, Oun became listless. She had no appetite that night for her grain. The next morning I saw that she hadn't touched the fodder in her manger. She was lying down staring into near space with an "I've lost the will to live" look on her face. Was she that attached the Venus? I wondered. Her belly was swollen and no sounds were coming from her guts.

Matt and I pumped some molasses and yogurt down her and got her out of the sun (where she had chosen to go lie down) and back in her stall. Soon after she was drooling. The vet said he couldn't come until five o'clock. Five o-clock! It was a long hot day. O'un went from being able to stand and walk to lying and staring. To drooling. To sprawled over on her side with her open mouth propped on the pallet wall of her stall, saliva draining away. When the vet got here, her temperature had gone from normal to over 106 degrees. She was super-dehydrated and in nearly complete metabolic failure. Matt and I had to drag her (she was still to heavy to lift) out of the stall area and into a shady part of the pasture with her head and chest aimed uphill.

After his initial assessment and a shot of banamine and because O'un was mouth-breathing and didn't respond to her eyes being touched, I asked the vet what he would do if she were his goat. He said he'd put her down. I was just about to say do it when Matt said, she's been like this before (when she was owned by other people). All the way like this? I wondered. This bad? I couldn't remember her mouth-breathing, only the stargazing and how terminal she had seemed before making her amazing recoveries. Matt insisted on the herculean measures. I wondered if we were torturing her.

The vet's first attempt to tube her failed. He couldn't get the tube down into her stomach. He went for IV rehydration, but he exhaused his chances on the right jugular before he could get it and the left jugular thrombosed soon after the drip started, she was that far gone. The vet and his intern put the rest of the fluid in subcutaneously. We got her into a better position and the vet was able to get the tube down her for more fluids and propylene glycol. he warned us, "they usually die right after I take the tube out. Something about it just tips them over."

O'un didn't die. But the vet was sure that her cranial nerves were already deteriorated and that she was essentially brain dead. Flies could walk across her open staring eyes.

The vet told me to get her into a frog position buttressed with hay bales for the night. He said he thought she had maybe 10% chance of making it until morning (and I was pretty sure he felt he was exaggerating by at least nine). Ronan and I got the hay bales in place and then set up four more to make a bed for me out in the field next to O'un. As I brought all my gear out: the sleeping bag, the quilt, the pillows, I kept thinking that each time I approached her she wouldn't be breathing anymore. And it often looked that way until I was right on top of her; her breathing was very shallow.

Shallow, but the breaths kept coming. At 10:00, Ronan walked out with me to "tuck me in". I woke up several times during the night to reposition O'un because she had scooted herself out from between the bales. Around one a.m. she bleated and her head was up instead of flat on the ground. Despite the fear and stress, I couldn't help but enjoy as I always have a night under the stars. I listened to the frogs and looked at the Milky Way, petted Charm (one of the outdoor cats who was so happy I was sleeping outside and was defending her position against all other cats). I saw two shooting stars with long tails in the low Southeast. The tops of my pillows and the sleeping bag got sopped with dew. It was a lovely night. Later, in the dead of night (about 3:30 a.m., when even the frogs are too tired to croak), the partying down at the lake cranked up (pun intended), but I the rest of the night had been so lovely that I didn't begrudge the idjits their noise as much as I used to.

A beautiful Saturday dawn came with sun rising far to the north of Mount Fujiko, and from 4:30 on I couldn't wait until 8:00 when I could call the vet and ask what to do next. Things still didn't look good. I'd only gotten O'un to eat two mustard leaves. It was a loooooong time until 8:00, but I kept busy with the usual chores plus the preparations for getting Ronan and Matt ready for the Row River Cleanup canoe trip. We didn't all have to stay home, and it's a rare thing for Ronan to spend a whole day with her dad. Despite all the hubbub, Peach, the scrub jay, still got some quality shoulder time in. (Peach is sitting on my shoulder now as I type. She loves shoulder perching.)

Finally I called the vet at 7:59 and he answered. He sounded very reserved when I told him my name and then amazed and frankly puzzled when I said O'un was still alive, now what? He said I could drive up to his office in Pleasant Hill and he would leave some medication in a drop box for me. I asked if we had somehow pushed O'un over the edge by cutting fresh fodder for the goats that had contained rather a lot of hop clover. He said that could have done it because it was rather rich food, but he couldn't say, even Venus's departure couldn't be ruled out as a cause of the whole cascade. He thought, though, that O'un was just a weak goat who had been ruined and compromised in the past and that anything could have triggered the ketosis or bloat into acidosis into enterotoxemia that was his guess for what was wrong with her. His advice was that he had brought more goats back from the brink with just blackberry leaves than with anything else. So that's what I did. All day long: cut a bucket of blackberry leaves. Feed O'un. Feed Peach. Do something else for about thirty minutes. Then cut more blackberry leaves. Check on O'un. Hold the water bucket for her drink out of. Feed Peach. Drive up to Pleasant Hill for the goat meds. Feed. Feed. Feed. And occasionally thing: wouldn't it be great if everyone had a "magic pill" that grew as a weed all over the place. Every prickly leaf seemed to make O'un stronger.

