Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Search of Some Holiday Cheer

I think most of you reading this will understand, though possibly may not agree with, what I'm about to say.


Yep, I said that dreaded PC/non-PC phrase.  And why shouldn't I?  I've been saying it for far longer than the idea of being politically correct has existed.  Why I say it goes back to fourth grade, when my class did a project studying different religions.  We visited a Catholic church and a Buddhist temple.  The other fourth grade classes visited other places of worship, and then we shared what we learned. 

What is it about being nine and suddenly understanding in a big way that there are other people, with vastly different ideas and customs than your own in the world?  That was the year I understood that while Christmas was what the majority of the people around me celebrated, there were still many of people right there in my community who celebrated other traditions.  I made a conscious decision to recognize that fact by wishing people Happy Holidays as a way to acknowledge and respect others.  

Twenty-five years later, I don't describe myself as being aligned with any one religion.  Seems to me that most teachings include practical concepts for living a 'better' life, but very little about bigotry, narrow-mindedness and just being rude.  I don't want to be boxed into any religion if it means I can't acknowledge all traditions with a non-denominational greeting.

And as for those people who have said to my face that I'm unpatriotic, anti-Christian, etc., the nine-year-old in my really just wants to stick out her tongue.  I know better and I'm not going to let anyone take it away from me.

And now for a non-denominational, wintery scene of Riley playing in the snow.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Happiest Place on Earth

Back in March we participated in Disney's volunteer program and earned two Disney passes, which had to be used by December 15.  So we called some friends, calculated gas mileage, scrapped together some pennies, asked my sister to watch all the animals, and headed south.

We drove and drove and drove some more.  We listened to back episodes of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me to pass the time. And drove some more.

And finally we arrived.  DISNEYLAND!  We actually stayed two nights with our friend Debi, who is an amazing artist and just happens to live in Los Angeles.  She is lives in the Brewery Artist Lofts, a former Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery turned artist-in-residence community. 

Our gracious hostess doing a little product branding.  Debi has an annual pass and gleefully accompanied us into the park.  And she mentioned to some other mutual friends we were coming into town, so with the wonder of texting, Chris was able to meet up with us in the park.

The park was not crowded, so we were able to hit all of our favorite rides before lunch.  Indiana Jones, Tarzan's Jungle House, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Innoventions, Sleeping Beauty's Walkthrough, Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters. (I got the high score.)

On our way through the castle back into Fantasyland we found the Evil Queen, and had to stop to show our reverence. She was pleased by our recognition of her greatness. 

Then on to Autopia, with a lovely example of LA traffic, including irate drivers. (Chris is a deaf interpreter and has a very expressive face.)

Lunch, teacups, Finding Nemo, Jungle Cruise, Pirates and Indiana Jones for the second time, running around the former Tom Sawyer's island, now Pirate's Cove. I'm sure I'm forgetting something in there, like Winnie the Pooh.

After the amazing fireworks and 'snow' on Main Street we ran back into Fantasyland for awhile, rode the carousel, Mr. Toads Wild Ride, Storybook Canal, and Snow White's Scary Adventures.  Through Sleeping Beauty's Castle one more time.  While waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion, the rain that had been threatening all day finally opened up and poured.  It was after 11pm and we were done.  A total of 13 hours in the park.  Don't know when we'll get back south again, but it was all worth it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stuck in Mud

Today was the 8th Annual EcoKids.  Today it also rained.  A lot.  In the last 24 hours it dumped 1.77 inches on Grass Valley, of which 0.64 was received in the last 6 hours.  Yep, that would be the same six hours during which we set up the Burton Homestead, opened, and subsequently were utterly rained out.  

This wasn't just a little rain.  How do I know?  Well, first off is this nifty website produced by the National Weather Service that I posted on Facebook during the last storm.  Be sure to play with the different time scenarios during and after a storm.  So very cool.  So yes, over half an inch during the time frame in question.

Secondly, there was water sheeting off of the ground, which then lead to the further observation that our meadow aka parking lot for the event was rapidly turning very soggy.

Why do people assume that just because they  have 4WD that this won't happen to them?  People were very nice but a bit dismissive of my AWD Scion.  I could feel how slick the ground was, thought I was going to make it, but no.  Completely stuck, almost to the bumper line on the passenger side.  So people in 4WD and big pick ups tried to make it out and got equally stuck.  Luckily my Geico insurance coverage included tow service.  Within 15 minutes I had a tow truck and got pulled out of the mud.

The tow truck driver made short work on installing the tow bolts on the front of my bumper.  I never knew that's what those big eye bolt looking things with my spare tire stuff were for.

