Friday, August 31, 2012

No knitting. At all.

I typically slow down on the knitting in the summer.  I can't knit with cotton very well since it hurts my hands and wool is just to bobdarn HOT.  Added to this is my denial for bifocals and you have a Summer Without Knitting.  It's just as well, as I've been working a lot and studying at the Caduceus Institute.  I got into homeopathy in a round about way.  It's working well! I agree with the philosophy completely and I've seen amazing results in my own immediate family.

The chickens have had some downs and ups.  The six hens were seemingly fine when one chicken went broody (i.e., she wanted to hatch some babies of her own).  She would stay up in the nesting box all day sitting on infertile eggs. She never nipped at me when I took the eggs she was sitting on, but she would only come down to eat once a day and she started looking bedraggled.  After a search on the interwebs and talking to my local chicken experts, I moved her into the hutch where the guinea pig was staying (yes, the guinea came back into the house) for three days.  All the broody hen would do was stand in there looking pissed at me.  After three days I let her out and she rejoined the flock and acted like her old normal chicken laying self.

A few weeks rolled by and I was looking out the window when I saw the formerly broody chicken come down out of the roost, put her head down low and race back and forth the length of the ark.  Then she darted up the ramp and into the nesting box. Damn. Broody again!  One of the women that comes into the shop has thirty chickens and two ducks.  She said she had some fertile duck eggs she would give me to put under my broody chicken to hatch.  She'd done it before and said it worked really well. The only trick being Pekin duck eggs take about a week longer to hatch than chicken eggs; would my chicken continue to sit until the eggs were hatched?  I didn't know but it seemed like the chicken needed to be a mama, she was so determined about it.

The three dirty duck eggs were brought to my house one evening and we put them under the hen.  Stephanie said, "Watch out, she'll peck at you when you try and put them under her." She didn't. I knew she wouldn't, she's never given me a bit of fuss with egg removal, why would she mind if I gave her some?  Broody hen gave a little start and cluck and settled right down on the three eggs that were much bigger than chicken eggs, fluffed her feathers, and gave me a look that said, "Close the door, I've got work to do and you're letting all the warm air out."

After a week of sitting I candled the eggs.  The kids (formerly known as peeps) were excited.  We could see the blood vessels and a blob in each egg.  So far so good!  Every morning I would reach under her and get the four chicken eggs out of the nest and scootch the duck eggs back together.  The other chickens had been treating her like an outcast during this whole affair, but she let them lay eggs in her nest.  I am still baffled by it.

Two weeks or so into this adventure, my partner let the chickens out while I was at work and he went to the dump.  We'd gotten pretty slack about letting them free range over the yard all day.   They were in the woods, in the ditch in front of the house, once we even found them in the neighbor's back yard seeminly happy and fine.  I pulled into the drive after work and while getting out of the car I noticed chicken feathers in the gravel.  My heart gave a lurch and I put Steve in the house. When I went out the back door it looked like a cartoon killing of a bird.  There were piles of feathers around where a bird body should have been and no sign of ANY chickens.  Usually I can cluck for them and they come running.  I clucked and nothing happened.  I opened the top of the ark and found the broody hen sitting on her eggs (and the other chickens think she's crazy!). The next chicken I found was down by the shed, with my neighbor's Lhasa apso sitting by it.  I don't think Moppy killed the chicken, but she sure was happy she found it.  I carried her back to her house and continued my search.  Richard came (I called him, frantic) and we looked everywhere.  Two were down in the woods by the fence that backs up to the neighbor's house and one was on the other side of the fence kind of dazed.  One chicken body has never been found, but my guess is it was carried off by a dog. It was a very sad evening.

I told the human peeps about it and the consensus was it was a very sad thing, but we were lucky the broody hen was sitting on some duck eggs and blissfully unaware of any chaos. We candled the eggs again and could see movement in the eggs!  This time the hen did peck at my hand (very half-heartedly) and we knew the hatching would be soon.  Sure enough, we heard peeping in an egg and 24 hours later we had a duckling! Over the next three days the other two eggs hatched (we were kind of worried about the third egg, it took around 36 hours for it to hatch!) but they are all fine.