By evening we let her kids see her and she tried to stand but still couldn't quite manage it. Today (Sunday) her eyes are bright and engaged. We can't say if she's going to ever again be the same pushy, butt-headed alpha goat she was last week, but I think she might be standing up some time today. We'll see if her milk returns, too, although her kids seem to be doing okay without her at nine weeks. Matt's pretty sure she's going to dry down permanently.

What am I thinking I am supposed to get out of this? Besides the realization that we nearly killed O'un this time ourselves. Besides the realization that O'un apparently NEVER loses her will to live. Besides that I should not have mistaken her strange strength and ability to come back from devastating conditions (in which her organs have failed and her intestinal walls have all but dissolved) for overall good health: O'un, we now know, is as tough as she is delicate. I shouldn't have bred O'un this one last time ... although I am sure glad that we have a girl from O'un. No, none of those things so much.

What I am trying to get myself to learn is that again and again - and in just the last twelve months I've seen it happen three times - critical situations that I thought could not possibly turn out well, did. I watch myself making reasonably intelligent, logical deductions from the information at hand ... and coming to pessimistic conclusions that were wrong. While I don't want to take this too far into mindless hope and become someone who causes needless pain and suffering for others by not letting them go when they need to go, I really want to learn to adjust my heart and mind to allow for and encourage intelligent hope.

I have an uneasy relationship with hope. I have often joked (with serious intent) that hope was the last creature out of Pandora's Box because it was the worst and most climactically terminal disease. I think that humans have used hope - in something better always coming around the corner and then in something better coming in a life after this one - to destroy the only Paradise we know for a fact exists (when we're not busy transforming it into hell). For quite some time now I have lost hope that humanity can evolve into a species that does not destroy the world. My main source of hope has been that we do not have any means of escaping this world and going off to destroy another one. I still don't think I can address that ultimate problem with hope that I have, but I can try to use the lessons of Webster, O'un and even Peach here, to help me with the smaller daily hopes that can sustain me as a happier more highly functional person.

Today I can say, as I did when I woke up next to O'un and looking over the valley at my beautiful mountain: "Thank you for another day in Paradise."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

water and 24 hours of cuddling

That's my t-shirt slogan: "Water and 24 hours of cuddling will fix almost anything." It's been proved right for the second time. With Peach here, pictured on her second day with us. (No, I have not made it into a t-shirt yet and probably never will get around to it.)

The first time this axiom bore out was when Sophie, back when she was our new dog, mistook an escaped gosling for a chew toy. I thought Webster was a goner and was trying to ratch up the courage and stomp on her when Ronan woke up, found out what was going on and - of course - disag
reed with my intended course of action. I was feeling weak and willing to let her try to save her despite that I thought Ronan's efforts were most likely going to prolong her suffering. We forced water down Webster at regular intervals and wrapped her up on old shirt so that she could be strapped to Ronan's chest for warmth. For most of the day she looked terminal. We had a Cottage Grove fashion show to go to at Centro del Sol and Gosling-in-a-Sling went with us. She was a sideshow sensation at the event and was starting to look a little better. By the next day I figured that if she'd made it 24 hours without snuffing, then that was a very good sign. Soon after she was eating and drinking and making the usual waterfowl mess. Later she rejoined her brother pestering people on the porch by gnawing on the edges of their book or begging from their plates and supervising any job that involved power tools. Those two geese would come running whenever a chainsaw, drill, or even a jackhammer fired up. Our only guess about this behavior is that a migrating flock of geese must make a LOT of noise if your up their amonst them with the wind in your feathers.

Then on Thursday morning one of the kid's next door dropped off a baby bird hoping that Ronan could save it. He'd found it inside the house, so a cat must have carried it in - an action that usually involves some crunching down on the body. Ronan was having a sleepover with her friends in a tent and before they came to take over I looked at the baby bird, saw it was a scrub jay, and thought that at least it was a good species although it didn't look much better than Webster had. Ronan and her friends worked on rehydrating the bird and naming it Peach (this last was a longer process than it sounds). And that was about it. But after a day of being fussed over by Ronan, Vesta, and Hazel, I was taking the bird around with me on errands in Cott
age Grove while Ronan was at gymnastics class and the little thing ate some soggy cat food and then shoved its butt up to the top of the knitted purse she was sitting and started wagging it fast and hard over the side. I was mentally prepared for the little green sack of poo that ma and pa scrub jay are supposed to be able to grab in their bills and fly off to drop somewhere away from the nest, but ... I fumbled the toilet paper. Now I can tell you that the little mucusy parcel comes pretty well wrapped and can be picked off a hand towel folded in the bottom of basket without breaking and squishing shit all around. But the main point to telling you all that was that we had achieved poop! Yay! Stuff was going in Peach and it was coming out! Her chances of surviving just went way up. When Ronan got out of gym, I made the announcement "We've got poop!" and she grinned and clapped her hands.

We're now on our sixth day with Peach and she is starting her practice flights. Mostly from shoulder to finger. She has her knit purse (knitted by Vesta) for short trips, but most of the time her kn
itted nest is in a larger basket that contains her diaper kit and food bowl. Jays are hardy things and not picky eaters, thank goodness. Peach has been dining on worms; soaked cat food; hard-boiled eggs; defrosted berried; homemade bread with toasted pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seads soaked in goatsmilk; and a little bit of buffalo - supplemented now and then with a sprinkle of powdered nettles, kelp, and nutritional yeast. She sleeps a fair bit, which is great. We've learned that bird parents have more spare time that we might have thought (she eats every half hour), but we're still kept hopping. I am really glad she is a slacker species. Barn swallows get up at 4:00 a.m. and are the last birds to go to bed at night around here; you can hardly tell them from bats sometimes. I've heard its pretty hard to hand raise barn swallows. Whereas our jay will sleep in until six or so and is ready to snuggle up for the night at eight.