We made it home ok after that, where DH had started a fire in the wood stove and had a lovely pot of our locally sourced chicken (see previous post) whipped into a lovely chicken veg rice soup.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alouetté, gentille alouetté...

Warning - this contains some detailed photos of our us harvesting our excess roosters.

This summer our broody hens hatched out seven chicks, of which four turned out to be boys.  Now, hopefully you know by now that you don't need roosters for hens to lay eggs.  Additionally, when you have more than one rooster fighting for dominion over the harem things can turn nasty.  Our dominant, three-year-old rooster Kazoo will not share the coop with the young upstarts, so every night we have to go out with a flashlight and rescue the recalcitrant boys off the roof of the coop and shove them in with everyone else. Since it's hard to find homes for excess boys, we decided to take the plunge and do our first chicken harvest.

Neither of us had harvested chickens before, so we watched some youtube videos.  I liked this one the best. We dressed in Troy's cooking clothes.  Set up an ice bath, trash can, hanging hook, cutting board, and knives, and caught us a rooster boy each.

We didn't have a cone, so we simply tied them up by their feet and bleed them out by cutting a carotid artery on the side of the neck.  The chickens are already in a semi-stupor when held upside down, and once they loose significant blood pressure, it all ends pretty quickly. 
Troy decided he wanted to try skinning his chicken.  Here it is after being rinsed off.

I wanted to go traditional by plucking my bird.  There is definitely a knack to it, and while there are a few pins left in the skin, it wasn't that hard.  This is my bird after plucking.  Really does look like one of those imitation rubber chickens.

There's the crop.  Don't want to cut that open accidentally.  This is where all of those biology dissections really come in handy.  Pulling apart viscera is the same on all animals.

Yes Mom, that's me doing the nitty gritty.  I really did stick my hand repeatedly into the chicken.  (Ask me about the time I didn't eat chicken for several months after being threatened to stick my hand into the chicken or go without.)

When we were done we rinsed out each carcass and placed them in the ice bath to finish cooling rapidly, finally putting them in a freezer bag and into the freezer.  Since these birds are all from breeds that specialize in egg laying, they don't have the plump breasts that meat birds do, so these won't be great roasting birds.  Also, at four months of age are probably beginning to toughen up just a bit.  Most roasting birds are harvested at 10-12 weeks old.  These'll probably go into a soup or stew pot.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Life of Riley

I've heard there haven't been enough Riley posts, so here you go, our life with Riley.  Enjoy!
Day one with 13 week old, tri-color Welsh Pembroke Corgi, Riley.

Hanging out with Ringo at 49er Feed and Farm Supply, a full size male Corgi.

Running in green fields while I work, 5 mo old.

Going to work.  Water? Check. GPS? Check.  7 mo old Riley? Check.

Exhausted after a morning of playing and exploring in Forest City, 8 mo old.

Special canine supervision at work, 9 mo old.

Helping Sue Flynn sweep the floor after Spinning Saturday, 9 mo old.

Hanging at the river and patrolling the boundary, 10 mo old.

After preparing this post, we found out that Ringo, our Corgi friend at 49er Feed and Farm Supply on Wolf Road, was fatally injured after being hit by a car Saturday afternoon.  Our deepest sympathies go out to Ringo's family.  He will be missed by many in the community.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grass Valley Celtic Festival

The Grass Valley Celtic Festival hosted by KVMR is my annual chance to reunite with friends acquired during the eleven years I worked and played at Renaissance Faires.  The last several years I was in faire I braided hair with Adorn Thy Hair/Tresses Entwined, and the Celtic Festival is not only at my local faire grounds, the hair braiding booth comes every year.

Good friends, good music, best fairgrounds anywhere!  And then it turns out that my fiber guild also participates as entertainment.  Wham!  My local, fiber and faire worlds collide.  It means a lot of my favorite people all centralized into one place.  I even spun a bit when I wasn't braiding.
Barbara Sue with her masses of hair.

Jocelyn with her long hair and sunglasses. (Sspt, those aren't period sunglasses.)

Riley made lots of new friends

Tiffany getting to play...

And even Leann and Shane from Americoprs stopped by!

Getting ready for winter

Last week's chance of rain had us scrambling to put things back under shelter, caulk the holes in the shed and getting the chimneys cleaned out and ready to use.  Some things we try to do all summer, like cutting and stacking fire wood,  but there is invariably a fall scramble to get everything done.

There's a reason for fall cleaning in addition to spring cleaning.  I need this kick in the pants, I mean opportunity, to organize and put away all of that stuff left laying around out of doors while we work on projects.  Trimming goat hoofs and making new garden trellises means that bags of screws, drill bits, etc., are often left left wherever I used them last in one mad attempt after another to squeeze one more activity into my day, and now we have the seasoning of reckoning at hand.  I've even cleaned out the garden cart!

