Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

We're having a 'heat-wave' today. It actually got up to 50F-ish! A lot of the snow that fell just before Christmas has melted. So we were able to move the chicken tractor again. They like having fresh grass to peck at. And they've been happy to get all the root veg peelings from our winter meals. No eggs yet, but that's really to do with the hours of daylight. We'd need to put a light out there, but the chicken tractor is just too far away from the house for an extension cord.

I spent 99% of yesterday inside, doing Christmas things. So Ken and I took a walk down to the end of Sunny Ridge this afternoon, just to get out into the fresh-but-not-freezing air. There was blue sky and everything! This is a view of the snowy Owyhees from the end of our road. We came home and the house seemed so hot and stuffy! We turned the heat down and I opened the back windows to get some new air in here.

My crochet project is progressing nicely. I'm getting down towards the end of the skein. It'll be interesting to see how long the scarf is when the yarn runs out. I hope it's long enough to be usable. I did buy another skein of the same color and dye lot, but I'd prefer to do something else with it if I can. I wonder if I can find a good crochet pattern for a tam. Anyway, as you can see from the picture, I need to work on my edges. There are 3-4 short rows near the beginning that I didn't see until I was already 4-5 rows past them :(. I didn't feel like unraveling all that, so I'll have to ignore it. It's a "pattern" I made up, nothing special. Just 20 single crochet stitches per row with an extra chain stitch at the end for turning. It seemed easier for now to put in the extra chain. I wanted to focus on getting an even tension and making sure the rows were all the same length. I'll try something more adventurous next time.

We had a nice Christmas. Ken and I were on our own for Christmas Eve. We had a bottle of Prosecco with my family's traditional cold finger foods for dinner, I opened the box my parents sent, and we watched a movie, 'The Ghost & Mrs. Muir' with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney.

Christmas Day Ken and I had eggs and sauteed oysters for breakfast and waited for the kids to get here around lunchtime. We opened presents, then Beau and Victoria went on to the next relative's house. They really do the rounds on holidays, five different houses I think. Later Roger, Ken and I put together a lasagna for dinner and watched 'Inception'. Interesting film! Not sure I want to watch it again now I know the ending, but I can see why people would. There's a lot going on that you might not catch the first time.

Ken and I were going to get an Apple Movie box for ourselves, but it requires an HD TV, which we don't have - and no expectation of getting one in the near future. So we thought about it for a while and decided on a Kindle. It's pretty fun! We messed around on it a few days just getting familiar with things, but now we each have bought a book and are taking turns reading. I've found I prefer the landscape setting for the text. Makes it easier to hold upright in bed as well.

We figured since many of the things we read we don't plan to keep forever and read again, why not save a few trees and read those things on the Kindle. There are plenty of books I want paper copies of because I'll use them over and over again, but many of the novels I read I don't plan to read again. Lately I've taken to sending some of those on to friends who enjoy the same kind of fiction - but I do wonder sometimes how appreciated that is :). At least with a Kindle I can read those novels and not have a bunch of paperbacks cluttering up the house.

Anyway, that's our holiday so far. I have the week off, which is really nice. I'm looking forward to sleeping in, getting lots of stuff done, and generally messing about doing things I don't have time for while I'm working.

Hope your holidays are as fun as you want them to be!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First of December

Well December has come in with a blast. We got about six inches of snow from yesterday afternoon through noon today. After that it warmed up a bit and some melted, but there's still plenty out there. The forecast predicted freezing rain tonight, but so far it hasn't shown up. Now *that's* precipitation I can do without. We live at the crest of a hill. Frozen roads do not agree with us.

Spent the day at home typing work stuff. Managed to get a lot of old stuff finished and sent off. Of course I'm already loaded up with new work, but that's nothing new. I have a bunch of interviews tomorrow, so I'm hoping the roads will be reasonable.

We knew there was no point in getting up early this morning, but even so we were outside as soon as it was light enough, taking pictures, taking care of chickens and shoveling snow.

I made sure the chickens weren't frozen and had enough water. Ken shoveled a path from the door and down the driveway so his customers and violin students could reach our front door without bringing all the snow inside with them.

I'm wishing we could put up the Christmas decorations, but the Pollard tradition is to wait until after R's birthday. So I'll get to it next weekend. This weekend I want to finally finish transferring all my files to the new computer. It won't take long, I just keep putting it off. I also need to put one more coat of paint on the bathroom trim. Maybe I can convince Ken to hang two of the towel racks as well. And if we're lucky, maybe we can get outside for a walk somewhere too.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snow Falling

Thanksgiving weekend. So nice to have extra time to do things, or just goof around not doing much. It's been snowing off and on all day, although it hasn't amounted to more than an inch or so on top of the old icy snow from last week.

Ken and I had a long weekend in Stanley at the end of October, and I haven't had a chance to write about it yet. Went up on Friday, and hiked out of Petit Lake to Yellow Belly lake. It was cold and there was bits of snow in the shadows at the trailhead. As we got higher the snow covered more. But the weather was good. Too bad we were feeling the altitude a bit. The trailhead started at 6,996 feet.

We finished mid-afternoon and relaxed in our hotel room until dinner time. We had dinner at the Sawtooth Inn in town. An old log-built hotel that's been there a long time. It's remodeled now, but still has low beam ceilings and plank floors. I had a polenta lasagna with elk & pork sausage. Really yummy! Especially after a day out in the mountains. Ken had some kind of pasta that was just ok. Still, it's a lovely place and we were lucky enough to catch them on their last night before they closed for the winter.

Saturday morning we went to the Stanley Bakery for breakfast. We were glad to find out their last day was Sunday. So at least we'd get a nice breakfast before heading home. We hiked out of Alturas Lake up to Alpine Creek Meadows. Alturas is at 7,016 feet, so this was a higher start. But having slept at altitude helped. We did better this time. Still, not far into the hike the snow got to be at least a foot deep. Which covers boulders, logs, and other trail hazards pretty effectively. So you really have to watch your footing as you walk, which makes the hike more tiring than it might be otherwise. As we got closer to the meadows we came to a point where the snow footprints of previous hikers ended. No one had hiked beyond that since the snow fell about a week before. But we've done this trail before, in late summer, and were hoping to reach a pretty area we remembered from last time where a creek crossed the meadow. So we pushed on. My boots are harder-soled than Ken's, so I was leading.

We were hiking along the sloping bottom of an uneven ridge of jagged peaks, with a creek below. You repeatedly pass through stands of trees separated by open areas of rockfall or meadow. As we were about to enter a thin stand of trees I came across a set of palm-sized rounded animal prints. My first thought was wolf, but it was just one animal. So our next thought was cougar. A rather chilling realization. It had come up from the creek, followed the trail for a bit, then headed off up the slope. Ken took pictures of the prints next to his own foot. I'm no expert, but these did not look fresh, the edges weren't crisp enough. Perhaps the day before or earlier. No matter, it was still a little disquieting to realize that in all likelihood we were the only people up here for many miles around. At least it was early winter, with plenty of food still around.

We kept on for another half hour or so, then stopped for an apple and some water, sitting on a fallen log in a stand of trees. I have to admit I kept scanning the slopes above us for movement. Didn't see anything except clouds moving in. By this time it was around 1pm. It was getting cloudier and colder, so we decided to head back. I have backpacked into wilderness for a week at a time, in bear country in the Sierras. My ex-husband and I came across a cougar kill left on the trail once - the noise of our approach scared it off. Even those near-encounters didn't get to me as much as this did. Not that I was scared exactly, but Idaho is a lot wilder than the Sierras, with a lot more wildlife and a lot fewer people, especially in late October. I could not shake the feeling that we were being watched.

Anyway, back down the hill we went. We reached the trailhead around 3-ish, just as it began to rain. Whew! Headed back into town and had an unexpectedly large order of tater-tots at the local lunch joint. By 6pm we were still a bit full for dinner, but didn't want to totally go without. So we went to the Stanley Kasino Club. It looks like a cowboy bar on the outside, but this was the last weekend in October and it was the only open restaurant in town. Fortunately there's a restaurant side and a bar side. We sat in the restaurant. I had a nice shrimp scampi. But this time Ken got the best dish. It was most amazing pasta carbonara either of us had tasted in a long time. Really really good. Prosciutto, mushrooms, mmmmmm! If you're in Stanley, I recommend the Kasino Club.