Peach has been a fledgling on the go. She been to town couple of times, been to the pub, and gone on a hike on the Martin Flume Trail out past Bryce Creek. If we can keep any cats from eating her as she continues her practice flights and moves outside to a halfway house (an "aviary" made out of a tent with newspapers spread in the bottom and some bushes dragged in) and them from there back to the great outdoors and the open sky, she may stick around to be a garden pest (so Matt thinks) for years to come.

(Sorry it's been so long since the last post. It's been very busy here. I have so many posts in my head I could fence a good-sized pasture: Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery and the Hazerot Angel, shampooing goats, making pasta, the rest of the kidding season, picking my spot on the hill for a four-day vision quest in July that I've been preparing for sinc elast year, and all the posts about writing (rather than rural living) I've been meaning to write. This is not the best time of year for writing - a thing which can sometimes make me rather frustrated and blue. And now I need to go see what needs watering...)

Friday, May 8, 2009

smacked up against the fence again

This time I didn't even need google scholar to get the doors of knowledge slammed in my face. I was just looking for a name for a female Russian cosmonaut (I like that word rahter better than astronaut). I found lots of Russian names, but then I got to thinking that since she is really from some global-warmed part of Siberia, I should look for some Siberian names. Pages of siberian husky names popped up. And a curious string from 2003 in which someone named Caprice was looking for authentic Inuit and Siberian names, but the string contained only a helpful lead for Inuit names. Then, at the bottom of the second or third page of links, I found this blurb: "NAMES OF. SIBERIAN PEOPLES. In recent years the names of nearly all the native Siberian peoples have been changed. The reasons for this were that the former..."

Arrgh! Aren't you dying to know too? Well, okay, maybe not. I think we all know what followed that ellipsis. Another great swath of humanity's cultural history was annihilated while we slept. But if you did want to know just how bad culture-cide was in the former Soviet Union and you clicked on the link you would wind up at the American Journal of Physical Anthropology's website, where you wouldn't be able to read the article (without paying for it) or read the abstract (because there wasn't one).

Again I must console myself that reading that article wouldn't have been an efficient use of my scant free time; I was simply working on getting myself happily distracted. Really, I found out what I wanted to know, which was that a Russian name would do just fine for a future Russian/Siberian cosmonaut and now I should stop lollygagging around and get back to work on the story. Except that ...

next I have to find a website that will tell me how to pronounce "Lyuha" (first name). Not necessarily because the story is about someone with a voice in her head (that isn't hers) but because I always have voices in my head - in particular when I'm reading - and I want whatever voice is talking to me when I writing and reading this story to know how to say "Lyuha Kuzmina" properly.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

the gated communities of the internet & google scholar

Today I am giving a shout out to my cousin Brenda for telling me about google scholar. Last night I said that I might be asking for her knowledge in library science to help with coming up with search terms that work. I gave the example of wanting to know what research and history there is on diagnosing health problems by smelling a patient's breath (human or animal). She mentioned "google scholar" and also cautioned that I might need a library to assist me or be a college student in order to access the results.

I don't have my L-number from Lane Community College with me here in Cleveland, so I couldn't see if they had forgotten to delete me from the system when the last class I took ended. I figured I'd just try google scholar and see what happened. And ... it worked. To an extent. Yes, almost everywhere I went there was the internet version of gates, concertina wire, and night watchmen, but on each page of links there was one or two houses that were left unlocked; the ones - of course - without much in the way of possessions. Still, it was something. I was also able to pick bits of info up from abstracts, and other sites would allow peeps at the first page. While I wanted more, I had to admit that I could get pretty close to enough information for fiction work. More would most likely have been an edifying and enjoyable waste of time. For now, though, I know that it possible for a person with knowledge and a good nose to discover ailments far beyond periodonal disease, things like lung, breast, and bladder cancer; renal problems (especially problems associated with diabetes); some forms of poisoning (salicylate, for one); and both kinds of skin cancer (from smelling the skin, not the breath). Not surprisingly, some papers hint at lots of cool history of breath-smelling through the ages. Ah well. Can't go there just yet, or maybe ever. Among the groundlings, the internet is a still an ever-growing free-for-all of great information that may save your life or the life of some creature near you (cayenne pepper powder, lots of it, will stop even arterial bleeding - I have that from several sources) or teach you how to do so very many things without having to pay for lessons somewhere (Ronan and I enjoyed the video on how to pick locks), but the upper levels have always been battened down and we groundlings hear tales that more gated communities may come horning in to our turf. Some times we might need to find ways to get around the gates, but other times it's okay to just be a gleaner. Gleaning can get you a lot stuff, and depending on what you're making, the input materials don't always have to be top notch.

So for other writers out there looking to bolster an idea or a hunch or seeking small doses of verisimilitude to add to a story, google scholar is one more tool we can add to our collection. Thanks again, Brenda.

