Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vanishing photos, policemen with rifles and biking

What do all these things have in common? My next blog post!

My husband bought me a netbook for an anniversary present (I think it was just convenient that it was anniversary time as he's been wanting to get me one for awhile so that he could have my desktop for some project). It came with Windows 7 Starter which is so full of limitations that it really sucked. He upgraded it to Windows 7 Home Premium last week and in the process, erased every single digital photo we had taken in the past two years. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I hadn't had a chance to back them up yet as I'd only *just* moved them from my work computer the day before.

When he informed me of this, I seriously thought it was just pulling my leg. He wasn't. Usually when you upgrade, the software will ask if you want to delete old files - that didn't happen this time. We think it's probably because he named my new profile the same as my old one so it just wrote right over it. Because of this, I have no more 'before' photos of anything on the farm or in the house. Not a single photo of Sass (who is now living on a different farm)...and every single photo I've taken with my new camera save the few that are still on it are all gone too. It was all I could do not to burst into tears while fixing dinner that night.

Luckily, because of a recent virus problem on my work computer, I have two profiles on it. I'd deleted all the photos out of the current profile because I wanted the space, but I forgot to delete them from the old profile that still exists on my laptop. I went searching and they were still there! I don't have any photos taken between when that virus struck and when I did the transfer (basically anything taken with my new camera), but it's better than being completely without anything since we moved in. Phew!

So, later that same night, as we are about to sit down to eat, my huband notices cop cars in front of our house. Two of them were out there with lights flashing and it looks like they were blocking off our road. OK, we figure there was an accident at the corner (it's happened before). Then we notice lights at the corner and further back on the other cross-street. Odd. We sit down to eat and not moments later the dogs start going crazy and we notice a cop in our backyard. My H puts on his jacket to go outside and see what is up and when the cop sees him, yells for him to take the dogs inside and stay there. Lovely.

I go to look out the guestroom window and there are now no less than a dozen town, county and state cop cars blocking our road! Flashing lights everywhere!

When I look to my right, I can see one cop standing half-hidden by one of our apple trees with a rifle in his hand. From a different window, I can see another cop squatting down, also with a rifle, using our greenhouse as cover. Holy crap.

Then we notice about 6 more cops with a HUGE black german shephard heading towards our back yard. They are combing the whole space - terrifying the goats. Luckily, by this time, the chickens were already in their coop or they'd be making a hell of a racket. We had to lock our dogs in the bathroom where they had no windows because they were also going ballistic at this point. A different cop finally had the courtesy to ring our bell and let us in on the story. Turns out, some lady reported that her car was shot at from the abandoned school building next door and when the cops went to investigate, someone was there and he ran from them. They were hunting this person down. I heard LOUD shots as I was cooking that evening - we hear them all the time - but I remembered these as odd because they were so loud that I heard them over the TV in the other room. Country living at it's best, right? To this day, we don't really know what ended up happening. By about 9:30 pm, they were all gone and we haven't heard any updates since then. Strange!

So lastly, about the biking. Last weekend we didn't make much farm progress because we spent a lot of time biking. On Saturday we met up with some friends and biked the route that my first triathlon will take in a few weeks. After the ride, those of us doing the tri also ran the race route for the run portion as well. It was my first brick and other than one fleeting desire to just sit down as I started the run, it went well. My plan is to do another one this weekend and then one more next weekend. On Sunday, we did a ride that we enjoy just north of us. We ended up doing just over 33 miles and it was a really great time. The weather was spectacular and we really enjoyed it. My sit bones were screaming at me (they aren't used to this much riding yet!), but it was worth the pain.

The hope is that this weekend we can manage at least some riding AND some farm progress. We've got some transplanting to do and the chicken coop needs to be cleaned. Fun! ;-) We are also working on relocating our compost bins so that we can build a new garden shed on the current bin location. I took some 'before' photos of the move - but they were among the missing so I'll just have to be content with posting 'during' and then 'afters' once we have them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The New Chicken Run & Coop

One of the new chicks peeking out the front door of their new home.

So we hatched new baby chicks in February and while we enjoyed watching them grow up, they were getting entirely too big to be in the brooder in the garage. Additionally, they were getting too much dust on our bikes! ;-)

My husband spent a couple of weekends in a row (I only marginally helped) building a new run for them. We purchased the little coop for them off a guy on craigslist who builds them and painted it ourselves. Then, once the run was completed, we butted the new coop up to it, arranged the chicken wire, and let them explore. The base of the run is lined with cedar shavings for now, but we'll probably keep it full of straw or spent hay from the goat shed as time goes on. We figured that cedar shavings were a good bet since that's what the chicks had in the brooder and we wanted it to be somewhat familiar to them.

