The best birthday ever!

I am writing this post on what is quite possibly the best gift my loving husband and daughter have ever given me. In order to understand my glee, you will likely need a little history as it relates to the gifting habits of our family. Steve invariably asks for some technology gadget, despite the fact that he is only marginally technologically capable. Usually I get him what he wants, and spend a couple of days after Christmas setting it up for him and teaching him the basics. He learns enough to make the whatever work, and then asks me for help every time he gets stuck for the next year or so. And all the while, I am secretly wishing the nifty gadget belonged to me. This year, though, he s
Really really surprised me. For my birthday, he got me a very nice piece of technology that I have been covetting almost from the moment I saw it. I just could not justify the purchase. But, Steve and Sarah got me one for my birthday!

Yes, my friends, I have joined the masses of iPad users. I have only had it in my hands for about 6 hours, and I am sure I have only barely scratched the surface of what this little thing can do, but already I am infatuated. I am going to have to put it down to knit, because all but five of my booties have sold, so I need to replenish my stock. But for the short term, this toy is one of the best distractions I could have hoped for. I have a wonderfully thoughtful family. Now, I am going to go watch a movie with my family. I hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed holiday.

How do toilets flush?

How do toilets flush?  Any guy will tell you that flushing is optional that is what the great outdoors is for.  Now any woman will tell you that going outside to pee in the middle of Winter is not a pleasant experience, especially without an outhouse.  So early this morning as I was outside with the dogs “watering the lawn” I was then instructed to fetch the holy water to flush the toilet.  I went out to the shed and gathered up two five gallon buckets and went to the back creek and filled one full and the other half full.  Lugged them inside the house and placed them inside the tub.  Now we have four toilet flushes ready to go.  They (the women) have already used two flushes.  Hopefully, (the plan is to) have the water line redug and all new line placed in the orchard today.  So when I show up from work tomorrow the water will have magically returned.  Absolutely amazing!!!

Water, you either love it or need it.

I woke up this morning at 0445 to our chocolate lab ringing the bell to go outside and go potty.  I had not kenneled her when I went to bed because she looked so comfortable on her dog bed (I had forgotten about having to get up and let her out so early).  So naturally, since I was awake I used the bathroom, flushed the toilet and being thirsty went to get a drink of water from the sink.  Just a tiny trickle of water came out of the sink.  I knew this was bad, but come on, it isn’t even five in the morning and it is still dark outside.  I went back to bed and did not tell Annmarie about it until she woke up at 0530.  We waited for Donna, mother-in-law, to call saying there was a problem.  She called before Annmarie was ready to call there.  When the pump guys came out to the houses we walked all over the orchard looking for water to surface.  We couldn’t find anything.  Now it was kind of difficult in the middle of the orchard due to the fact that the front creek was still diverted out of the ditch.  We didn’t get the ditch dug out or the culvert bank repaired this year.  Will need to make it a priority next year along with the rest of the fencing, the barn and some more fencing.
So Annmarie and I pulled out the tarp diverting water and filled in the two small channels diverting water into the orchard.  Then we dug out about 20 feet of the ditch next to the channels to make the water flow faster.  Nothing like a ton of water vegetation and some decomposed cow crap.  Smelled wonderful!  We were hoping the water would dry up and we could spot the leak in the orchard.  No go.
Since we couldn’t find the leak they went off to get a small backhoe to start digging holes in the orchard.  Annmarie’s brother came out to tell the guys were to dig.  They went across the orchard in an attempt to catch the pipe faster.  They ended up digging four trenches and about 60% of the width of the orchard before finding the pipe.  Matt, kept telling them to dig over near the ditch.  It turns out that it is actually in the back half of the orchard and is not in a straight line between the houses.  (In Matt’s defense he was 10 years old when he saw the line go in.)  Now the fact that Matt had water witched three different water spots prior to them digging and one of them was the actual water line, but Matt repeatedly told the repair guys it “could not be that spot, dig closer to the ditch”.
They capped the line to see if the leak was on our side.  It was.  So they came up to the house and dug right outside our fence.  I knew were the pipe was (so I thought).  They found it (it was only three feet to the left of where I said it would be).  There were lots of roots so it was hard to tell when they hit the pipe, it ripped out an eight foot chunk of pipe from under the fence into our yard.  They capped the line again and pressurized it. The leak is in the orchard.  So I had to move a couple hundred bricks I had stacked next to the fence to make room to repair the line in our yard.
I also went out and worked on the chicken coop during this fiasco.  They didn’t have any food, so I fed them, cleaned up the coop, raked the deep litter and added another 80# of wood pellets, raked up the feathers and generally straightened things out.  I used almost 70# of food just to fill my two feeders.  I dumped another 80 pounds in to the food trash can (metal can to keep the mice out of the feed).  I think I am going to start counting the bags as they go into the food trash can and keep it filled.  That way I don’t lose track of how much feed I am using for the chickens.
Since I am on a chicken rant, remember those fancy chickens that were supposed to lay blue eggs?  I had to get straight run (unsexed) chicks because they were just that cool.  Not so much.  The damn things are laying GREEN eggs!!!  I don’t care what they look like, if they lay a green egg then they are an Easter Egger chicken.  So I am going to give up the blue egg dream for a while.  The next breed I get is going to be Brahma.  Oh well… I was really looking forward to those blue eggs…