Friday, May 1, 2009

word of the week: recursion

Besides the other things I am "currently reading", I am also reading Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel Everett. The book is about his years living with and studying the Piraha Indians ( that last "a" has a tilde over it - not an option on blogspot that I know of - and the whole thing, which is Portuguese, is pronounced "pee-da-HAN"). The Piraha, though, call themselves the "Hiaitiihi" - with stress accents on the first, second, and fourth "i's" (also not a text option I can find). As if that isn't bad enough, it seems each vowel is pronounced separately and not combined into any dipthongs like the "ea" in "great."

I found out about the book while spelunking through the internet helping my sister find audio books to order that she could listen to while at work. From there we looked for a book group she could join in Cleveland. From there we looked down the schedule of books for the book group we discovered and found Don't Sleep.

Lynn put the book on reserve with her library but I was jonesing for something to read at night and found getting it for both of us (and Matt, eventually) a good enough reason to rush around to bookstores until I found it. I am really enjoying it, especially since the Hiaitiihi are so strange, linguistically and otherwise, that they point out some good things to consider should one ever need to write about aliens, human or extra-terrestrial.

But on to the word-of-the-week. Recursion is something the Hiaitiihi don't have in their language. Something that was previously assumed to be an inherent part of all human language (and therefore thinking). Recursion means, roughly, "going back to itself". We've all been annoyed by recursion when looking up a word in the dictionary and findng something like this: "incontrovertible: that which cannot be controverted". That's recursion in it's most basic form. There is mathematical recursion, of which a well-known example is the Fibonacci series. As for recursion in linguistics, I think it is when a sentence folds clauses into it that refer back to it, as in "There's that guy I told you about last week." But for the real deal (without useful examples) try this:

Skip down to the section on recursion in language and in a fine example of some kind of recursion, you will find ... Daniel Everett, author of Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes.

Your assignment, now, should you chose to accept it, is to use "recursion" in a sentence before the week is out. Which reminds me to remind everyone that if you find receiving this blog tedious or burdensome, let me know, and I will delete your address from the list. Whereas if you found this spot by accident or know someone else who might want to get this blog, also let me know and I will put you on the fujikofarm googlegroup list.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

a wild hair: hair, laundry, and the environment

One of the reasons why I cut my hair (much to the shock and dismay of Matthew) was because I got to thinking about water use. It took a long time to get all that hair wet in the shower, especially when it is so thick and kinky as to be nearly waterproof - even when fully submerged in a bath. After the chop, showers became easy and not just another tedious chore. (Although this may mean that I will take more of them, which might not be a water-savings in the long run. So far, though, I have not suddenly become a cleaner person.) The next reason was that after I grew out my Pequot idea (where my forehead and temples were shaved to the crown of my head and then transitioned from there to long down the back and sides) so much gray had grown in that it was hard to adjust to. I tried black henna: what a pain in the butt! Plus the color falls out of my hair in just a few days. Then I flirted with dyeing, but that, too, required way too much maintenance for this slacker, and I the environmental impact was eating at me. So, okay, off it all went.

I'm adjusting. Now, thanks to my friend and one-time housemate Megan, I've become more aware of the environmental costs of shampoo, too, even the "nice" basic ones. Megan told me how she was scrubbing her hair with a paste of baking soda and water and following it with a vinegar rinse. I tried it, and it works great. For me, I have one more step, but it's not so bad. After the shower I rub my hair through with a little olive oil, usually scented with something interesting: lemongrass, frankincense, rose, whatever is the cheapest essential oil I can find. This tames it down for several days and also keeps it from freaking out when exposed to humidity or rain.

What are the environmental costs of baking soda? I doubt it's pretty. I may do a story on the whole process sometime from when it comes out of the earth to when it returns through a leach field, since a leach field is what I have. Our ground is quite acid, so adding a base substance in the leach field might be a good thing, although I wonder about the sodium part of the sodium bicarbonate. You might say, "Oh, it's only a little bit! Chill." But I also make batch after batch of mozzarella and feta cheeses and each of them (or at least the mozz) requires swirling a significant amount (half a cup or more) or salt down the drain every time. I would think that it's got to add up over time. Having just written a part of a novel where the main character visits the salt flats left behind by the agricultural practices of the Sumerian Empire, I can't stop thinking about salt that easily. I really want to write that article. Finding the time ... finding the time ... and add another story on what really all is in shampoo. And hair dyes. I know many of my friends do not want to know what its those temporary wild-colored dyes, but I do.

Where I am actually going with this post, though, is to another great tip from Megan. Really. Despite what I just said about baking soda, I think it is a big step up from shampoo. She also gave me a recipe for laundry soap that I can't wait to try, especially now that she found a source for washing soda. I buy my Natural Value laundry soap by the case and it lasts a good long while, but Matthew, Ronan, and I are pretty good at getting things dirty and none of us are all that great at getting things clean. Our current laundry soap works as long as nobody is interested in whites being white, or even off-off-off-white. Thus, besides wanting to be able to make my own laundry soap cheap, and be easier on the environment, I am certainly not attached to the cleaning power of the soap I currently have.

