Monday, June 28, 2010

Dakota is on the mend

Dakota made it out of surgery okay, but she's still one sore and woozy lady.  The first 24 hours are the diciest.  The tumor came out okay, but there was a lot of it--our wonderful vet Monica (my go-to lady for our goats and a top quality vet for any animal) did an awesome job and actually cleaned it all out, something we were pretty sure wouldn't happen.  It was unusual.  This, coming from someone who has done a gazillion of these surgeries.  If it was some sort of funky cancer, there's really not much we could do, but it didn't jump up and scream cancer when she looked at it.  Both these factors helped us decide not to send it in for expensive lab tests.

Dakota will have a drainage port in her side for a week.  I took some time to clean her up today, as she was laying in her own drainage, and I had to clean up the upholstery in the car.  There's something very visceral about cleaning up blood.  I'm used to cleaning up my own, and of course after processed meat, but when it's someone else's, even a dog's or a goat's ... yeah.  I kept thinking, out, damned spot ... I had to wash my hands several times afterward to get them even remotely clean.

Anyway, Dakota's doing well.  She's a tough lady, very sweet and calm, which will help her in her recovery.  It was good to see her walking around today.  I know I wouldn't be up and about nearly as soon or as ably as she'd been getting around after a surgery like that! 

Chicken Baths

Here's my first shot at posting a movie. Let me know if it works!
It's hard to tell the Wyandottes apart, but I think that's Mustardseed and Cobweb with Beatrice. Jimmy Buffett is playing in the background. I usually listen to my iPod while I'm working outside.

Sorry it's so blurry (assuming you can see it.) The chicks are inconveniently taking their bath in the shade. I love their little peeps. My peeps peep.

A place of their own

Wind goddess sketched onto the coop's east side, where most of our wind comes from in winter

The chicken coop still isn't completely finished, but they're staying in there from now on. It has the galvanized roof tacked on, and I finished staining the whole darned thing.

I wasn't sure they'd go back in on their own, but they did, instead of scurrying up to the house where there's light like I'd feared.

They're turning out gorgeous--or maybe that's mommy vision at work. You tell me!

Hermia, Beatrice, Cobweb, Mustardseed and Peasblossom

Beatrice and Mustardseed. I can tell the three Silver-laced Wyndottes apart, but it takes me a sec ...

Cleo (short for Cleopatra) and Hero. Yes, we named them after Shakespearean characters.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cooped up ... outside?

As is typical in summer, I got up early and started working outside.  Normally I take a mid-day break, but I really wanted to get the chicken coop done.  I don't know how many lemon-lime seltzer waters I went through.  A lot.  I ran through my 10 hour iPod speaker battery, and kept going.  

At dusk, all I had left to do was hang the big 'man' door (the lilac thing laying on its side in the foreground) and the chicken wire enclosure that will give them room to run outside without being endangered by predators.  They'll have access to the goat pasture during the day, but I want them locked up tight at night.  Just hoping to prevent another massacre by marauding raccoons.

The idea of catching them all and putting them back up in the greenhouse appalled me.  So, as darkness began to encroach on the land, I tacked on a wire screen (the area that appears to be a hole with faint green lines) above the tall threshold, and above the wire I put a spare piece of plywood.

That should keep them snug tonight.

I've heard a couple of clucks here and there, in addition to the peeps.  Aw, they're all growing up and learning to P'kaw!

Tomorrow, I hope to stain the coop, put on the galvanized roof, and maybe hang the door (though that's a pain to do alone--the boy is strictly an indoor kitty while he finishes a course of antibiotics prescribed for some very nasty spider bites, and my DH and the girl will be gone for most of the day tomorrow.)  After that, we just have to finish the mini-chicken run, and we're done!  Weeee!

Not a moment too soon.  Writing just in the evenings isn't very productive, and the house looks terrible.  I also have a ton of weeding to do.  Argh!  

There's never anything to do around here ....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spare a Thought for a Good Dog?

Dakota taking a nap on Christmas Eve 2009 at Grandma's House

Dakota, sadly, is having health issues.

She's always had lipomas (fatty tumors, generally benign,) at least as long as we've had her.  Most of them grow and then get smaller and grow again ... but one on her side has gotten huge.  In fact it's gotten so huge that (very) recently she's developed edema (swelling from fluid build-up) in her leg as pressure on the lymphatic system (vet's best guess) is slowing the normal flow of various fluids through her tissues.  Thankfully she still has blood circulation, and she doesn't appear to be in any pain.  In fact she's been her usual sweet self.

What's worse is that at the same time the edema appeared, her skin started to discolor.  That may be a sign of necrosis somewhere in there--perhaps a cyst, or something worse.