catching up on the table

When we moved into the house I uncovered an old table out in the old house.  It was buried under trash, tools and junk.  I found what I thought were leafs for the table over in a corner.  I showed it to Annmarie and we decided to refinish it and put it in our dining room.  Well, three years later the table is finally in the house.

  Sarah and I brought it in just before Thanksgiving.  Our holiday company glued one of the feet back together (amazingly I found the broken off piece while cleaning out the junk of the old house and saved it).  So today I started cleaning it up.  (Annmarie didn’t think it needed to stay upside down on the floor for longer than 3 weeks…).  I vacuumed all the cobwebs from the underside, set it upright and installed all the leafs.  It ended up being a pretty big table!  I then took some Murphy’s wood soap and a scrub pad and went to town on the top of the table for a couple of hours.  I will let it dry now and then go to steel wool so I can get everywhere.

  I figure to work on it about 30 minutes a night.   Once I get it all cleaned and smoothed out then we can decide on a color and finish.  I really like the Formsby brand but it is not as readily available as it used to be.  They sell a prepackaged kit now, but I liked buying the individual products better.  They had the best wood furniture cleaner for getting out 100 years of grime.  It was great stuff, green colored product.  The table is still wet in this picture.  It will look more like this when it is finished.  If I took the picture of it dry it would be far more washed out.

I didn’t work on the legs very hard.  They need to be sanded some to smooth out the cracks and dings.  My rag kept catching the whole time I was trying to clean them.  I was peeking out the side window looking for the heating repair guy (yes our central heat is not working.  The fan is not running.  Good thing it is 45 degrees F outside right now.) and spotted a group of pheasants next to the house.  I tried to take an action shot of them flying once the dog realized they were there.  All I ended up with was a couple of blurry pictures.  No such luck.  I did get a couple of decent stills of them rooting around in the grass.

They knew they would be safe close to the house.  I am not even sure if the season is over.  I suspect it is.  I went out one time and missed my big chance.