Whether you want the recipe or not, you should check out Megan's blog. Here is your entree:

Take some time. Wander around. Don't just stop with the soap.

kidding season - part two - The Resurrection Queen

Next up to kid was O'un. O'un has had an exciting life. Which for a goat is not a desireable thing. For most living things "an exciting life" means, really, that things are not going smoothly - thus the excitement (aka adrenaline). Only humans, usually young ones, think excitement is a desireable state of affairs.

This is probably a Bad Layout Idea, but I am going to put pictures of O'un's trouble-free birth throughout this story and caption them in purple. Because her kidding was so uncomplicated there wasn't really all that much to say about it. The first picture here is shows Moon, still wet, and not just behind the ears.

Visiting the Amazon or hiking across Papua New Guinea are never on any goat's list of Things To Do Before I Die. Goats don't even care how many birds are on their Life List. What would make for "excitement" for a goat? Tangling with a vicious dog? This is only exciting if the goat somehow wins decisively. Otherwise, it's a bloody crisis. O'un's life has been so exciting that her nickname is the Resurrection Queen. She's had two near-death experiences. Both before she was our goat. Both because of not getting proper nutrition when pregnant.

Another picture of Moon, nearly dry, but wet enough to still show off her crescent-moon curls.

Ronan named her O'un when she was born. Ronan was not yet two and we were living in a cabin at the Aprovecho Research Center recovering from the Year of the Thirteen Moves. We'd acquired some goats from our old place (before the 13 moves), Coyote Creek Farm, so that Aprovecho could have goats. V-2 had twins and O'un is the one we still know. O'un is how Ronan said "Other one" at the time. Nine years late, I can't remember what the other kid's name was or what ultimately happened to her. I do have a memory that O'un's birth went smoothly. We helped dry them off, and V-2, who always was more than a little gormless, seemed like she wanted to reject the kids but she got over it. Thus O'un came to be O'un. Or O'one or Owen, depending on which of us is trying to spell her name on what day.

While O'un cleans off baby brother Darshall, Moon nuzzles U'un's neck - because she hasn't yet figured out which bits of mom produce milk when you suck on them.

The name Resurrection Queen came because one year she had one kid and then she just went down and started to die. I was living in Yoncalla and came up to see her. The person who took care of her had concluded that she had a twisted intestine and was toast. She was bloated with gas and her head was thrown back over her body in what I now think of as the "death posture" for goats. It's also called "stargazing." Her kid was standing on the big balloon of her belly. She was in bad shape. She may have had pregnancy toxemia. I say "may" because a vet was never called in. Also she didn't respond to propylene glycol. I raced off to the feed store and got a tube of live gut bacteria and pumped that down her throat, too, but then I had to get back home. She still looked like a goner when I left. In two days time, though, she was up on her feet, eating and acting like a normal goat. If she had pregnancy toxemia, that also meant that she was back from having metabolized her way past a shit-load of toxins dumped into her system as part of the whole process of the disease.

I was a little worried that O'un was going to drop a third baby, but as it turned out she was just passing the placenta. Twins are plenty enough kids, and I never met a goat who couldn't count. Most mother goats I knew counted to two, or maybe three, and if there were more kids there on the ground she walked away from the rest. Some moms aren't really into being moms - or feel their lives aren't stable enough; these goats count as high as zero.

Moon, Darshall and O,un - safe and sound.

O'un went on to have a least one other trouble-free birth before having another bad time. Feed was short again and this time she had also escaped and gotten into a bag of cat food. She hadn't had her kids yet and by the time her owners got her fixed up again (with a quart of plain yogurt until they could get better stuff), the fetuses must have died. A vet was called to pull out the dead kids. As soon as she was ready to travel after this experience, she came to live with us.

O'un wasn't so far gone that she dried up, so we milked her for a year and half and then decided to breed her one last time. By the time we are ready to breed any goats again (hopefully two or three autumns from now), O'un will be twelve or something - well into retirement age. Lucky for us she had a girl and a boy. So we can hope that Moon, the girl, will be her replacement someday.
We don't mind if she has O'un's trait of bad attachment (udder attachment, not emotional attachment) but it would be really great if Moon did not inherit her mom's tendency to go from solid calm to spastic dancing as soon as she feels you've taken two seconds too long at milking.
One more picture of Darshall as he works to get his legs under him for the first time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

kidding season - part one

I wanted a trouble-free kidding season this year, and I got it. Sort of. We've had better. I am sure we've had several kidding seasons over the years during which there were zero calls to the vet or to fellow goat owners, but like a lot of non-events, I don't remember them all that well. This year we had a couple of calls to the vet and several to a friend with goats, and several more to feed stores. However, there are no dead kids and not one anxious trip to the vet with a goat stuck in labor in the back of the truck. What a relief! Once you've had a really bad kidding season, even if it was two years ago, minor problems such as one weakling kid and every goat having lice seem like nothing much.

Lice? Yeah. Guess that handsome billy whose photos grace the first posting of this blog had a seamier side to him. Goat lice, like human lice, don't just spontaneously generate, so our girls had to have gotten them from somebody. He's the only somebody they've been in contact with. In the future we should check prospective boyfriends for lice before letting them on the property. At least for the goats.