The next morning we woke up to snow falling. Very pretty. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Bakery, their last open day of the season. Then poked around taking photos, taking the dirt roads off the highway to get back into some of the scenery. Eventually we headed home. The clouds stopped after Garden Valley and we came out of the mountains into a beautiful clear fall day in Boise. It was a good trip.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

I Have Voted. Have You?

I am a Blue girl in one of the Reddest states in the country, living in one of the reddest counties of that state. So it should be no surprise that I often feel like that old joke about how there's only enough Democrats in Idaho to fill a phone booth. It used to be true. But it also used to not matter so much!

In my job I get to interview lots of different people from many walks of life. While working I am prohibited from expressing any political opinion at all. But that doesn't stop those I'm interviewing from trying to engage me or voicing their opinions. In those cases I simply nod politely and return to the questions. But I'm getting to the point where I can make a fairly accurate guess about the person's religious and political affiliations before we talk, just from where they live and what their house is like. Naturally I keep those guesses to myself! But it's an interesting mental exercise.

I do think it's a shame though, that I've found myself becoming more polarized in my own political opinions by living here. I struggle against that polarization. If I'm on my own time, I try to listen and discuss rather than just react negatively. And I'm constantly taken aback by those who have not even considered the remote possibility that other people might not agree with them - that another point of view could even exist!

I get tired of hearing all the opinions from people with opposing, one might even say polar opposite, views than mine, pronounced as if they were Revelations from above. And if you disagree then you are not only stupid, but Evil. It might be different if these views were based on reason, logic and facts. But more often than not, they are simply conservative talking points regurgitated, with no factual content, no critical thinking applied whatsoever.

Whatever happened to researching an issue, looking at ALL sides, and making up your own mind? Where did all this fear and hatred come from that made compromise into "the C word"? Discussion, debate, and reasoned argument, done in a civil manner, are democracy in action. We all need to keep that in mind, and act on it. Not React mindlessly. Myself included.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Autumn Storm

My delphinium on it's second flowering.

I did a first coat on the bathroom trim today. It never looks good with just one coat - all streaky, with the old paint showing through. So I'm not going to post a picture. I won't get to do the second coat for a few weeks, but once I do I'll put up a picture. Hopefully it will look better after that. We hope to do the termite thing sometime early in 2011, and then we'll have to re-finish, or even tear out the old plaster-board and replace it, to get those walls in shape for painting. So there's still a lot of painting to do in the other part of the room.

The chickens still have not laid any eggs. I expected the oldest hen to have at least begun laying by now, even if she didn't keep going for long. We had a good windy rainstorm last night, which brought down a lot of leaves, and t's rained off and on most of the day. If you compare it to last week's picture, you can see how many leaves fell. 'Sposed to rain until Tuesday. Then we may get a freeze on Tuesday night. So I might be doing the last harvest of veg that afternoon. I'm hoping for a bit more color on the peppers, and a few more leaves from the swiss chard. For now, I better get some more tomato sauce done.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Stuff

Here are some pictures of my hens and the garden. See that Barred Rock hen in the front with the beady-eyed stare? You don't want to get too close to her - she's the mean one. I think she has delusions of rooster-hood. She'll try to nip my finger if I put it up to the wire. Good thing I wear gloves. Those two both go a little nuts when the dog is out with me. They run back and forth, pecking at the wire. You can see they'd just love to get at him.

We've got their tractor set under the apple and ash trees near the veg garden. The trees will lose their leaves soon, but even without them it's shelter. The snow doesn't get as deep there. It'll be interesting to figure out how we're going to keep their water bowl from freezing.

This is the sedum and achillea, with the delphinium on it's second flower in the corner. I am so impressed with this sedum. It looks good from the moment it comes out of the ground. No pests I've ever noticed, drought-tolerant. Pretty much care-free.

Here's what's left of the tomatoes and peppers. The flowers have been getting their second wind as well. I think they like the cooler weather. I'm hoping I can go another week without frost getting things. It would be nice to get more color on the peppers - they'll taste better. And some of the tomatoes are nearly ripe.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October Frosts

We had our first frosty morning on Wednesday. Nothing serious - even the peppers didn't have any damage. Tonight the forecast low is only 45F, so I don't need to break out the old sheets yet. I'm hoping to keep the peppers, tomatoes and swiss chard going a bit longer. There's still plenty of things out there that need to get riper, and the swiss chard could give us one more meal-sized harvest in a few days. The forecast is for highs in the mid 60's in the coming week, and low 40's-high 30's at night. But there's not much of this mild fall weather left. We sometimes have our first snow fall by the end of October. Certainly the frosty nights get more regular. So I could be limbering up that old sheet by the weekend.

Made more tomato sauce today with some of the older tomatoes. A lot of them have been ripening this week, so I have a big influx of new ones. Hopefully we'll get around to eating more of those. It's strange how once the weather turns colder I'm not as interested in tomatoes. And after my stomach bug this week, acid-y tomatoes just did not appeal.

I have a pie pumpkin I've been meaning to roast and make into a pumpkin pie. Maybe this weekend if there's time. We're hoping to do another coat of paint on the bathroom walls (at last!). Then I can paint the trim and put up the new towel racks. Be nice to hang the towels in the bathroom again. I'd really like to get the tile grout cleaned in the shower enclosure, but I'm not sure how much that costs. Might be worth renting a steam cleaner to try first.

I've been trying to transfer some of my old document files from the old computer to the new one. The photos take sooooo long to move over to the flash drive. I should get started on that after I finish here. After everything I want is moved, I then have to decide what to do with the old laptop. It still works ok, although it's very slow, the springs on the lid are gradually breaking, and it won't run Java. So someone who wanted it could certainly still use it. The most important thing is I need to delete a bunch of stuff. Once I've cleaned it up, I'm thinking of donating it to Computers for Kids here in Boise.

Anyway, better get moving on the computer chores.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another Weekend Away

Last weekend The Bru played for the Nampa Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Then we drove out to play a wedding in Buhl. I was the caller for dancing. The bride went to that event we did at Sawtooth winery in January, and wanted the same kind of thing for her wedding.

The reception was at the bride's family home, a large ranch outside of town. They have a big house with a large yard. Dinner was outside in the backyard. The band set up in the back of the garage. The dance space took up the rest of the garage floor. They put a portable dance floor next to the cement garage floor, so it increased the smooth space. Guests who didn't want to drive home afterwards could camp out in a nearby pasture. Which is what we did, along with a lot of the younger guests. The wedding couple had a big green Army tent set up at the far end of the pasture, so they could join the party.

The dancing went on until almost 11pm, and we all went back to our camps. I had a small shot of scotch with Tim and Ken, then went to bed. They joined the young people around the bonfire. I think they came back from the party around 2am. Ugh. We didn't get much sleep that night.

But it was a good event. The bride marshalled her bridal party and friends and got them to join in the dancing. I don't think they would have tried it if she hadn't convinced them. The first few dances were a bit rough, but they caught on fast and everyone had a good time. It was mostly easy stuff - Cumberland Reel, Gay Gordons, Reel for Jeannie, Strip the Willow, Canadian Barn Dance. It was fun. But we were exhausted on Sunday after we got home. I think Ken had a bug of some kind. He slept most of the day and had no appetite.

This weekend is the Trailing of the Sheep in Hailey/Ketchum. We haven't been, but it looks fun. And a lot of friends will be there too.

I bought a lot of Italian peppers and six Poblano peppers at the Farmers Market. Assuming I'm not totally wiped-out from Saturday, I plan to roast the peppers and freeze them for the winter. I should also make another batch of tomato sauce to freeze. We still have tomatoes ripening, but it's slowed down a lot. The raspberries have really slowed down too. I only got about 20 of them this morning. They're still producing new flower buds but the sunny weather isn't going to last much longer. We usually have frost overnight by the end of October.
How incredible that it's October already! Seems like it was just summer!