Ducklings grow much faster than chicks and are almost the size of their chicken mama at three weeks!  They love swimming in the baby pool every day and go absolutely bonkers over poke berries and tomatoes. Their mama has not kicked them to the proverbial curb, but continues to watch over them and find choice worms and tidbits for them every day.  I tried re-introducing her to the flock but they pecked at her and she was anxious for her "babies".  She may just be an odd ball from here on out and we're fine with that.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Whole lotta workin' goin' on!

I am very pleased to announce I have joined the ranks of the employed again! I am working at a small, locally owned pet (mostly dog and cat) supply store here in Hillsborough aptly named Paws at the Corner owned by Lisa Wells.  Lisa is all about good pet food (not the kind you get in box stores or grocery stores full of corn, soy, wheat . Hey, that's a lot like people food in grocery stores too!) that helps your pet maintain their optimum health so you're not spending money at the vet. She's the  Rock Star of pet nutrition and good local hook-ups for training, vet care, grooming, etc.  It's been fun to meet loyal locals and their dogs, as well as listen to how Lisa helps people find the right food for their pets.  She's my guru.

The other exciting thing about my job is Steve gets to come along!  Lisa has two beautiful shop dogs: Aspen and Izzie.  Aspen is the official greeter of all people and animals.  Izzie is the official babysitter of Steve.  They play like that for an hour or so and then Steve passes out for a while.  Sometimes we check to make sure he's still breathing.

The other thing I'm working on (and loving) is a class in homeopathy.  Finally a medical system I like! Homeopathy believes in treating the whole person (physical,  mental,  and emotional) and not treating individual symptoms.  For each person's complaint there is one single remedy that works best for that individual person and it's rather akin to being a detective to figure out which one.  Very cool stuff.  It was more popular that allopathy (medicine as we know it) in the late 1800's in this country. Sadly enough, the money thrown at developing prescription drugs also went into maligning the homeopathic tradition.  According to some studies, it's pure quackery.  Then again, homeopathic remedies aren't expensive and you don't want to give people one remedy for their depression, another for their eczema, and yet another for their bursitis - so why would the medical community and big pharma want to support that? If you're interested in finding a local practitioner or a study group, please check out The National Center for Homeopathy.

I am having another craigslist adventure.  The peeps broke the washing machine by overloading it with blues on Tuesday night.  The poor motor was killed in the process.  The good news is I was too exhausted to be very upset about it.  The bad news is we have no clean clothes and where the washing machine is located in our house is about as inconvenient as it gets.  It's in a corner closet at the far end of our wee bathroom.  We'll be pulling out the dryer and lifting it over the sink to put it in there.  Not looking forward to that.  I was hoping we'd have a new machine today, so I cleared all the stuff off my cool antique hutch and drying rack in the hallway, but it seems I should have waited. Sigh.  The peeps are psyched because we'll be having fast food tonight (Subway, that's as fast as I get and I'm not thrilled to be doing it either) so I can move the hutch and rack out of the hallway for tomorrow and leave the dinner table covered with antique tchotchkes.

I'll let you know how it goes.  I'm not sure how one knows if they're buying a reliable washing machine on craigslist...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back to food and wellness

Here's a local website that delivers fresh, local, organic produce to your door!  It's not produce from one farm like a CSA, it's a group of farmers with varied meats and produce.  I just found out about it!
Organicfood2you it's more expensive that Weaver Street (and that's saying something) but if you go together with other people you can receive a 5% discount on your order.  How cool is that?

This week I found out I'm behind the pop culture times again.  I thinks it's because I never really watched Oprah.  Kris Carr was diagnosed with a rare and incurable stage 4 cancer in 2003.  She went on a "deep healing pilgrimage" and is still here talking about it!  A lot of what she's talks about food and health wise are things I already know and practice.  I'm not sure I'll ever be into enemas (flashbacks to surgery when I was five!), but I'm all about detoxing and green foods, so you never know!

I was doing pretty well exercising before the back injury/tooth removal/severe cold/burn and then with the holidays I got back into baking.  I had a three week affair perfecting a chocolate scone recipe.  It's top-notch, but I didn't need all those scones.  Last week I HAD to make a Ukrainian poppyseed cake and then regretted we ate it in two days (mostly me, I admit it).