I'm worried, but the docs are optimistic.   She's in great health (other than the lipoma/edema) and quite spry for a geriatric dog.  She's on antibiotics in preparation for her surgery on Monday (in case there is in fact necrosis or something bacterial going on, although so far she has no fever and things look okay-ish.)  The vets are going to do a mass reduction and a little exploration.  To a civilian, it looks like something they could just peel off and toss in the biological waste disposal can, but these things can be quite a bit more involved than that, and fat cells, when disturbed, can swell up and actually worsen the problem they're trying to correct.  So it's unlikely that the whole thing will go--but we'll see.  They'll know more about exactly how much they'll have to do when they open her up.

If you're so inclined, please spare a good thought for the old lady.  This surgery isn't terribly risky on the scale of things, but you know how it goes with such things.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Will Editors Finally Get the Recognition They Deserve?

So tired ....

The chicken coop isn't done yet, but I'm hoping that we'll put the finishing touches on it today.

In writing news, this article about the much-hoped-for (by newbie writers) demise of the traditional publishing has been making the rounds.  I agree with it strongly.  As a writer that also reads, and has read my share of manuscripts by writers just starting out in the craft, I weep at the thought of having little or no gatekeeper available when I visit a bookseller, be it online or in a bookstore.  If nothing else, I'm hoping that bookstores will continue to insist that the books that line their shelves come through the traditional publishing houses.  

Don't get me wrong.  I have a bunch of writer friends who are excellent authors, and I would read their stuff regardless of how it's published.  The key is, I know about them and their writing already.  If I had to wade through some of the dreck that's out there to find them?  Sorry, I have no intention of becoming a slush reader.  

I think that the article did miss one thing, though.  I believe out of this growing mess, there will be small e-publishers that will arise and truly shine.  There are folks out there that were born to be editors, but never went to Brown University and/or didn't want to move to New York to work their way up through the ranks.  As readers discover these small publishers with editorial talent, the readership and publishers will grow together.  

I think one of the really great things that will come out of this is that readers might finally become aware of the wonderful unsung heroes in this biz--the editor.  I wouldn't want that job.  I really wouldn't want that job.  Seriously.  I would burn out on reading incredibly fast, and might never want to read outside my job ever again.  Except maybe I'd read non-fiction if I was a fiction editor, and visa versa.  Anyway, here's a big thank you from a reader to the editors out there.  Thanks for throwing yourself on that grenade so that I can be reasonably assured of a reasonable read when I pick up a book or a magazine that perks my interest.

Now, back to the chicken coop projekt.  Ugh.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not Cold and Wet ... For Now

Where have I been?  Oh, I've been lazing about, eating bon bons, listening to Queen and singing along when they get to all my favorite parts in their songs.  You know.  Stare at the moon all day ...
So not.

Yesterday I drove around for hours getting stuff for the new chicken coop.  The peeps are so big now.  So very big.  They're starting to look less like chicks and more like actual chickens, only miniature.  They still have their little soft peeping voices, though.  I especially love the one (I haven't watched them to figure out which one does this) that sounds like a sparrow, complete with a soft twerrrr that she does when she settles down for a nap.  She has such a lovely, talented voice.  

Anyway, after I got the initial supplies, my DH and I set the first four posts.  We were going to make a light chicken coop that we could move around, but things being what they are, and seeing as we have a ton of 4x4s in the barn (4x4s are not light) we decided to build a heavier, permanent structure using mostly the materials we already have on hand.  We worked until late-ish in the evening, and then I fixed meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn for dinner.

Today will be another all-day work day outside.  We have nice weather so we have to get out there and do stuff while we can.

In other news, sadly, the corn is a wash.  Between cold weather, ceaseless rains, constant slug and worm onslaught, and my inability to go out there daily to help keep pests at bay, nothing survived.  Sadly, half my pumpkins and squashes didn't come up (but at least I do have the other half) and I lost quite a bit of the baby grapes on my gewurtz and canadice grape vines to two recent deer raids.  The veggies that have survived are growing at such a slow pace that it seems like they'll never get any bigger (except for, oddly, the tomatoes which are doing okay, even if the fruit production is going very, very slowly.)  Still, there is some happy news.  Some of the cutting flower beds are sprouting nicely, I have beautiful peppers, basil, catnip and other goodies still in the greenhouse waiting for better weather that still might happen, and even if this summer never really warms up there's always next year.  

Thank goodness that we don't have to survive on what we grow.  I suspect that we would get very thin this year if we didn't have a grocery store to fall back on.  I'm also thankful that if this cool weather continues, I'll have an opportunity for a really spectacular autumn/winter garden, with overwintering carrots, leeks, kohlrabi, and other tasty veggies.

I'll go out and measure the soil temps today.  It may be that I can put out at least some of the peppers now.  That would be nice.  The greenhouse is getting very crowded from tall, lush plants which is aesthetically rewarding, but the plants will never get as big nor produce as much in as they would if they could really spread their roots and streeeetch.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One small step for a man ... one long leap for a chicken

It's been crazy around here.