I picked up my new laptop computer last Friday, got it home, and tried to boot it up. But I couldn't get Windows to start. After letting it go through a few cycles of trying and failing, I shut it down. Took it into Best Buy on Saturday morning. The Geek Squad guy tried to get Windows to start but couldn't, and declared it defective. So I did an exchange. Which means I have to wait another week until a new unit gets here. Hopefully this one will be fine.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Museum Comes to Life

Had a busy, sunny morning at Museum Comes to Life. Ken and I dress in late 1800's clothing and I walk around with him while he plays violin. I contribute with the 'straws' on some tunes. We usually have Bill to play guitar, but he couldn't make it this year. So we wandered around, looking as much as contributing. Although at least five different people asked violin-related questions, so Ken was able to give out business cards. Always nice when people like the violin and he's able to say it's one he made :).

It got kinda hot by 1pm, and by that time Victoria, Brenda and Jasmine where there. So we adjourned to the Tablerock brew pub. I had their nice curried spinach salad again. Mmmm. Now we're home and I need to think about doing some chores rather than wasting time on FB.

I ordered my new laptop computer yesterday, from Best Buy. It should arrive next Friday. I'm looking forward to having a computer where everything works correctly and it doesn't take nearly 5 minutes to boot up. On the other hand, this faithful old Toshiba has been incredible. I think I'll actually miss it. I bought it in 2002, it's been most of the way round the world and back with me, and barely a problem. It was my lifeline to the outside world in Korea. It's got a few problems now - won't run Flash or Java, processes very slowly, I can rarely watch videos on You-Tube because they either don't run at all or go in stop-motion, and the springs on the lid have partially broken. Probably sooner rather than later the lid won't stay open any more or I'll run into a fatal software conflict and it'll crash.

So I set a budget, started shopping around, saved my pennies, and was finally able to order a new one. This one cost half of what the Toshiba did, but I tried to buy the most computer for the money that I could find. I'm hoping the new one will at least last four or five years, even if not eight. If I'd been able to spend more I would perhaps have bought something different. When I went into the store I immediately saw a new Toshiba with bigger and better everything - and it cost $300-400 more too! But there are other things we need to spend money on. So this new one will (I hope) be fine. I did way more research on it than with the Toshiba. Let's hope that doesn't jinx it! :)

Anyway, better get some chores done!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blogging Anniversary

This evening I read back to my first blog post, Sept. 3, 2007. It was the day I had five lipoma removed from my forearms. We got home just before a thunderstorm blew through, and the high winds ripped part of the roof off our carport.

It's amazing to think I've been doing this for over three years already. Still seems like I just started. I'm not sure it's served any high purpose, but it's helped me let off steam, think out loud, record events I want to remember, and communicate with the few friends who I *think* may still read my blog to keep up on my news. At least I hope some of them still read it :).

One thing blogging's done that isn't so positive is it's made me a much poorer correspondent. I think I use up my letter-writing time and energy doing the blog. Which means fewer long emails to long-distance friends. Sorry gang.

One significant event for our local community happened today and yesterday. The Idaho National Guard unit here, the 116th Cav, left for overseas deployment. They'll be training for a bit, then going to Iraq. Most of the guys I've talked to are much more up for it this time. Part of that is the improved situation since their last time there in 2004-05, but another part is definitely economic (ie: it's full time work). Our thoughts are with them all.

The Equinox is on Thursday. Fall is definitely in the air.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Resolutions

Hubby and I went out for dinner this evening for our anniversary. Well, actually, first we went to Barnes & Noble because I wanted to buy a journal.

One of my Fall Resolutions is to get back into writing fiction again. Today I heard an interesting interview on To The Best of Our Knowledge, with Linda someone (can't recall her last name), a woman who gives writing workshops. The idea I liked was to think of a random word (more on that later), spend a few minutes thinking about the memories it brings. Then spend 8 minutes writing down everything you thought of.

The 8 minute limit makes me more likely to do this on a regular basis - which is intentional, I think. Another qualifier is you are actually *writing* things, with pen and paper. This limits editing or deleting as you write, like you might on a computer. The activity isn't meant for writing a finished story - it's for helping you access some of the interesting memories and stories already stored in your brain. It doesn't have to be perfect, or even complete. Then, hopefully, eventually one of those little memory nuggets will spark a full story, or even a novel.

In her workshops she has decks of cards with words on them that one can use. But I found a number of random word generators online. One I liked was at Coyote Cult, a creative writing site. Anyway, this might be a way to do an end-run around my laziness and those internal judges that say I can't do it.

My other Fall Resolution is to find a substitute exercise for Aikido. The mornings are dark enough now that I can't walk outside early enough to get a reasonable start on my work-day. There's a Tai Chi class at the local Rec Center, and I'm a member. So I'm going to look into that, and also see what other things they offer in the afternoons. I am sick of just dancing one night a week and then maybe getting to walk another couple mornings. I need MORE!

Anyway, back to our evening. We hung out at B&N for awhile, and I found a blank journal I liked. Then we went to Carino's for dinner. I had butternut squash ravioli with gorgonzola sauce on a bed of spinach, with toasted pecans and chopped tomatoes on top. It was amazing! Now I want a butternut squash to roast. Ken had a steak with veggies and roasted potatoes. That was good too. We were asking ourselves why we don't roast more root veg! :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fifth Anniversary Today

We've made it through five years. Yea us! Of course it's going to be such a busy weekend we won't get to celebrate until Sunday. Victoria took some pictures of us as an Anniversary gift. This is one of them. I haven't seen them all but it's my fav so far.

At the risk of sounding like a Jane Austen heroine, our social season begins tomorrow, with the Boise Highland Games. In the evening The Bru plays at the local Contra dance. On Sept. 27th Scottish Country Dance classes start up again. And so the Fall-Winter whirlwind of activities begins.

The weather forecast says mid 70's all next week, with clouds and some chance of rain. In fact it's clouded over through this afternoon, although I'm not exactly thrilled about the idea of rain tomorrow. We'll be outside at the Games most of the day. At least I can wear my kilt instead of a white skirt, since I won't be dancing this time. So we're on our way into cooler Fall weather. Seems like I just put my winter clothes away a few months ago!

Picked two more big Virginia Sweet tomatoes today. They aren't perfect, but they should taste good. The Paul Robeson purple ones are just starting to ripen. I still have tons of green Legend on the plants. The scarlet runner beans are starting to take off at last, though I don't expect a big harvest at this point. But the sugar snap pea plant that has doggedly hung on all summer is coming into flower again. I picked three this morning. Wonder if I should plant a few more to see if they'll produce.

I love this time of year. We both do. It's why we got married in September. The days are cooler but still mostly sunny, the autumn colors are beautiful, and the nights get a nice chill. Plus there's all the funnest holidays of the year just around the corner. I'm looking forward to our weekend in Stanley in October. We'll either have gorgeous fall color or snow to hike in. Either will be fine with me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Harvest Weekend

Another busy weekend. Saturday hubby and I went to the annual Art in the Park in Boise. It can be more crafty than artsy, but if you're organized you can get some Christmas shopping done. I wasn't that organized this year, unfortunately, although I went with good intentions. But I did get some nice smelly handmade soaps and the usual toffee nuts. Plus a gorgeous skirt from kali basi. that will probably be my dressy dance skirt for St. Andrews, and whatever other events I go to for the rest of the season.

After walking through all of the booths we went to Tablerock brewpub for lunch. I had a really nice spinach salad with a curry vinaigrette, and an amazing Belgian style ale called Stumbling Monk. At 8.4% alcohol level the name seems appropriate. But even if it had been 0% it tasted wonderful.

After that we went to the Co-op for a few things, including a couple bottles of the Italian prosecco we tried at the tasting last weekend. We were so tired after our day out walking around in the sun that all we could manage for dinner was the prosecco, some cheese, bread, and my first Virginia Sweet tomato from the garden.