Richard and I have given up alcohol (before the holidays) and I'm happy to report I'm sleeping better.  Well, I would be but for Steve's small bladder. I'm back to bursting (45 second bursts of running with one minute fast walking recovery for 17 minutes) and it feels good!

Today I woke up with a severe headache from dehydration.  I realized yesterday my total fluid intake was a pot of English Breakfast Tea (I shared) and a glass of water at lunch.  Duh.  In order to cure what ailed me today, which includes mental/emotional angst as well, I drank lots of hot water with lemon, practiced meditating and yoga which I haven't done seriously for years.  Boy have I lost flexibility!  I still had the headache for most of the day and was mighty blue for most of it, but I think I'm back on the upswing.

I'm thinking bursting three days a week and yoga the other three and I'll be well rounded.  Meditating is something I should go back to doing whenever I can.  My mind needs practice being still.

And just because Steve is my BFF these days.  Here's a little video of him, he's figured out how to use a pull-string on a cat toy.  Tiger-Cato and Button never liked it,but Steve thinks it's the bomb!


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Making mozzarella...yum!

This past Christmas I asked for cheesemaking kits from The Cheese Queen.  Everyone that I've told that  to looks at me oddly.  Do you think that means cheesemaking isn't at the top of everyone's list?

So far I've made ricotta and mozzarella to put in my favorite spinach calzones.  The hardest part about cheesemaking for me is throwing away the whey.  A gallon of milk yields about three-quarters to one pound of cheese and almost seven pounds of whey. There are recipes for making pizza dough out of whey (which I did for the calzones) and last night I boiled my manicotti in it and is worked fine.

Here's what mozzarella looks like after the rennet is added and it sets.

Mozzarella in process

After you slice it in the pot and stir the curds around for a while you lift them out with a slotted spoon and have a lovely, silky, puffy pile of curds.

Mozzarella curds

Then you dip the curds in very hot water and stretch them like taffy.  After a bit you have a luscious hunk of mozzarella! How amazing is that?!


This is the leftover whey.


See what I mean?  That's a lot!  I'd save it, but that would take half gallon canning jars and more storage space than I will ever possibly have in my lifetime.

Because I'm playing with cultures again, I remembered all my kombucha and kefir making from last year.  I didn't save my kefir grains, so I ordered some more and they arrived yesterday.  My kombucha mothers have been living in the back of the refrigerator in a tightly sealed Mason jar.  When I took them out they looked and smelled the same so I made two batches of tea and their brewing their little mothers out!

Today I'm dyeing twenty more skeins of yarn for Cozy!  I can't wait to see the "re-do" of the place.  Deb and Emily are working hard to everything ready for re-opening on Friday.  I'm very thankful they're letting me have more space for yarn.  It should keep me busy for a while!

Friday, December 30, 2011

There's an Eowyn sized hole in my house

and heart.  I've stuffed it with Steve.

sweet steve

Isn't he adorable?!  His dad is Australian Shepherd and his mother is a walking hound.   He could herd cows or hunt deer - a multi-purpose dog if you will.  My hope is that the brains of his dad will outweigh the calling of his nose when needed.

He's pretty darn smart.  He knows "sit" and is working on "shake", "down", and he understands "no" but isn't wedded to the idea.  We're working on it.  They say the hardest part of leash training is keeping a hound's nose in the air instead of on the ground.  Honestly, I have no idea how you do that.  Other than holding a treat out in front of him the whole time, Steve's nose is positively glued to the ground.

His skinny little tail bobs adorably while he scampers down a trail.  All he does is try to win Mac's favor, but it's not working.  I remember when Mac did the same thing with Eowyn.  It took a little while but finally Eowyn started playing with him (a.k.a. trying to chew on his head).  We used to call it the Mac and Eowyn Show. Maybe Mac's not done grieving yet.

Here's a favorite picture of Mac and Eowyn in action.  No dogs were hurt during the photo session.  Someday maybe it will be Mac and Steve...

i love to chew on your head

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


There's been a lot of death in my life this year.  That is death in a spiritual sense. Death to old ways of doing things, to phases of life, to friendships, etc. There have been a few births too, but mostly death.