November chicken financials

I made -$3.68 for the month on an average 27 hens laying (all my hens are now in except for the blue layers and they are now five months old, so in one more months they should start laying very blue eggs!!). (for the year my net income is -$9.56/month. (For the year I am-$105.20 total).  I had $49.86 in expenses for feed (250#) this month (all my expenses this month were in food).  For the year, my monthly expenses are $70.02. We collected a total of 389 usable eggs (31 more than last month) averaging 12.5 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 12.1). The chickens ate 0.64#food/egg (for the year are averaging 0.64#/egg) In November it cost $0.13/egg or $1.56/doz for feed (my yearly average is $0.14/egg or $1.68/dozen. This is starting to creep up due to my feed costs increasing).  As an added bonus the two quail have laid 12 eggs this month (2 when we got them).  I am storing and collecting all the quail eggs so I can make pickled quail eggs.  I looked at recipes over the weekend but only had 21 eggs in the fridge and the smallest amount I could make is 2 dozen.  It is kinda complicated, you have to soak the eggs in vinegar after you boil them to soften the shells to make them easy to peel.  Who knew.  Anyway, I should have enough this month to make them on my next weekend off.  They have to sit for at least 2 weeks after you make them.  
I really need to get out to the coop and kill off some roosters.  I need to kill five roosters this month.  That will leave only the Ameracauna roosters.  So I can hopefully get some of those blue eggs hatched and continue to have chickens that lay blue eggs.  We will see.  I just need some blue eggs and a broody chicken.  I am going to take the broody hen and place her in a separate dog kennel in the back with the eggs and her own water and food.  That way she cannot jump ship to another laying box with different eggs.  The only eggs she will be able to sit on will be the ones in the kennel.  
I have not had any more chickens killed.  We lock them up every night.  I haven’t been setting the live trap.  Will have to start that up as the weather gets bad.  
On a side note, Annmarie thinks she heard some wolves howling last week.  One of the gals she works with said she saw one out here also.  So we will keep our ears to the ground and see if we can get some official verification of that and let you all know.  


new sheep

Friday was a whirlwind day for us.  We dropped our child off to help with housework at her Grandmother’s house (she is getting paid ) and drove to Baker City, Oregon to pick up five new barbados cross sheep (hair sheep) from a gal over there who had been using them to train her border collie.  The sheep are supposed to be around 3 months old.  Once we got on top of Cabbage Hill the snow on the road started to appear.  It is no wonder people run off the road.  They act like they are invincible and just speed on by.  We met at a gas station in Baker City (it used to just be called Baker, but they changed the name, go figure).  When the gal showed up she had all five sheep in a calf crate.  I figured the crate would be packed with sheep, nope.  They are tiny sheep!!  Only weigh about 20-25# each.  They also have sore mouth.  The lady was very apologetic and offered to drive them over later once it was healed up.  I had no clue what it was.  Annmarie told me it was a virus and typically goes away.  The lady had treated it with iodine that morning.  Basically, it is the same virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease was what I got out of it.
So we took the sheep and vowed to put them in a separate area.  She had been keeping them in a pen outside so the sheep were used to no shelter.  It was pouring down snow now of course and the restroom on the highway was closed and I missed the only turnoff to LaGrande.  So Annmarie really had to pee.  At the bottom of Cabbage Hill we stopped at the Arrowhead Truck Stop.  I gassed up while waiting for Annmarie.  As we were pulling out of the gas station heading toward the stop sign we head someone honking.  We looked around but didn’t see anybody so we pulled up to the stop sign.  More honking ensued and I saw a truck pull in behind us.  We got out and some gentleman came out and asked us if those were Barbados sheep?  We went in to our story and plan and he tells us that he raises Barbados Blackbelly sheep and lives in Pendleton.  Not only that he would only charge us $50 for a small ewe and he has a ram occasionally so we can diversify our bloodlines when necessary.  So he gave us a card so we could get out of the way (we were blocking traffic and the cars were starting to line up).
I asked if Annmarie wanted Chinese or Mexican food in Pendleton.  She wanted Chinese.  So as we are entering town she changes her mind and states she wants Mexican.  So we go down to the Mexican restaurant order food and eat.  One of the cooks comes out and asks if we have sheep in the pickup (someone must have told him, there was a new cook who had just arrived and they had been talking in Spanish).  We told him yes, he asked to go look at them and then came in and asked if we would sell any.  We said yes again and gave him our name and number.  We said we would charge $50 for a 20-30# animal. This was the weight range he was looking at.  We also told him we had a bigger weather at the house if he was interested.
He hasn’t called yet, but the new sheep have settled in nicely.  They are pretty skittish around the dogs.  I finally had to yell at Sprout to quit running through them.  He knows better than to chase the sheep, but these are so skittish that if ran in front of them they scatter.  After three times, I had to tell him to knock it off.
So it looks like we can get a few more ewes this next year locally.  Will be nice to not have to drive a long ways away.  It was kind of funny the way things kept falling in place for the day.  Sometimes it just works.