Today we went out to the Sunnyslope fruit and wine growing area. Surprisingly, Williamsons Fruit was closed on Sundays. So we ended up at Robison and Symms. I got peaches, nectarines and Bartlett pears. It would have been fun to get enough to do canning, but we just never have time in the Fall. We only have one free weekend left until the end of October, with all the events we're doing. Next weekend we're dancing at the Boise Highland Games, and Ken's band is playing at the monthly Contradance that evening. The next weekend we're part of the costumed volunteers at the History Museum's "Museum Comes to Life" event.

Then the first weekend of October, The Bru is playing for a wedding out in Buhl. These people came to the Snake River winery dance I called for back in January, and they want to do the same thing. The weekend after that is Trailing of the Sheep in Hailey-Ketchum. We'll probably go on the Saturday, unless the weather persuades us differently. It will be the first time we've gone. It's always sounded like an interesting thing to do, we've just never made it. I think a lot of our dancing friends will be there as well, all for different reasons. One of my friends is hoping to compete in the wool hand-spun yarn events.

The weather has been great this fall. Warm sunny days and cold nights, but very dry. So I continue being diligent about watering. The raspberries are still producing, but I think they had their last big blast this week. They'll start to slow down now. The tomatoes are loaded with green fruit. I just keep hoping there's enough sun and heat to ripen some of them before it frosts. The swiss chard continues to do well, but the beans have been disappointing. I had a real problem with slugs and earwigs this year. And birds. And grasshoppers. Just an odd year altogether.

After things are completely finished I'm going to make a point of pulling it all out or cutting things well back, and then piling on a LOT of compost and manure for the winter. I think the soil out in the garden is somewhat depleted. A good clear-out this year might help with the pest population as well. Give the bad bugs fewer hiding places.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Long Weekend

It's been a productive weekend. On Saturday we got some housecleaning and shopping done, I pulled some weeds, and we had a friend over for home-made pesto.

On Sunday my sister, niece Jasmine, Ken, Tachy and I went for a hike in the Owyhees near Reynolds Creek (see picture). We got home mid-afternoon, all wanting to take a nap. But instead we picked raspberries and made dinner.

Then today Ken and I reinforced the long chicken coop and nailed square-grid wire fencing on the bottom to keep out predators. We also finally did in the rooster. He's in the fridge now, waiting to become dinner later this week. My first experience with plucking a chicken. Messy, and I didn't really enjoy it, but I know how to do it now. And mornings will be a lot quieter around here until the other two suspects get old enough.

All the hens are now in the long coop. The oldest one, last survivor of the dog attack, is older and bigger than the other five, and she's suddenly quite a bully. She keeps chasing the other two smaller Wyandottes around the coop. A living demonstration of establishing pecking order :\. We're hoping things will settle down in the next few days. She doesn't pay any attention to the three Barred Rocks. This makes me worry even more that I may have ended up with two or three rooster chicks in the new batch. I guess we'll wait and see.

My first bulb order arrived just before the weekend - half a dozen saffron crocus bulbs. I planted them today. Supposedly they'll bloom later this fall, and I'll have two or three saffron stamens to harvest from each flower. You're supposed to take them right after the flower opens and dry them. So I'll have to keep an eye out! I still have two other parts of that order coming - a mix of violet, purple and ivory tulips, and a new baroque tulip called Rai. I sure hope those bloom. I'm very interested to see them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So Far, So Good!

I got the letter yesterday from the RSCDS, informing me I had passed. Of the seven people in my Unit 5 class, I've heard from Bernadette, Nigel, and Griff, all of whom have passed their RSCDS Teacher exam. That's four of us with a good result so far. Having seen how we all dance and teach during the two-week course, I have very good hopes that Hisako, Isobel and Pat will pass too.

The picture is from our Friday shopping trip to St. Jacobs. L to R, Hisako, Pat, Irene (our tutor), Isobel, and Lisa (our pianist). A warm day, but not drastically hot and humid. It was nice to get away from everything at TAC after the stress of our exams the day before. Isobel found some great clothes at the first shop we went into. There was a wonderful dress there that I almost bought. It fit really well, and would make a great ball dress - cool light-weight fabric, easy to wash, but still dressy. If it had been another color besides black, I certainly would have got it!

And we all had a wonderful time poking around in another shop, Ultimate Woman. Lots of really cute handbags, scarves, clothes and accessories. I bought a beautiful cut-velvet scarf showing two peacocks in jewel tones. I'm looking forward to using it this winter. Hisako and I also found a candy store that makes its own turkish delight, in about 20 different flavors! When we spotted that we both grabbed little bags and started choosing :). Mango, lemon, blueberry, mandarin orange, watermelon, cherry, lime...and really fresh too. I finished the last pieces yesterday.

It was a good two weeks. I enjoyed getting to know everyone, and I hope we'll stay in touch and become long-distance teaching colleagues.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I got back to Boise around midnight on Saturday night, tired, footsore, with heavy suitcases. Waited a long time at baggage claim, and of course hyper-efficient Boise Airport did not list our flight on the baggage claim marquee. So I had to wander up and down to each carousel, looking for my suitcase. Finally found it on the Chicago/Minneapolis one. Guess our flight from Denver was so small it didn't rate its own carousel. The plane was smaller than an Embrauer jet. Not sure what kind it was.

Sunday was a lot of laundry, unpacking, cleaning, and re-acquainting myself with the garden. Ken managed to fill nearly five quart bags of raspberries to freeze, and there are still more coming. The tomatoes are starting to ripen. We've eaten at least five or six in the last two days. There are six more on the counter, and more on the way that aren't quite red enough yet. So far its only been the Parks Colossal and Legend that have got ripe. There is fruit set on some of the other plants, but I can't tell which kind they are yet.

The chickens are lots bigger. We moved the chicks onto the grass today, still in their smaller pen. They're much more aggressive than any chickens we've had so far. It's hard to be sure this early, but I think at least one or two are roosters.

The survivor rooster got big!! He has a magnificent comb and he's so tall! He's found his crow at last, so he wakes us up around 5:30 am every morning (sigh!). I hope he'll be a tasty dinner at least, to make up for all the noise. :)

It was a great two weeks at TAC. My classmates were good people. I hope we'll all become teachers! We're supposed to hear in about two weeks. Exam day dragged for me, being last in the line-up. But I got to see everyone come out feeling pretty good about how they did, and word was the examiners were treating them kindly. So that was encouraging.

I had practiced teaching my lesson at least three times by the time 3:50pm rolled around. I wanted to be sure I didn't forget essential elements of the step practice or formation practice that led into the dance. I tend to do that when I'm nervous. They expect more detail than I'm used to doing, so it felt like there was a lot to remember. But I learned a lot that I want to bring into my teaching at home, even if I don't make such detailed lesson plans every week.

I got all the way through everything I had planned and was about to have them dance through the last 16 bars, when the examiners stopped me and said I was running out of time, so I should just have them dance it through. I briefed it and they did it. And it turned out well! No super-mistakes.
I'm thinking when our class starts up again in September I'll teach them my exam lesson, so they can see what it was like.

On Friday we were free to do whatever. So Isobel, Pat, Hisako, Lisa, Irene, and I all went to St. Jacobs, a little town north of Waterloo that was originally settled by German Lutherans. It's now a shopping mecca. Still a small town, with older brick buildings on the main street, but lots of fun, local businesses selling candy, clothing, shoes, home stuff, etc. We had a very nice lunch at Benjamin's, then headed for the stores. Isobel found some great dresses. I tried on some things but didn't buy. The one store where I might have bought something, a natural stone jewelry shop, was closed for lunch. Though I did get some fresh Turkish Delight at the candy store. Then on the way home they dropped me off at the Chapters bookstore. I got a book and some magazines for the trip home and walked the five blocks back to our residence.

My right knee got up to its usual tricks within a few days of getting there, so I wore an elastic brace in class. It doesn't do much to stop it hurting, but at least the swelling stays down. About four days into the course the arch of my left foot started hurting. I think I strained some of the muscles there. So I wore a foot/ankle elastic brace for the rest of the time. It helped enough that I could dance normally in the exam.