The biggest non-tangible thing I lost this year was my self-confidence.  After deciding to leave my job of twenty-two years (all for very good self-care reasons) I was confident and secure that I could find something else with all my varying abilities to survive.  This has not been the case.  This has been a very sharp blow to my self-esteem and confidence. I've known work done with hands and heart is less valued than work done with degrees, but to have strangers look at my list of skills and not realize the experience and ability that I have is frustrating.


The second biggest loss came Monday, my sweet Eowyn died.  I found her nine years and eleven months ago one morning at work.  She was in someone's garbage at house down the street with a broken chain (an actual short lead, not a tie out chain) around her neck.  She was so skinny when my friend Mel and I put her on the porch to hold her until Animal Control could come she slipped between the rails. When they finally arrived the guy took one look at her and said, "Well, we'll take her in but she's got two strikes against her already.  She's part chow (black spots on her tongue and fluffy chow-like fur with pricked ears) and she's pregnant.  If she passes the personality test, which I think she will (she was lying on her back and he was rubbing her belly), no one wants a pregnant dog." I asked him if I could think about taking her and he said he'd leave her and if I called back he'd come and get her.

After wrestling with the pros and cons I decided to bring her home.  The peeps and I were all very into Lord of the Rings at that point and as she was blonde Eowyn seemed the perfect name. She was very submissive and sweet with the peeps.  And ravenously hungry.

The next day I brought her back to Durham to take her to the vet.  Mel and I were walking her on the street in front of where we worked and a car zoomed up to the curb and called, "Nala!" A woman got out of the car and said, "That's my dog, we've been looking all over for her! That's my daughter's dog."

"How long has she been missing?"  I asked.  I noticed Eowyn didn't look excited to see her.  No happy tail wag or straining on the leash to get to her.

"Three days!"

"I found her yesterday right there." I pointed to the house next door.

"We live in the next house over."

Suddenly I remember seeing Eowyn.  Tied on a three foot chain to a Dogloo all day, every day. "She's starving and she's pregnant."

"Oh.  You can keep her then.  She ate her last litters. We usually keep her in the basement when she's in heat."

I was absolutely horrified. I knew dogs would eat their litters if they didn't think it was safe for them, or if they were starving and I decided there was no way she was going back to them.  Even if this woman changed her mind. I told the woman I was taking her to the vet in a few minutes and needed to walk her.  She continued talking to Mel while I took Eowyn further up the street.

After a trip to the vet, where I was reassured that since Eowyn was now getting food and attention, I should keep an eye on her during her labor, but things would probably be ok.  She was right!  Eowyn was a loving, diligent, doggie-mama.  She birthed eight puppies (their were at least three different dads) and she went on to have a long, happy life.


 There's an Eowyn sized hole in my house now.  I miss the sound of her breathing (snoring much of the time), walking around the house, sleeping on the bed with me, and going for walks. She gave my life a rhythm and was very comforting when I was getting used to being "single" on the days I didn't have the peeps. She came along at a perfect time in my life. I'll miss her.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

New yarn on Etsy

On Monday I dyed ten skeins of yarn. They are finally dry, detangled, and ready to show. Here is a picture from my phone:

  Fingering yarn

 There's another blue (more muted) that went up on Etsy, but didn't fit in the bowl that I really like. I also made some new labels I'm hoping will work better than having tags flop around.
  New labels

 In knitting news, I'm working on Abyssal in a wool/silk blend I bought long ago for something else entirely. I find casting on tedious when the numbers get that large, but I'm almost done with the fourth repeat of the pattern and will soon head into short rows.

 Morgan is home from school - yesterday with a fever and bodyaches - today with a massive head ache. He's been in bed all morning and looks pathetic. I used to kind of enjoy when the peeps were little and sick (especially Morgan) because it was the only time he'd sit still and snuggle with me. Now he's too large to snuggle, but it still breaks my heart to see him so miserable.

There's been a request for mac and cheese for dinner from Chicky.  At her dad's house it comes out of a box and she reminded me I haven't made any in forever.  That's an easy fix!