Outside catching up

Annmarie had a whole list of things for me to do today.  All of them outside in the freezing cold.  Her number one concern was the back fence.  The back creek had started to dam up against my fence.   This is not good and could lead to the water tearing down my entire fence.  So I needed to get out there and dig out the tumbleweeds and leaves and raise the panels above the water level.  I had every intention of just going outside and doing that this morning, but I got distracted.
I found someone on Craigslist selling hair sheep over the weekend.  Annmarie called them and arranged for us to purchase and transport them home this up coming Saturday.  We got a good deal $60/each.  They are still teenagers.  I believe they are only 3 months old.  At 6 months old they go into estrus.  Now the problem with this is we still do not have  trailer.  Plus, the racks on our pickup were pretty bad, so I have been slowly taking them apart to use as wire tighteners in the fence I have been building during the Summer.  Luckily for me, I slowed down on the fence building and there was still uprights in the pickup bed to build onto.  So another one of my jobs for today was to build new racks for the sheep, plus the lady selling us the sheep was worried about the cold and weather so it needed a cap to keep the weather out.  Sarah reminded me this morning that we needed another feeder for the sheep and wouldn’t it be nice if the feeder was just under the open window where the baby enclosures were.
So I went into the barn leanto and moved the baby enclosures and drug another feeder from the other end of the barn into the sheep area.  I re stacked the hay to get it away from the open window and filled the feeder from all the loose hay on the ground.  I scavenged the wire doors from the front of the baby enclosures for the back of the pickup.  Next I went to the old granary and dug around inside for some scrap wood.  I ended up cutting a large chunk of conveyor belt (made out of wood, canvas and leather) to use as the walls.  I pulled the pickup into the yard so I would have easy access to power and began my new pickup racks.  I added a four foot deep lid made out of two pieces of OSB with a blue tarp sandwiched between them.

 Who really knows where the conveyor belt came from?  It was probably some old combine but I don’t know for sure.  It was just sitting there not doing anything.  Eventually, I am going to use up all those old things and go wanting.  But at least they will have had a second life.

Now nothing goes this smoothly.  I had to take a break before building the racks to cut down a pine tree (the chain saw was on the old house porch in my way).  So I fired up the chainsaw, it was fairly easy, and it died.  No gas, so I filled the gas and oil and fired it up again.  I went over to the tree, decided my plan of attack (the tree needed to fall into the orchard not our yard or on the house, of course it was leaning toward the back creek) and started cutting.  I would have made more progress with a butter knife.  After five minutes I had to stop and go sharpen the chain saw blade (another 30 minute operation) and then reattempt cutting the tree down.  It took me 3 tries to get the notch right and then when I came in from the backside the tree fell just where I wanted it to go.  I guess all that hard manual labor cutting firewood as a kid paid off.
So after finishing the pickup rack I went out to lock the chickens up and every door was wide open.  So as I am closing the door inside the coop that goes to the supply room (my chicken supplies and food and access to all the nest boxes is in a separate room that the chickens cannot get to.  I hear frantic scrabbling, some of the kittens are inside the coop.  So I had to leave the inside door open so they could get out.  I did lock the chicken yard gate down so the cats will have to spend the night with the chickens.  If they don’t like the chickens then they will be a little more careful tomorrow.