We're treating all the goats, and there will be another post about what remedy worked. I was in favor of the nuclear option: a product called Cylence (gotta appreciate those coy drug labels), the goat version of Qwell. But then I had to take off for Cleveland, leaving Matthew with a ton of chores and the option to do things his way. He's trying out some herbal oil-based thing - and, damn, he doesn't have the camera to take any pictures of our greaser goats. He did say that he applied it along their back two days ago and yesterday they were covered in oil. May the lice suffocate.

Back to kidding season, as opposed to its aftermath. Venus dropped her kids first. In the night. I was letting everyone out of their stalls in the morning and - whoa - there the two were, already dry and standing up. Ronan named them Moo-shi and Diego. I tried to move Ronan to a food name for the boy, like Pu-Pu Platter, but no go. As for Moo-shi, she's a girl, so we're not as likely to make mushu goat out of her. Although we do have way too many goats now.

At right is a picture of Ronan and Moo-shi. No, goat lice do not transfer to humans.

I'm going to cut this post short because I recently changed the settings to have the blog sent to the new fujikofarm google group. I want to see if it works. However, I have noticed that when the blog postings are sent directly to your e-mail for your convenience that the pictures and text get rearranged. If you want to see the blog as it is supposed to look - more or less - you should bookmark it and just use the e-mail post as a reminder to check the bookmark. Also I think that the subsidiary blog info, like the comments and "currently reading" is not in those e-mails ... just in case any of you want to get into any discussions about books or music.

my first proofs

Two days ago I received the proofs from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for the story the magazine bought. As I have been since my first contact with them (a month and a half back), I am impressed with the dedication of the F&SF staff. I think just about all the e-mails I received were sent after hours or on Sundays. I sent my one correction today although I had until May 15 to get back to them. As it was, I frittered away one whole day avoiding reading the proofs until I got to wondering if some response was expected - such as "got the proofs, will get back" or if that response would be regarded as lame, or, or, or, ... so I figured I should just read the thing and get 'er done.
During the day of avoidance, I did get to spend bits of time - mostly while taking Ronan for a swim in Lake Erie - thinking about how I did not want to read the story and be embarassed and worried about it. And sad. Embarassed because I am a very harsh judge and I am no longer sure that the story meets my peculiar first criterion for writing anything: Is it worth the paper it's printed on? Or rather: is it likely to produce anything of value to equal or exceed the environmental cost of its existence? Perhaps, I should take some comfort in that the story has a lot less to answer for with its little life than I do for my existence. Worried, because I no longer write like that, which leads directly to sad - F&SF just rejected the story I really wanted to send them. The one that I was going to send out on the heals of the rejection of the first story, while they still had some memory of who I am and a hopefully favorable impression that I understand the rules of English and standard manuscript format.
No big surprise that life is full of surprises. Also it should not come as a big surprise to me that the second story - at 13000 words, three times the size of the first story - is still going to be a hard sell coming for someone only one small step up from a total unknown. I would like to not be surprised to find out that other writers go through similar idiotic contortions with their first proofs - as opposed to being properly and jubilantly happy like we should be. One final non-surprise: F&SF lived up to my experience of their efficiency and professionalism; the rejection came back in less than 14 business days and was a short personal letter, graciously worded.

As for the backlog of posts clogging my mind ... I have now figured out how to get my father's computer in Cleveland to act sort of like the one back at home (I couldn't figure out how to adjust the size of pictures, which was turning them into monsters that clogged the post space). In the meantime the backlog has grown. This is starting to feel awfully reminiscent of bummers and gummers never-completely-conquered pile of not-yet-answered mail. Now if I write, "Patience, please" the deja vu will be complete.

Friday, March 27, 2009

urine as fertilizer - some links

Alert reader (despite being sleep-deprived) Brian Thomas - baker, blacksmith, and subsistence farmer - wrote me saying that he had heard that the nitrogen in human urine might not be in an accessible form for plants. To help us all out on this, I picked up some links to articles. I hope I can get the links to work for you. And if anyone knows a better way to supply links other than having to type each character in by hand PLEASE let me know. Cutting and pasting doesn't seem to work with this blog.

Brian also said that he fills his five-gallon bucket one-third full with wood shavings or scrap hay and then just adds the bucket to his regular compost. I noticed one article advised to never let the urine get more than 24 hours old unless you're just going to use it to get the temperature up in your compost heat. In the Washington Post article, note the cabbage growing capacity of just one person's piss. Cool.

And aren't we all glad I didn't match the color of this post to the color of hot urine?

For more info google "urine fertilizer".

nitrogen independence - it's only a piss away!

A week or two ago some other subsistence farmers were complaining about the high price of nitrogen fertilizer. They mean nitro fertilizer suitable for organic growing methods, not good-old industrial-grade urea. I thought to myself, at least that's one soil amendment you shouldn't really have to buy. You can make it yourself. Unlike lime or bonemeal - unless you have your own knackeryard and crematorium.

A fair number of my friends do not have flush toilets (although they all have hot-and-cold running water) and I have always thought septic tanks were a waste. :) Unless you're Japan, or whatever country is currently buying our cooked down septic waste. (Yes. That's what your shit and cleansers are going into - faraway fertilizers that may be coming back you as the food on your table. We got that info from someone who pumped tanks for a living.) Septic tanks are not just a waste, they are terrible bother when you need to dig a new leach field, because you're old one got buggered, or when you have to dig up the line to find where the clog (or break in the pipe) is between the house and tank. Yuck.