Here you can see the whole run and the coop.

It's located in the corner of the goat area, so to free range the birds, we can just open the door and not have to worry about the neighbors dogs chasing down our birds.

The coop opens from the side for cleaning and fetching eggs. The nexting boxes slide out (they are in the garage for now since it'll be awhile before these birds are laying).

This was when the new chickies first started to investigate! I think here they are saying to each other "you want me to step over this gaping hole right here? Really? I don't think I want to go outside that bad...".

So far, this arrangement appears to be working out just fine. The chickies have learned that their new coop is 'safe' and they go there when scared. They also put themselves to bed when it gets dark, so all we have to do is close up the coop (lifting that ramp and latching it to the side of the coop).

Now to just wait for the eggs to start....

Monday, April 12, 2010


Granola ingredients stored in Ball jars on the shelf of my new kitchen island.

A few months ago, I decided to try a recipe from Tosca Reno's Clean Eating Cookbook for granola. I'd never made my own granola before, but it seemed simple enough. That first batch was made with our own honey, dried pears from our own trees and mixed rolled grains from Bob's Red Mill Store on the other side of Portland. It was so delicious and so cheap that we decided that we were never buying store bought cereal again! Since then, I've played around with the ingredients using different sweeteners, different dried fruits, different nuts and even an experiment adding orange zest and maple syrup. So far, I've only had one failed batch for over-cooking the syrup. Out of the 10-12 batches I've made, I figure that's pretty good!

The basic recipe calls for 1 cup each of 4 different rolled (flaked) grains. I typically use a combination of oats, wheat, rye and either triticale or barely. For seeds, it uses sunflower and sesame. For nuts, it calls for almonds (I've used both sliced and slivered) and I often add or substitute pecans. The syrup that you toss the ingredients with is a combination of oil (canola or olive), sucanant (I've used date sugar or brown sugar as well), honey (or maple syrup), vanilla extract and a dash of salt. This part gets heated gently and then everything gets stirred in a big bowl and then spread out on a baking sheet with a good lip.

You bake it for 40 minutes at 300F. And you MUST stir the mixture every 10 minutes. The recipe then calls for the addition of the dried fruit at the end just prior to cooling. I added it at the beginning the first time I made it because I didn't read the instructions carefully and I actually liked it better that way. I think the flavors blend better and the fruit is a tad chewier in texture which I enjoy. Now I usually mix it in with 10-20 minutes left to bake as a compromise.

Granola baking in the oven.

Dried cranberries and date nuggets awaiting addition. I use unsweetened cranberries for more zing.

Finished granola! I like to add the dried fruit with 10 or so minutes left to bake as I feel like it better incorporates the fruit.

This stores beautifully for a week or two in an air-tight container. It's SOOO much more delicious than sore bought cereals - and much healthier, too.

The two best batches we've made were the first one and the one pictured here. Both were made with local, raw honey. The first one was our own honey, the one pictured here using honey from a friend. Wow, what a difference GOOD honey makes!

Friday, April 9, 2010

I don't want to break my promise.

I said that I'd have photos to share...and I do. I just can't get to them at the moment. I moved all my photos to my new netbook. I'm at work and I cannot put the netbook on our wireless network so I thought I'd copy a few photos off the netbook, onto a memory stick, and then use my work computer to post them.

The memory stick is only 128M and my photos are too big. That's what I get for not adjusting the settings in my fancy new camera. Super-duper resolution means photos won't fit on old memory sticks.

Ok, no problem. I'll just edit them and shrink them on the netbook first. Ah, no go. Windows 7 Starter does not support Microsoft photo editor and there is no other photo editing software on the netbook. Fine. I search for a simple but free software - download it off my work computer onto said memory stick and then try to run it on the netbook. Software is compatible with Windows 7 Starter, but Google tool bar which is apparently a key component is not. Lovely.

Now I have my computer genius husband researching the possiblity of putting XP on my netbook. It can't run the full version of Windows 7, so that's out. What a pain!

Of course, now that I've typed all this, I just occurred to me that I can take a few photos at time and at least have a few things to share...