But Saturday morning I went to the Advanced Technique class Alan Twhigg taught, just to relax, and I had to stop after the first dance. It hurt so much I couldn't spring on that foot. Dancing stopped being fun, so I went back to my room and finished packing. I hope it's just a strain and I'll be ok in a few weeks. I'm going to find a different elastic support to wear. The ankle one doesn't have a very big band around the foot.

Back at work today, with lots to do. Bills to pay, chores to catch up on. But it's nice to be home.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Exam Day!

So, here it is, Thursday, Aug. 12th. I do my teaching exam at 3:50pm, assuming they don't go off the schedule. I'll go over with the other two afternoon candidates after lunch, and try not to be too nervous while I wait. I've practiced-taught my lesson a few times, hoping I'll remember everything.

My dance is "Lady of the Lake" from Book 25. Not a super-difficult dance, but it does have some devilish 1 1/4 turns which could be problematic. Let's hope my stooge dancers don't give me TOO many problems. A few would be good - so I can show the examiners that I know how to fix things. But endless problems will just push me over my time limit.

There are four of my classmates over there right now, either doing or waiting to do their exams. I hope we all do well and pass. I'm just going to take a shower and get ready now, so I'm not in a rush. We leave at 1:30 for the dance studio. Send me good thoughts!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

End of the First Week, A New Week Begins

It was a nice sunset yesterday. I took this from our lounge. It has a great view.

Yesterday Unit 5 only had a half day of classes. Then we were free to do whatever. I relaxed for most of the afternoon, then Kathy and I went out to run some errands. I found a slip at the nearby mall, and we had dinner. It was nice to get out. I had a good sleep, but I forgot I could have slept in another half hour. It would have been nice, but I woke up before my alarm and couldn't get back to sleep.

Here we are, Sunday morning. It rained last night and the sun was a little red ball over the hills. This was the view out my window, facing east. I think it's going to be humid again today. Hard to believe a whole week has gone by already.

My right knee is hurting, but it's not the thing it did last summer when I couldn't push up from a bent position. It's puffy and sore, but so far I can use it. I thought about going to the AGM Ball last night, but decided it was better not to if I want to be in reasonable dancing shape for Thursday. My hip has been good. It gets stretched every day in class warm-ups, so I'm not too concerned about it.

It's our third go-round of teaching practice, and I'm first. This morning I teach Lady Susan Stewart, a hyper-active little reel with a break-neck track figure to begin and two corner-partner figures. At least you get a bit of a rest for the last 8 bars. Yeow.

I'd like to take more pictures of us in class, but I haven't had time. Maybe today if we have stooges I'll get to sit out one dance and take a few.

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Week Down...

One more to go!

It's hard to believe tomorrow is Saturday already. It seems like we just got here. Of course, Thursday was a very odd day, so I think most people feel like they've missed a day out of their lives.

On Wednesday night at least four of the 18 candidates and one of the organizers came down with food poisoning. My suite-mate, Kathy, was up most of the night in the bathroom, having a horrible time. That started around 10:30-11pm, and continued into the small hours. The bathroom door is pretty thin, so you can hear just about everything. Which meant all sorts of unpleasant noises. I got only 3-4 hours of sleep. Of course Kathy got even less, poor thing. By morning we found out more people were ill. The Prelim class was hit hardest, with 5 of their 11 candidates out sick. Only three of the seven Unit 5's were sick.

In fact, with so many Unit 2 candidates sick, they had to put off the Unit 2 exam for 24 hours. So instead of today, it's tomorrow. I hope Kathy does well. I think she's feeling fairly confident. It's the Personal Dancing exam, which to me was much less stressful than the teaching part. This takes away a day of their preparation for Unit 3, the teaching part, which is a shame, but I don't know what else TAC could do at this point.

So on Thursday, with only 4 people in our class, Irene's lesson was radically changed. Thank goodness we had stooges! Instead of her watching each of us teach a dance and writing up her comments, we agreed that she would stop us on the spot when she saw something that needed fixing. Since we'd already taught one dance and got written comments, this was an interesting change.

Poor Isobel got the first chance. I was next, so I tried to use all of the corrections I'd heard in Isobel's lesson. I still got stopped a few times, but it was a good improvement for me. Especially in how I mostly remembered to walk and talk the figure, rather than talking about it and then walking it. Much more efficient, and it gives dancers a better picture of what you want.

The other thing we did was get assigned a difficult figure to teach. I got The Spurtle. The others got the Spoke, the progressive reel of 4, and the tourbillon.

By the end of Thursday most of the sickies were up and walking around, even if they weren't very interested in food yet. On the way home from classes we stopped at the stores to get recovery food - yogurt, bananas, ginger ale, saltines, etc. BUT! By Thursday night two more people got it. Fortunately they both had less violent cases and they are up and about today, if not dancing.

The organizers reported our problems to the Board of Health and informed the three catering companies. Needless to say, most of us are being very careful about what we're eating. I've been sticking to un-peeled fruit and box cereal at breakfast. Until today we were having meals catered because there aren't enough of us to justify opening the University dining hall. There needs to be 40. Now that the TAC AGM weekend is starting, we'll go to the dining hall for meals.

Today, Friday, was better. Isobel was out, but everyone else was there, and we had enough stooges for two 3-cpl sets. The three who had not yet taught their second dance were able to do so. Then Irene had each of us choose a fairly easy dance that we remembered well, and we had to Brief it and they danced it. I did Flowers of Edinburgh. I didn't want to be sooo brief that all I said was "chase, set, chase, set, down, back, poussette. So I thought I'd put in a bit more detail, and ended up saying too much. *sigh*

Tonight I went out for Chinese with Hisako, Isobel and Pat, all of whom were sick and just couldn't face the TAC dinner. Not that it's bad food, it's all been very tasty. We just don't know where the food poisoning came from. But tomorrow we'll be in the dining hall, so hopefully there will be no more problems.

Tomorrow we're back to teaching another dance. So far I've done Euan's Jig, Donald Bane, and now it's Lady Susan Stewart. All carefully chosen by Irene for maximum tricky bits without being super advanced. Euan's Jig has a six-bar double figure of 8, of all things. Lady Susan has both set to corners and partner, and turn corners and partner. So you immediately think those are the hardest figures. And they are. Then I started looking at the first eight bars. Yikes! It's just a track figure, but you really have to cover some mileage!

So I'm first up tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day Two

Today we begin actual classes. We'll be here in the Residence building because it's a holiday. Pretty convenient for us in Unit 5, since we're meeting in the common area right outside our rooms. In the pictures you can see the 5th floor right above that brick section that extends out. So the windows on our floor look directly out, across to the soccer field.

We walk past the soccer pitch into the campus to the dining hall for breakfast, as you see in the next picture. The food has been ok so far. Today was pancakes, ham slices, oatmeal, fruit, cold cereals, and toast. The coffee isn't as strong as I like it, but it tastes good.

So, in a few moments I'll be stepping outside my own door and directly into the class. I think we're working on footwork technique and some of the more difficult figures today, before we really get started on teaching practice tomorrow.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

TAC SS 2010

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

So, here we are. I left Boise around 6am, got into Denver at 7:30, and then waited for the flight to Toronto until 11:30. So plenty of time wandering around the shops at Denver airport. I found Kathy Byers at our gate about an hour before our flight, so at least I had someone to talk to for part of the time. I forgot to eat anything for lunch, so by the time our flight got to Toronto I was very hungry.

Customs took almost an hour waiting in line. There were hordes of people from all over. You heard all kinds of accents and languages. I think a lot of planes had arrived at once. They had the usual snake-y line, so we walked back and forth across the room at least 10 times. Kind of comical really. Customs itself was very quick, once you actually got to an agent.

Then I got my bag and we found Hisako. She arrived earlier from Australia. So we went to the rental car place and headed off through Toronto. It was fairly simple from the airport. Just took one highway west until the turn-off for Waterloo/Kitchener. And the college was easy to find as well. Once we got there we put our luggage in our rooms and headed off for some dinner. We found a Thai place that was so-so, but at least it was food. Then we hunted down a Walmart. Not my favorite place, but it was open at that time of night and things were cheap. The other two had forgotten things. I picked up some odds and ends, like a small towel to use as a bathmat, a mug, and trail mix.