But it's hard to make the time to build a composting outhouse when there isn't anything broken about the toilets. (For now.) We have so very many other actually broken things to work on around the place. A humanure (google that word if you want more information on composting your waste) bucket isn't hard to set up but I figured we'd want to compost all that stuff separate from our regular compost. Give it a little extra time and all that. This would involve building another, and fairly large compost bin somewhere - which puts us back to that this is just not a priority project for us. Fencing a new pasture is. Building a lumber shed and a recycling shed is. So is putting a veranda on the west side of the house to end another of the various rain runooff and drainage problems this place has. A new milking parlor ... A compost bin just for our shit when we got goat and duck shit out the wazoo, and their shit needs little if any composting down, just isn't on the list for the next five years of things-to-do, probably. But a simple bucket just for pee is easy enough to manage. I've just been being lazy. Between us and the rest of the animals here we should be able to make all our nitrogen needs, easy-peasy.

I found a five gallon bucket and a lid and scrubbed it out and set it up in the bathroom. The five-gallon size is not for anywhere near that amount of pee. By day 2 or 3 the pee in the bucket will be starting to ... uh, ferment ... and getting mighty smelly. No, the large size is for making it easier to squat over and for fairly splash-free carrying even without the lid.

Ronan had already said she would switch to a humanure bucket if I got a decorative toilet seat for the top of it. Something with sea creatures, please. But Matt, Mr. Natural, baulked on the humanure plan - noted above. Just pee doesn't need a special seat, because you don't really need to sit at all. Ronan complained that it wasn't comfortable having to hover over the bucket for a piss. I countered with the fact that for the hundreds of thousands of years of this species existence, women have sat down for a pee only in the past 100 or so and that even then that's in a minority of the places on this world. With all the mod-cons we have here, losing this one tiny one is only going to make us both (very slightly) stronger people.

Ronan has been doing her share. So far she has not volunteered to be the one to distribute the urine in the garden. I'm doing that. With the watering can. That way I can get the pee directly into the ground without spraying any on leaves we'll be wanting to eat later. I can also dilute it (adding the water, first, of course). It isn't always necessary to dilute the urine, but dilution will dissipate the smell, which even at its strongest doesn't last very long and is not so bad compared to fish emulsion. The smell of fish emulsion is also harder to wash off y0ur hands. I am guessing people living on small plots in cities should opt for dilution before applying.

So there you have it. One little thing you can do to make yourself more independent and self-sufficient. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

For those of you wondering about pathogens: generally it's the shit that has the pathogens; pee is usually pretty sterile when it first comes out (some people used to say it was completely sterile but that opinion has changed). It also contains antibodies, your own homegrown ones, unless you're taking antibiotics. Fresh urine can be used to cleanse and disinfect wounds in an emergency.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

closure on the haircut (for now)

Freedom, of sorts, has been achieved.

Ronan cut my hair. I gave her the directions, but I also gave her the clippers and the scissors, and let her go. She's a pretty detail-oriented sort of person. I had every faith in her ability. And now I feel as if a great weight has been lifted from my ... head. I have been cut loose. (This is the only "before" picture I have in digital format.)

Freedom is not having to buy conditioner. Freedom is not having to buy "calming" shampoos. Freedom is not having to do anything to keep my mop out of my eyes. Freedom is also not dreading the long process in the shower just trying to get the woolly stuff wet. Freedom is not scaring little children. (If I brushed my long hair so that all the locks of curls separated into individual strands, the whole mass grew and grew, not just to four times what you can see in the picture, but to a size that could stop traffic, commandeer a tank, maybe even stage a coup d'etat. Certainly my hair had practiced up during many guerrilla campaigns against me. Campaigns it always won. The only trick I ever learned to counter its insurgency was olive oil.

But are we ever truly free? Sadly not. I wanted a maintenance free haircut. On a day-to-day level, I got it - in exchange for a monthly appointment with my daughter and the clippers. Clipper jobs require a shower immediately after, because clipper-clippings itch maddeningly. Way more than hair cut with a scissors, and no amount of rubbing with a dry towel will get it all off. My haircuts also entail cleaning the sink and countertop afterwards and sweeping the floor. Such a fuss. I would have us do it outside, if I could rig a decent mirror near a convenient outdoor outlet. And if it didn't rain eight months of the year.

(Here is the "after" picture. The hair, at least, looks pretty good. See, Mom? You don't need to take me to a "professional" when I come visit in April. I've got one in-house.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

word of the day (or week) or whenever I get another word up here

The word is "brainish". It doesn't mean what your brain might first think it means. "Brainish" doesn't mean "smart" or "nerdy" or even "the way an animal hide might smell after it's been brain-tanned" (one of nature's many wonders is that every mammal has just sufficient brains to tan its own hide). Nope. None of those.

I found this word while Matt and I were wondering with our own weak and unsophiscated brains what "braising" is. I thought it had something to do with roasting but then started to doubt myself because the context was the back of a seed packet that recommended braising the largest leaves of the strain of mustard contained within. Braized mustard? We looked it up. "Braise" means "to cook slowly in fat and little moisture in a closed pot." Sounds rather like what happens in a dutch oven. On the opposite page and nowhere near "braise" was the word "brainish". One had to be grazing in the dictionary to find it. If you are starting to wonder why it is taking me so long to tell you want "brainish" means, that may be because I am trying to get a brainish reaction out of you, gentle reader. The color of this post is a clue, though.