We're not the only ones getting ready for winter; we found this praying mantis in our bathroom earlier this week, happily munching on a resident crane fly.  The first year we were here we had a mantis take up residence behind the African violet on the bathroom shelf.  There's no plant there now, but this guy seems just as happy hanging out by my deodorant or on the bathroom mirror.

So going down the list, chance of rain scare not withstanding, we have maybe a cord of wood put by, the yard raked, about half the tools put away, fall veggies planted and chimneys cleaned.  We still need to finish roofing the new goat pen, finish organizing the tool box, built a compost bin, organized the garden tools and pots...  I think I'm losing the battle.

Of our babies born this summer, well some of them are almost all grown up, with some surprises.  The triplet doelings are doing superb, and have put on enough growth that they should handle the cold without any problems.  And those twin boys from Pi?  Well, turns out one of them was a girl too!  
Brack, 3 mo old wither from Pi
Bess and Mary, 5 mo old doelings from Maharani

Unfortunately, it turns out that Pi isn't that great for milking.  Small udder, undeveloped teats even after nursing for three months, so we swapped her out with 3/4 La Mancha doe from Quest Enclave, who is Pi's actual owner. In exchange for wintering at our place, I can milk Bean until it's time to dry her up halfway through her next pregnancy, sometime mid-spring.  Already Bean is an obliging, sweet goat who is giving us about a pint of milk each morning. 

Bean, newest addition

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Quick Catch Up

I'm sure it's a cliché to say that I'm not sure where the last six weeks has gone.  I can look at my calendar and see events, one after the other.

There was the rest of Le Tour de Fleece, during which I spun everyday except for the two rest days and the last two days during which I had the flu and was trying to keep the entire world from spinning while I moaned on the couch.   I did spin for several days after to make up for the missing days, and have a lot to show for my efforts.

There was a mountain retreat to Forest City, filled with girlfriends, laughter, excellent food and, of course, more fiber and spinning. 

Riley was exhausted by it all.

At roughly 5000' and far away from light pollution, I felt compelled to use the stargazing app on my iTouch to identify many of the constellations.  I really like this application and have continued to use it at home to learn more about the night sky.

Then there was the always inspiring Nevada County Fair.  The local fiber guild hosts the woolen and woven entries at the fair each year, breaking up the duties amongst ourselves.  I didn't enter anything this year, having suffered an overdose of procrastination when it was time to register exhibits, but I did help receive all of the beautiful entries and then volunteered three nights of the fair to demonstrate spinning.  In other words, it's another excuse to hang out with girlfriends, gab and spin.  There may also have been some Lazy Dog ice cream involved, but I'm not telling.

Jocelyn also taught Mardi, Barbara Sue and I how to use the inkle looms, and now I'm thinking about what wonderful projects I might make. 

On the home front we've been doing winter prep.  It seems far away now, but we only have half a cord of wood, which means we need to keep harvesting.  We'll go through at least two cords, more if it's a nasty/early/cold winter.  We're also doing a few weatherizing improvements and getting fall vegetables transplanted into the garden.  I snugged starts of broccoli, red cabbage, brussel sprouts and parsley into the garden this morning, where the larger summer plants will help shade the new plants while they get their root systems established.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More babies!

 In total we hatched out seven baby chicks between the two mommas. I wasn’t sure what the babies were going to look like, given that we had four varieties of chickens involved, but it looks as though we have two Ameraucanas, one gold-laced, three silver-laced and possibly one blue-laced Wyandotte types.  It’s great to see that they take after the individual varieties so strongly even though they are mixed parentage.

This week also yielded more goat babies!  This was Pi’s first pregnancy, and her birth was over almost before it even began.  I got a quick call that she was in labor, and six minutes later a second call that we already had one baby.  By the time I made it home from work twenty minutes later, everything was over and we had two cute little bucklings.  

We do not need these boys for breeding stock, so they will be wethered (neutered) and sold as pets/brushers.  They’re super cute with elfin ears.  Being second (?) generation mini-manchas, they’ll stay a manageable size, about 70 lbs when full grown. I prefer the minis because I can handle them, even with my torn sacrum ligament, and they don’t overwhelm my nieces and nephews.  We'll try again next year for some doelings out of Pi.

Last week kicked off the Tour de Fleece/Tour de France.  I’m part of Team Spinning Spinderellas.  Organized by Steph, our goal is simply to spin everyday the riders are riding.  Most days I’m spinning in the evening while the family watches tv.  I started with this delicious batt from Rowen.