The chicks are doing really well, but as you can imagine they're a daily (and nightly) handful.   They're too big for the aquarium, but they can't go out in the coop yet.  So they get trucked back and forth between the greenhouse and our bedroom every day.  They also went out for a field trip (literally, ha ha) and had a good time chasing bugs, picking at greens and perching in a small noble fir we have out in the grass in back.

It's been wet, or as the boy and I say, wehehehet.  Poopyheaded wet grass.  Poopyheaded long wet grass that we can't mow because it's poopyheaded wehehehet.  But, it's just as well that it's not mowing weather, because the boy had GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL and he deserves a break from work.

We're really, really proud.

It's supposed to be nicer weather later today, so I'm planning a little bbq.  Sadly, my DH is away, but unsadly, that just means we'll have to have another bbq when he comes back.  Or a broil, if it's rainy again.

It's been quite the week.  I'd like to say I'm looking forward to things going back to normal, but as I haven't seen normal in quite a few years, it'd be wiser to say I'm looking forward to what happens next.  I'm all a-quiver in anticipation, or I would be, if it wasn't so wehehehet.

Congratulations, O-bean.  Soon, all these chicken coop alfalfa bucking goat chasing days will be behind you, and you'll be able to shape your own future.  I can't wait to see what it looks like!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Peeps are getting bigger

The chicks have spent the day in the greenhouse a couple of times now. Like little kids, they get excited about little stuff. A dry leaf. A bug. A drop of water on the wall. And like little kids they try to eat these things to see if they're any good.

So far we haven't had any mishaps, thank goodness. I keep worrying that they'll eat something toxic. Do stink bugs just taste bad or will they make a chick sick? What about millipedes, are they okay? Will they eat a centipede, which is poisonous, or will they spit it out? I check on them often and try not to wring my hands and fuss too much. Chickens have been running around loose doing just fine for a long time. Hopefully mine are ones that haven't had all the common sense bred out of them.

One of the silver laced wyandottes looks like it's developing more of a comb than the others. I'm thinking that's going to be a future rooster. Also, Beatrice, the tall yellow one I was hoping was a Buff Orpington, is developing green legs. That's pretty distinctive of the Ameraucana breed, so I guess that's that. She might still be a good mommy, regardless of her breed. I keep hoping. She has a soft, inquisitive nature.

The wyandottes, on the other hand, are brats. They might even all be roosters, the way they leap up and lash at each other with their legs, and walk on sleeping peeps, and chase each other and everyone else. One out of the three is a little more mild-mannered, but I've seen all three of them get into it. They're better in the greenhouse. There's more room and more stuff to do. But in the aquarium, especially after a good night's rest, they are wild children, even meek little Hero (as in Shakespeare's heroine in Much Ado About Nothing.)

It's all very fun. I even took a movie of them playing around in the greenhouse, so I'll remember what it's like to have baby chickens around. They grow up so fast!

(I'll edit this post later to include pics and possibly a little of the movie.)

Monday, June 07, 2010

Frank Frazetta

I'm one of those people who usually reads about someone famously talented who passed away with a sense of 'that's a shame' or 'what a loss' but who never really could say that the person was a huge influence on my life.

That changed today when I learned that Frank Frazetta passed about a month ago.

The art world has lost a master artist.

Frank Frazetta was a huge influence on my art.

Early on I was impressed by realism (much to my father's dismay.) I tried to make my work look like a photograph. I had some success, and gained a little notoriety in my high school, but except for the satisfaction I got from making something unreal look really really real (like a female body builder who was pale-white on one side and dark-skinned on the other, or the young blue woman with steel gray hair) I felt like something was missing.

I discovered what was missing when I discovered Frank Frazetta's work. Passion. Motion. Fire. Unchained emotion.

He led me away from art-as-photography (I have nothing against it--I'm blown away when I see it and I highly respect people who can work creatively within those styles) and expanded my horizons into the realm of art-as-expression. I stopped feeling closed-in and pressured to work on the details of realism to the exclusion of all else and started feeling alive and creative when I worked. Now I render realistically only when it serves the emotion, rather than losing the emotion as I try to force realism.

For me, realism had become a crutch, a constantly inbreeding goal that served only to reproduce what I could see. I didn't think I could ever render that which I couldn't see. It seemed out of reach, an impossible goal. For me, it would have been, at least by the route I was taking. Frazetta took me by the hand and said stop copying the still life, and the photo, and look inside yourself first. Imagine ... and then paint.

Thank you, Mr. Frazetta, for sharing your gift, for your infamous generosity, and for your artistic vision. You changed my life, and the lives of thousands of other artists around the world without having to say a word.

You showed us better ways to dream.

Rest in Peace.