Then I unpacked and settled in. As you can see from the pictures, the rooms are *very* basic - and SMALL! But they are air conditioned and there's everything you need, including a reasonable desk and an internet connection. On each floor there are small common areas with kitchen stuff, including a fridge and a microwave.

This morning Hisako and I walked down Kings St. into the town. I didn't bring my camera, but I took a couple shots of the view from my window in that direction. There are lots of small shops and cafes. We stopped at one for a coffee and breakfast, then walked on. In the other direction on Kings there's a Starbucks and a 7-11. So I picked up a container of Tazo Chai and some milk. It's going to be a tough two weeks in some ways, with homework to do in the evenings and not a lot of free time. So it'll be nice to have a hot chai while I'm working away on lesson plans. I am please to say that my trusty laptop made the journey here safely and has caused me no trouble so far in connecting. This laptop has lived well beyond its sell-by date and traveled halfway around the world with me. I'm hoping to replace it later this year, but in a way I hate to give it up. It's been my lifeline to the outside world on so many occasions.

Friday, July 30, 2010

It Figures

Well, I leave tomorrow. I harvested the first tomatoes today. And of course the raspberries are ready to explode, the other tomatoes are starting to turn red, the swiss chard is ready to pick, the beans are finally starting to produce, and the lettuce I planted in a pot on the deck will easily be ready to eat sometime in the next two weeks. I just hope my husband can keep up with all the watering and picking!

Last night was Bru rehearsal at Tim's. Our friends from Twin Falls were there too, so it more like a dinner with a little jamming afterwards than a real rehearsal. Tim barbecued T-bone steaks from a grass-fed steer they raised on the farm. Those were amazing! Rare, as I like them, but tender and full of flavor. Like the memory of a perfect steak you carry in your head ("ideal steaks of the mind", I called them). Along with that we had all kinds of Asian greens (Ruby Streaks mustard, tatsoi, etc) from his greenhouses, as well as some amazing crispy-sauteed dinosaur kale with a goat cheese from Rollingstone in Parma. They're pretty low-profile here, but evidently they are master cheese-makers who sell all over the U.S.

So we ate very well last night. A nice send-off for me, heading to two weeks of cafeteria food.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

They Flinched

So, conservative extremists in the Tea Party made a calculation. They edited a tape of Ms. S's speech at the NAACP so it only included the parts where she talked about her racist behavior towards a Georgia farmer, in her capacity as a USDA official. This "racist" version of the speech got extensive play on all the hate radio shows and Faux News, stirring up a tempest about black racism towards whites.

What those conservative extremists did NOT show in that clip was the REST of the story - where Ms. S talks about realizing her own prejudice, how she changed her behavior, and ended up treating that Georgia farmer fairly. In fact, that particular farmer has gone on the TV news and radio to say her treatment of him WAS fair, and in fact her actions, through the USDA, saved his farm.

All it took to find this out was a viewing of the whole 40-minute speech. It's not like 100's of researchers had to dig through tons of material for days on end - it was right there in the same speech!!

Which makes the actions of the USDA in firing Ms. S even stupider. This was purposeful, calculated, deliberate lying on the part of those responsible for the edited "racist" clip of the speech. It's impossible to believe they did not know what she says later on. They simply chose to leave it out, with the intention of making the Obama Administration flinch. The disappointing thing is, the Administration DID flinch.

Seems to me the President's folks need to set up some kind of Surgical Strike team. A bunch of staffers that specialize in quickly looking into these childish attempts by fear-mongers at riling up their base and making the Obama folks look bad, and then discrediting them with the actual facts! How much better it would have looked, how much more statesmanlike, self-assured, measured and UNAFRAID, if someone on the President's staff had just taken one hour to look into this particular incident.

Then the Administration's response could have instead focused on exposing this blatant attempt by opposition extremists at twisting the truth for their own purposes. If only supporters of the President could do that often enough, in a way that dismisses these things as childish and calculated lies that aren't worth reacting to beyond exposing them. Then they might appear to be less defensive about the public's perception of them, and they'd have more time for all those major national problems we expect them to fix.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Progress, At Last!

We nearly finished the bathroom walls today. Or, at least the walls in the larger area of the bathroom. We may have to put a second coat on, but that will go quickly. Then there's the trim to paint, and the light fixture to remove so it can be painted under and replaced. I was worried the green might be too dark, but now we've got a decent-looking solid coat on the walls, I think it looks much better! I'm looking forward to getting the terracotta shade on the trim, and putting the new towel racks up.

Another thing I did today was put new drawer pulls on. I found some really cute iron-look metal ones with a leaf pattern. The towel racks are wrought-iron, so they should work well together.

The rubber backing on the white bathmats we've had for a couple years has started to crumble, so it's just the right time to replace them. There was only one green mat left that matched the towels when I bought those, so I might have to go look at a different Target store to find a second one.

The chicks are growing. They're starting to get wing feathers coming in and can fly short distances - like up to the top of the water fount or the food dispenser. I'm not sure if they're playing "king of the hill" or just getting closer to the outside air. The two Survivor chickens are also doing well. We moved their tractor a third time the other night and they liked that. The next move will give them even more dandelion leaves to munch on.

More and more raspberries are ripening, with plenty more flowers as well. It's just getting to the point where it's hard to find them all before they go over. I'm waiting until later this evening to give the bees a chance to go home. I've never been stung out there rummaging around in the raspberry canes while the bees work, but it's pretty hot today, so 8 or 9pm might be nicer than 6pm. :)

Otherwise, my first planting of swiss chard is definitely ready to harvest if we want some. The tomatoes are getting taller and filling out, and there are plenty of green ones ripening on the two Legend plants. I have a feeling I'll be lucky to get any tomatoes off the younger plants though.

The beans are a dismal disappointment this year. I bought a bag of three color bush beans, and the purple ones have done the best by far. The green and yellow bean plants are being eaten as fast as they can grow. I'm guessing it's because the pests don't recognize the purple ones as food as easily as the green or yellow ones.

Anyway, I'm not expecting much of a bean harvest this year. Although the scarlet climbing beans could still surprise me. They're only a foot tall right now, and not growing very fast. I'm behind with all my seed-raised plants this year, due to the cold weather earlier. So I'm wondering if the shorter and shorter daylight hours are making a difference. Sure it's hotter, but as the season goes on there's less daylight over-all.

The basil has probably been the biggest failure this year. We've tried three different plantings of seed and hardly any of them have germinated, much less actually grown. Even the seeds I put into new compost in a pot on the deck haven't done anything, and it's been two weeks. I finally broke down today and bought some starts. Let's hope *those* grow at least! This is ridiculous. By this time last year we were making pesto from our own basil at least once a week. At least the salad mix and chard I planted in the other deck pot have come up. Those I've kept in partial shade and they seem to be happy.

I guess I should be comforted by our organic farmer friend, who says his basil has done very poorly this year too. But still...I miss our pesto!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Chicks, Again

I went to Dunlaps Hatchery on Tuesday and bought five one-week-old pullets, two Silver-laced Wyandottes, and three Barred Rock. This was the last batch of chicks they were raising for the season, so I jumped on it. Assuming they all make it, I'll then have three W and three BR hens. We'll keep them in the chicken tractor once they're all old enough and the roster has gone on to better things.

I found a design for a new chicken tractor in a chicken magazine, but I'm not sure we'll make one that elaborate. This design had an enclosed part one foot above ground level, with a ramp. Makes the whole thing taller, but gives shade even if the tractor is in the sun.

On the other hand, we could just do a taller enclosed bit that has a perch rail and a nest shelf inside, with a roof extension for shade outside. I'm hoping we'll get this done before winter. It would be nice to have a slightly larger tractor for six hens.

We've got most of the bathroom walls half-painted. The green color is darker than I expected. I'm usually pretty good at choosing the right color/shade, but oh well. I've bought the new towel racks and a new set of towels. Hopefully this weekend we can do another coat of green, then see if it needs more.