Yesterday was the monthly spinning Saturday hosted by our fiber guild, and several of the team members joined in the air conditioned meeting room to share what they’ve done so far and get in a solid three hours of spinning.  Alas, I forgot my camera, but Birdsong posted a pic of the pile of finished yarns on the floor.  I started spinning a roving by Steph, "Gonna Nail That Catfish to a Tree."

More spinning today at Tin Thimble’s spinning Sunday!

Of course, between the heat and the spinning, some things like gardening have fallen to the wayside, at least for the moment.


This post is two weeks old, will get a newer post up soon!  So much more to share.

We have some new additions to our laying flock. Two of our hens became broody, and so we set them up in a couple of dog crates for some quiet solitude, and three weeks later, voila!  We have baby chicks.  So far we have three from the first hen, Smoke, and one from the second hen, Ash, though I'm not certain that Ash is done hatching babies just yet as she started 3-4 days later than her sister Smoke.

For those of you not in the know, hens do not need a rooster present to lay eggs, but those eggs are not fertilized.  Because we do have a rooster, the eggs we collect each evening have the potential for hatching a baby chick, given the right conditions.  Those can be man-made, but a broody chicken is the easiest way to go.  Once a hen has accumulated a nest of eggs, if she is broody she will sit on the nest, incubating the eggs and rolling them over.  Upon hatching, she will begin to teach the chicks how to hunt and peck at food, even mashing up larger food to feed to the babies.  Unlike other baby birds, they are up and following mama within a day of hatching.

We have four varieties of chickens in our flock.  Our rooster is a gold-laced Wyandotte.  Among the hens I have silver-laced and blue-laced Wyandottes and Ameraucanas.  This means that all of the chicks are mixed varieties, though they are exhibiting  certain plumage patterns already.  One looks Ameraucana, one looks blue-laced, and two look silver-laced.  It'll be interesting to see what they look like as they grow up.

We finally named the doelings Mary, Bridget and Bess, three great queens from the British Isles.  Bess is the large, pale doeling.  Bridget is the mostly black doeling and Mary is the calico, which somehow in our minds most closely resembles plaid.  They are friendly and playful, loving to run the length of the pasture in the cool mornings.

Of course, all of the animals, plants too for that matter, are telling me quite clearly that the world is heating up outside.  The plants are wilty, and all of the animals are taking it easy in the shade.  Everyone has access to lots of water, and when it really heats up we'll set up misters to help keep everyone comfortable.

Speaking of plants, I'm trying out a new system for tying up tomatoes this year.  Using a simple A-frame made of 1x3 lumber and a piece of electrical conduit, each tomato is tied with a piece of twine around it's base and up to the conduit.  Every couple of days I simply twist leader (main stem) around the twine.  That's it.  No finding scissors to cut bits of string, or oops, the stake fell over.  Just another twist around the twine.  All the tomatoes are tied up in just a few minutes, and they look fabulous.

I'd heard about this method, and need to give kudos to this humorous youtube video for the clear explanation about the twisting.
The beans are finally sprouted and climbing up their poles.  You can even see the painted lady heirloom beginning to show it's beautiful red flowers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Our first dairy goat, Maharani, delivered triplets girls Thursday evening.  Just hours after putting the final touches on the new birthing pen, her mucous plug broke, and we were officially on baby watch.  This being Maharani's second birth, it didn't take things long to progress.  I thought I had plenty of time to run to the feed store on the corner, but when I came back, it was to immediately set stuff down, wash my hands, roll up my sleeves and jump into delivery mode.

Her water broke just as I entered the pen, and then we went straight into hard contractions.  My husband said something was coming out, but it didn't look to be a hoof or head.  We changed positions, and I determined it was a front elbow poking out.  I looked at my husband, said something like, "Here goes nothing," and gently pushed the elbow back inside.  This is the first time I've tried to turn a baby, and let me just say, it was amazing, cool and freaky all at the same time.  Things were progressing too quickly to do more than rotate the leg back against the body of the baby and let it come out in a modified birth position.  Goat baby 1!!  Goat baby 2 popped out in the standard diving position twenty seconds later.  Goat baby 3 quickly followed, toosh-end first and still encased in her amniotic sac.  We ripped open the sac and cleared the mucous away from her mouth, and she mewled too.  

Aha!!  Three goat babies!  You never really know for sure how many babies you'll get from a goat.  Twins are typical, but it's just as common to get singles or triplets.  After last year's single boy from Dharma, I was hoping for at least one girl, and twin girls would even better.  I'm not sure I can share just how elated we were at delivering three (count 'em, three!) girls. 

Everbody was up and nursing withing twenty minutes.

Riley really wanted to see.  He's not quite sure about the need for any more babies...

So, we've got the light brown with white undersides, the black and white, and the calico.  Everyone needs names.  Suggestions?  I'd love to have some kind of theme...