Oh, all right.

"Brainish" means: impetuous, hotheaded. It's from circa 1530 and it's marked as archaic. Don't delay! We must rush to save this word from extinction! Use it today. Hell, be it today. Then use it. Then post a comment to tell the rest of us what you did that was brainish - and whether you need us to post bail for you.

bread-baking update

Here is an update from someone who is much more like an expert on making bread with no kneading. People have occasionally been puzzled by the lack of kneading in my bread recipe. This recipe goes way more than one better. The big catch: it only makes one loaf at a time. I make four. Once or twice a week. I haven't tried this recipe out to see how it works with a lot more whole wheat flour in it. Or how it works in Stella, our wood-fired cookstove. (Sorry no pictures of Stella are as yet available.) If this is something I would need to make every day, then I would want to make it in Stella - and it better be really easy. The dutch-oven would probably be very compatible with Stella's temperament; she rather likes to burn the back ends of the left rear loaves unless you rotate the batch every ten or fifteen minutes - and, yes, that's as tedious as it sounds. With Stella's eight- to nine-month season of use starting to wind down for the year, I think I will try this recipe as an occasional lark but I expect to stick with my own nearly-no-knead bread at least until next fall.

I don't know why I can't get this link to work. It drops off the first "story" after "templates" in translation. Once you get the npr site just type in "kneadless bread" in the search window and you'll get there after all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back to the Land - the Kid Version

I suggested to Ronan that she should maybe stop waiting for the adults to build her a treehouse and build her own fort. That suggestion didn't go much of anywhere until Ronan and I discovered a less frequented part of the public land across the way from our five-acre plot of hillside. Somehow this place inspired Ronan and she and two of her friends set off with a bagful of baling twine, a pocket knife, and a faithful dog and built themselves a fort in the woods by the Coast Fork of the Willamette River.

[I can't seem to figure out captions yet, so the picture above is their fort after one's day work on it. The structure on the right is an additional fort for Sophie.]

I'd rather wished they hadn't. The fort is something like a half a mile away from our house. But you got to let go sometime.
Many sometimes. Over and over again as the kids grow up. I reminded myself that when I was ten I rode miles and miles away from home with no patch kit or any knowledge of how to fix a bike, no helmet and no cell phone, pedalling up and down windy shoulderless rural state routes. I settled for warning them that they might go to their fort someday and find it destroyed while at the same time reassuring them that if that ever happens they have the know-how and the materials to do it all again somewhere else. I hope I got the message across that those with skills can never be completely bereft. The three of them listened to my heavy hints (all ignored) that they should consider building a second fort on our property up in the woods so that they could then migrate between the two like the Kalapuyas did or some Greeks we know. Ronan protested that our property isn't as pretty. Right. Doesn't have the river. Right again. Doesn't have all the birds: the kingfishers, the ospreys, the herons, the mergansers, the occasional bald eagle, etc. Doesn't have rocks to scramble on. Right.... Doesn't have the wildflowers. Not true, but different species. But okay, I give up. There's three of them there and a scruffy-looking dog. Where their fort is they are at they are less likely to run into super-troublesome types as they are to encounter people with unleashed dogs. I make sure they take a spray bottle with vinegar water in it every time they go down there. Advise them that each of them should have a nice stout walking stick with them. And remind them that the trashcan lid they found can be used as a weapon, especially edge-on. What the kids would really do if a situation arose, I can't tell. All the parents involved have encouraged resourcefulness. That's the best we can do. Now we also must remember not to make our children fearful and overly cautious.

[Different view of fort, with much more work done on filling in the walls.]

It was winter when they started their project and everything has gone fine so far. I don't really expect their fort to survive the summer without something happening to it. As with everything else involved in raising a kid for me, I just have to muddle along as best I can, taking things as they come, and improvising, improvising.

One last thing: I was particularly proud of them all when the three young pagani (pagan being Latin for "country person") found and altar to sanctify their new home-away-from- home. The altar is a hollow stump from which is growing a new young - and unrelated - tree. The hollow stump allows for many offerings to be placed inside the altar.

[Hazel, Vesta, Ronan, and
Sophie at the altar. I wish I could have gotten more of the new tree in the picture, but it was already too tall.]

One more one last thing: Hazel found a patch of stinging nettles near the fort. (Yes, she found it the hard way. The nettles were just coming out of the ground at the time she fell into them.) I sympathized, but I was also very pleased. Matthew, Ronan, and I had steamed nettles last week, one of our
favorite vegetables. Plus, now we have a second source for our year's supply of dried nettles. (We have as yet never gathered and dried as many nettles as we use in a year. I put nettles in almost everything that has a sauce as well as in breads and pastas.)

[At left: a nettle plant, about as old in "nettle years" as Ronan, Vesta, and Hazel. I want to post Cornelia Nettle's herb column on nettles from my old zine bummers and gummers on this blog. I've asked Ms. Nettle's permission (she's also the mom of Hazel and Vesta), but I will probably have to type the whole article in over again. A nuisance which may derail my plan.]