This bathroom is two offset rectangles, with the overlap being the connecting opening. The smaller rectangle is where the toilet and shower are. That's the area with termites. So we've left that unpainted. The wallboard is just going to get more holes in it before the termites are gone, so we'll wait to paint it.

The raspberries are producing, the tomatoes are growing, and I put in more bush beans, swiss chard, mixed lettuce and basil seeds last weekend - into pots. The chard out in the garden is just about ready to cut, but it's been gnawed on by slugs and earwigs. So I thought pots on the deck would be easier to keep an eye on. I'm hoping to see seeds germinating by the weekend.

Better go water!

Monday, July 5, 2010

13 Chickens Killed by Dog

I like dogs. Really. I own one. We both grew up with dogs, large and small. But today I am not liking dogs much.

We went out to a BBQ last night, stayed late to do fireworks with the kids, and got home around midnight. This morning I went out to check on our chickens, which have been in the large enclosure for exactly one week. As I approached the gate, I saw three of them lying on the ground, motionless. Dead. I went inside to look for the rest, hoping more were alive.

Two of them, a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Wyandotte hen, were hiding under the tree. As I walked across the enclosure I saw the rest, their dead bodies strewn around in the far corner. I couldn't help bursting into tears. A dog, or dogs, had dug under the fence and had a grand old time chasing and killing our chickens. The poor things must have been terrified. Wild animals don't make the mess that dogs do. They come in, take the bird and go, with not even a feather left behind. We've had that happen too. It's upsetting, but at least it's not wanton pointless waste.

If we'd been home, we most likely would've heard the fuss and chased the dog off. We've done it before, and it will happen again, I'm sure. This dog tried digging under the fence in more than one place before finding a way in, so it was pretty determined. No matter how well-behaved you think your dog is, if it's running loose at night it's perfectly capable of doing something like this. Even a smallish dog can kill a chicken. In my opinion, people who allow their dog to run free are being irresponsible, and potentially causing harm to their neighbors in ways just like this. Allowing a dog to harass livestock is a crime in Idaho.

Those 16 chicks we bought didn't cost a whole lot. But chicks, plus bedding, food, water, and electricity to keep them warm 24 hours a day for a month isn't cheap. Not to mention our time. Aside from the enjoyment, you do it because you're hoping for a good return. In our case, we were going to have 8 roosters in the freezer and a good supply of eggs from the hens for years to come.

Now we have one very expensive rooster for the pot, and one hen. All because someone was too lazy to take their dog for walks on a leash. You can bet we'll be watching for a return to the scene of the crime.

And in the light of that, we've moved our two surviving birds to a chicken tractor closer to the house. I'd like find three more hens this week. Hopefully some at least a few weeks old, so they won't be too far behind the one we have left. I don't even care much what kind they are, as long as they're laying hens. At least one of my Wyandottes made it.

We've also been thinking of what changes we can make in keeping chickens. We're going to build a new chicken tractor, with wheels to help with moving it around. Then we'll be able to see the chickens around the yard too, which is part of the fun in having them. Eventually as they get older, we'll let them out for part of the day if we're home.

Anyway, most of our day was spent re-furbishing the chicken tractor we have, moving it, and getting the two live birds moved. Then we had the sad experience of digging a large hole to bury the 13 dead ones. Not the funnest weekend.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July Begins!

Messing around with my blog colors. There are new templates to choose from but I don't like any of them. And I'm not really interested in doing my own template right now. So I'll keep what I've got and tinker with it occasionally.

It's going to be a nice relaxing weekend, I hope. Today we put a second coat of paint on the bathroom ceiling. I'm pleased all over again with the color I chose. Tomorrow we'll start on the walls. I hope I still like that color too! Once we're done I'll go get new towel racks, and I have a gift card from Christmas I'm going to use for another set of towels.

I did some deadheading out in the garden, planted out my six seed-raised tomatoes, and pulled some weeds. I've also started picking raspberries. There aren't more than a dozen or so at a time, yet. But they'll start taking off pretty soon and I'll get a couple pints a day. Yummy!

The two 'Legend' tomatoes I bought already have golf-ball-size tomatoes on them. I also have a 'Mr. Stripey' and another one, but I don't remember its name. They aren't quite as far along. Neither is the swiss chard. I don't know what the deal is this year. Some things seem really reluctant to grow, even though the days are long and we're getting more sun than clouds. And, as a side-effect of all the rain, I have to worry about slugs! This is the first year I've had slugs since I moved to Idaho in '03. Gardens in town that get more water might have slugs, but it's pretty dry out where we are. I'm going to get a few cans of cheap beer and put that out in dishes overnight. Should cut down on the population a bit. I'm also putting coffee grounds around some plants. We'll see if it makes a difference.

One nice thing about the rain has been the rhubarb. I'm still getting plenty of it and the stalks are starting to be thicker, more like the plant my friend has that mine came from. So today I cooked up 10 cups of it. We're going to try canning it this summer with Mom's microwave method. It worked really well for the grape juice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cozy Storm

A cold storm is blowing in from the west, with huge grey pink-edged clouds at sunset. More like late September than early June. No rain yet, though we may get snow above 6,000 feet.

I like storms. I think it's from growing up during the seven year drought in California. For me there's nothing better than sitting inside with a hot drink, warm and cozy, watching the lightning, trees swaying in the wind, rain soaking the garden. If I can, I leave a window open. I always sleep better when it's raining. That smell of wet earth and plants, the sounds of water dripping and pattering. Makes me feel all is right with the world.

Of course you don't want wet weather all the time (though California was safe from that!). It's good to have contrasts. The wet days help us appreciate the sunny days all the more, and vice versa. Good points to each of them. And we won't get too many more cold wet days before the Summer heat sets in.

Time to open that window and curl up in the blankets with a mug of mint tea. Happy storm, all.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Almost Here

It seems like the days got really long almost overnight! I think it was cloudy and rainy for so long that we didn't notice. Now all of a sudden the clouds have cleared and the sky stays light until after 10pm. It's shocking to walk outside at 8pm and see the sun still well above the horizon.

We've had a sunny and warm (though not hot) weekend, mid 70s to low 80s. Pretty nice weather actually, though I'm not used to being outside in the sun. It makes me tired and headache-y. Seems like I have to get used to it every summer all over again. Put on sunscreen for the first time this year.

I have four pots planted up now. The fourth one has a yellow-leaved coleus and a purple double-flowered upward-facing aqualegia in the center, surrounded by purple and white torrenia and sweet peas. I'm not sure how the sweet peas will do, it's kind of late in the year for them, but what the heck.

I finally broke down a few weeks ago and bought a new echinachea I've been wishing for - "Green Envy". I've had "Magnus" in the front garden for about five years, and it's done very well, but I haven't had much luck with any of the newer color varieties. So I tried to give this one a good start, with (hopefully) good drainage and enriched soil. We'll see...

I went to the Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Bought a "Mr. Stripey" tomato and some seedlings of tall white scented nicotiana, as well as a small pak choi, some fresh oyster mushrooms, and more WONDERFUL moroccan-spiced lamb sausage from our organic lamb friends. I did a stir-fry with the pak choi and mushrooms, but the sausage is in the freezer waiting for Ken to come home next Saturday.

I finally had six tomato seeds germinate, though the peat pods got mixed up and I'm not sure anymore which is which. That's ok, I planted three different colors. Won't be hard to figure out which is which, eventually. Anyway, I put those into larger pots today, so they can continue to develop roots. They should be ready to go out in the garden in a few weeks. Just as well I bought three more mature plants last month and have those planted out already. We may actually get tomatoes before September that way!

I've got five bush beans, two sugar snap pea plants, and two scarlet runner beans in the ground, along with two Italian peppers. I also planted out swiss chard and corn salad seeds a few weeks ago. The chard came up quickly, and then practically disappeared - the quail found it! So I had to put a net over it. So far that seems to be working. The corn salad seed is a few years old, and only a few tiny bits of green have come up so far.