So that's what I did:

The entrance to the chicken coop from the new run with a few of the new birds peeping out.

Charlie running! It's not the clearest photo ever, but looking at it just makes me smile - he is so happy!

Springtime sunset on the farm.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another gap in updates

And I have no excuses.

So, let's see...what has happened? I'm going to start by apologizing for not having any photos to accompany this post. I received a new netbook for an anniversary gift from my wonderful husband, and all my photos have been transferred to it. Unfortunately, this update is coming via my work laptop - and there are no more photos in my photo folder!

So yes, we had our 7th anniversary since I last posted. I can't believe it's been 7 years - it seems like only yesterday that we were putting the wedding together. It's been a wonderful 7 years full of adventure and love.

Speaking of love - Skylark is still off getting hers. We took her to the farm where we bought her to be bred. As of last weekend, she still had not gotten any. She actually wasn't showing signs of estrus, so the herder was going to put a marking harness on her and put her in with the bucks. A marking harness is a contraption used for goats and sheep (and perhaps other animals?) where it leaves a colored mark on the female once she's been bred. This color will correspond to the buck with whom she copulated (at least, that's how I've read it works - we've never used one). So, we are hopeful that we'll get her back to our farm soon. In the meantime, Buddy and Pepper seem to be bonding well enough. Funny thing is, Pepper has gone into estrus twice since we got her, so it's odd that Skylark has not. We are tracking Pepper's cycle on a calendar so when we find another buck, we'll know when to set up her date.

My H finished the new chicken run and we set the coop up outside last weekend. I did take photos - so I'll do a photo 'show and tell' post later. It's a cute little coop for the 5 new birds and the run is in the corner of the goat area. Once they are a little bigger (and once the weather clears), they'll get to free range with the other chickens, safe from the neighbor's dogs.

And the neighbors dogs... they have three. Two pure bred jack russells and a very old lab mix. The lab is like 15 years old now? He's pretty deaf, but he gets around well and seems happy. The two jack russels are a terror. One of them is obsessed with our chickens. She got ahold of one once and did some damage to it (it survived), but since then, she's crazy about them. She's also pregnant. The neighbors didn't get her (or her half brother) fixed soon enough, so there is a litter of jack russels on the way. At least they are purebred - hopeful they'll be able to find homes for them. She offered us one, but with chickens, it would be a disaster. I am looking forward to puppy breath though!

We have been steadily planting, transplanting, pruning and cleaning in prep for the growing season. Our greenhouse is full of tomato and pepper plants, our boxes have lots of spinach, lettuce, peas and onions planted and sprouting. We also put out the brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts & kale) already. And we had one brussels sprouts plant left from last year that is about to flower. I'm thinking that I'll save the seeds since it's the only brassica we have that's flowering - it think that will work. Normally, brassicas all cross-pollinate and need like a mile of separation - but since this lone plant is all that we currently have at that stage, it might work. We'll see. The garlic is doing well and the few onions from last year are now blooming. I'm not sure what to do with them except pull them up. I think a little research is in order.

ALL of our fruit trees are budding like mad! We should have a bumper crop of pears, plums and apples this year. Look for a post about me losing my mind come next fall! ;-) We have added a number of trees to our orchard this year. In fact, I think we are now officially out of room! We have planted a nectarine, a peach, two honey crisp apples, a red d'anjou pear and two new sweet cherry varieties (I forget the specifics) trees. We also have a fig tree and a green/black tea bush to arrive next month to be planted. Lastly, we have purchased some asparagus root stock and will be putting in our first bed very shortly.

In the meantime, between all the planting, building and tending to animals...we are getting in shape. My husband is working on weight lifting and cycling in an effort to drop a few pounds to ride the Crater Lake Century in August, and I'm kind of putzing along on my triathlon training. I'm eating as he is, also hoping to lose weight, but my training is centered on swimming, running, biking and full body/core weight training videos. My first tri is May 8th and I hope to do two others this summer (reserving the right to back out if I end up hating this one!) and the Crater Lake Century as well. Wow, that sounds exhausting, doesn't it? Good thing its FUN! I can't believe I'm about to make this public - but it turns out, I REALLY like swimming. Who knew? Certainly not my swim coach back in 8th grade! :-b

I've got all kinds of photos to post (taken with my new birthday camera!), so I'll come back and do that as soon as I get a chance. Look for photos of the new coop/run (and the new birds!), of garden progress and of things blooming all over the place...