It's been a great year for salad greens here, with the cool temps and rain. But that should change quickly now.

Friday, May 28, 2010


It must be the odd weather this Spring. I've been enjoying the iris in bloom more than ever - probably because so little else has flowered until this past week. I think the days finally got long enough that there's enough sunlight, watery though it is, for things to bloom. We'll be happy about the water later in summer, but it has played havoc with the garden so far.

I've been looking at the Schreiner's Iris website. They have some wonderful things - some of them quite expensive! There's a white edged with blue that was $50 for a rhizome. Yikes! Good thing I already have one. I've done pretty well buying from the local Iris Society at the Farmer's Market. I'm hoping to see them there again this year and get something new. The top picture is of the yellow, blue and bronze iris we found behind the house. I should take some photos along to see if someone knows what they're called. The orange ones are scented - kind of sweet and lemony. Very nice. From what I've seen poking around online, they're probably older varieties. Not really 'heirloom', but possibly mid-20th C.

I've also been really happy with the iris I ordered from Iris Sisters Farm, especially the dwarf yellow with blue beard, "Prank", and the bi-color, "What Again". They've spread into large beds. I'll need to thin them soon.

Anyway, it's the time of year to have iris fever. They do well in our climate and soil, so you see them everywhere. I saw one on Hwy 20 on my way to Vale, OR, last week that I've been trying to find online. It have violet blue falls and a yellow top. A very nice combination. Sort of like this. This one's called 'Jurassic Park' of all things. Who thinks of these names?
I also like this one, 'Dynamite' I'll have to see if the Iris Society has anything similar.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

One Month Old Chicks

Here they are, my new chickens. One month old today. You can see feather patterns and combs. I just hope the hens turn out to be hens! We plan to move them into the intermediate run this week. Maybe even tonight.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Late (Wet) Spring

It’s been a cooler and wetter than normal Spring. Usually by this time in May we have mostly sunny days with the occasional thunderstorm passing through. June can be that way too. But the past weeks have seen a lot of rain. On Saturday we had a record 1.5" fall. Great for our water stores, but pretty unusual for it to rain nearly all day. And then snow! Evidently Utah broke a record for the latest day of snowfall. Not just a sprinkle, but 6" of it. Bogus Basin, our local ski area, got 18"! Crazy! Today it rained for a lot of the morning, and we may have more rain overnight.

I'm perfectly fine with that. The less super-hot weather we have, the better it is, from my point of view. I always dread the weeks in August when we have 100F+ temps for days on end. But at least it's dry heat. I'm not used to the humidity of Indy or Korea any more. But lucky me, I'm going to muggy Ontario, Canada, this August. I'll get the high temps and high humidity. Whoohoo.

V’s wedding went very well, considering all the rain. Lots of people showed up, the food was great, and the 100 umbrellas V bought came in very handy! It’s strange to think of her as married, although it won’t really be that different than before, as she’s been living with B for a few years now. They’re off on honeymoon to Europe now. Sounds like they’re having fun so far.

The plants are all reacting differently to the cooler weather. The iris have been beautiful this year. It will be interesting to see what happens next year if I don't find time to thin out the beds this fall. I may be giving iris away. The salvia and penstemon are in bloom, but the dianthus, wild roses and thyme have just barely started. Usually they're all in flower at the same time. My purple-leaved sage seems to have been struck by the very cold temps we had this winter. I’m thinking I’ll have to dig it up and cut out the center. The two ends have come into leaf, but the middle section is still dead wood.

My tomatoes, raspberries and rhubarb are doing well. I really must get the seedlings re-potted or planted out this weekend if I can. They’re wayyyyy too tall. The pepper plants I bought as back-ups are still ok, but something is eating chunks out of the leaves. Not sure if it’s just leaf-cutter bees or earwigs. I may have to spray them.

The chicks are doing well. They’ll be a month old tomorrow. They have most of their feathers and are starting to show combs. I just hope I really have eight hens. It’s getting harder to tell some of them apart. I keep forgetting to take pictures. I should do it tomorrow for their one month “birthday”.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Ending...maybe

The Aikido dojo I train at closed this week. Sensei has to sell the building. It's been tough lately. Attendance is down, and a lot of the kids in his previously very active and cohesive teen class have graduated and gone off to college. And a lot of the adults have had some life changes that mean they don't come as often. I think the money problem was a large part of the decision, though not all of it.

Sensei sent out some emails earlier in the week, letting us know. Thursday and Saturday were the last adult classes and I made sure to go to both of them. There were more people in class than had been for a while. I saw people I hadn't seen for months. Of course, many had not seen me for months either, even though we all were going to class - just not as often, and obviously not on the same days.

Although no one mentioned it, I think most of us saw the irony of this. It took the dojo closing down to get that many of us to class. Rather a shame we all couldn't have been there more often. It wouldn't have brought in more money, as we all pay a monthly fee whether we go to class or not. But attendance does make a difference in keeping the new students. It's hard for them to see a vibrant active dojo when so many of the more experienced students only show up twice a month. I bear my share of the blame in that. I was often lucky if I could get there twice a month. Mostly that's due to a recent increase in work load and more pressure to do overtime to keep up. Sometimes I could've worked around it and still gone to class. But sometimes I was simply too tired to contemplate driving the 40 minutes one-way to get there.

And now it's gone. August would have finished my sixth year there. It's a hole in my life that'll take a while to heal. Odd to think I've been training since 1998. I haven't progressed very far in grade during that time, mostly due to moving a lot and various life changes, but Aikido has become part of my identity. It's changed a lot of things about me, some ways I only dimly understand.

We're hoping to get some kind of "garage dojo" started up soon, if we can find a place. I think a lot of us are interested in looking around, and perhaps something will come up. I have a few ideas myself. So we'll see what happens.

Plants in the Ground

It's iris season right now, at least at our house. I seem to have early, middle and late season iris planted all over the place. The dwarfs are earliest, then the odd mixture I got at the farmer's market, and now some tall ones we moved from behind the house out to the cottage garden area have come into bloom. They're butter yellow and light blue, a nice combination. The variegated iris came into bloom this weekend as well. They don't last long so I try to appreciate them while I can.

The weather may still not be reliably warm, but at least it's started to feel more like Spring. The days have gotten a lot longer, but cool temperatures lasting longer into May than usual have slowed down growth. Even local farmers are noticing it. The main weather change we've noticed here is pattern change. Winters aren't as cold, there's less snow, Spring and Fall are more erratic, and overall Idaho is getting less water than historical normal.

My raspberries are just starting to have flower buds and they're about 4' tall. So today I put up the half-hoop net supports and put the net over them. The net works much better with the supports - keeps the tops of the raspberry canes from getting totally entangled in the net. I should cut back the canes once they reach a certain height, but I never seem to remember.

Otherwise, I have not had good luck with seeds this year, at least with tomato seeds. Of my six tomato peat-pods, only two have come up. And it's coming up on the third week of May, for pete's sake! So I bought three tomato plants - two Legend and one other kind, all of them early. I won't be finding Virginia Sweets and Paul Robeson as plants anywhere soon, since they're heritage varieties. So I'll just have to keep hoping for those seeds to come up, or try again. They're both 80 day varieties. Many years I'm picking tomatoes well into September, so I'll have to hope they take off in hot summer.

Anyway, I planted out all three of the tomato plants today, as well as the sweet Italian pepper plants. None of those seeds have come up yet either. So if they do, that's fine, they'll just ripen later. And meanwhile I'll have other peppers that hopefully ripen sooner.

The bean seeds have come up fairly well. I need to get them potted on into bigger pots before I put them out. Those little peat pods don't leave much room for growth. I'm a bit disappointed with the three-color bean seeds. Only two of the six came up, both purple-podded ones. Would have been nice if some green and yellow had come up too! I may try again, as beans are a pretty short-season thing.

The chicks are much taller and getting more and more of their grown-up feathers. This picture is 20 days old. We'll be moving them out into a bigger run soon, sometime this week. I'll want to make sure we put things around it to prevent animals from digging under. Don't want to lose these like we did the ducks!