Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Sad Dreams

I'm at Papa's Ice Cream & Deli, having a yummy sandwich with my DH and the girl, who just passed her final exam at driving school.  Soon now, she'll have enough practice to try for her driver's license.  I'll warn y'all if she gets it.

Still no sign of Carey.  I sometimes (often, actually) dream about our animals after they've gone missing or died.  In the dream she came home in through the dog yard.  For a few minutes I was completely, ecstatically happy.  I wanted to run and tell the girl, but first I had to pet her and pick her up and tell her what a good kitty she was.  Then, of course, I woke up.  The dogs were barking, so I went out in a robe and slippers and looked around just in case.  No cats, no coyotes, no raccoons, no deer.  The dogs calmed down after I went out.  I think the fog, which was pretty thick and smelled like dry dust, kind of freaked them out and my going out and looking around reassured them.  Or maybe they thought they were all in trouble.  Maybe both.

I spent a few hours typing on a book and then went back to bed.  Today is going to be a loooong day, with maybe five non-consecutive hours of sleep.  I feel okay now.  I'm dreading the carb crash later ....

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: The FURminator: My Hero

Not that long ago I had lunch with a writer friend of mine, and we got to talking about my ten thousand animals.  She suggested that I use a furminator on our dogs to help strip out their winter coats and help prevent mats that might form too close to the skin and eventually cause serious sores.  She used a big one on her horses, and extolled the virtues of the might furminator to me while we had salad.  I was intrigued, but her description of the price tag made me flinch and file it under the category of pipe dream/luxury item.  I was under the impression it was an electric thingy, too, for whatever reason, and decided that I'd just shave the dogs if needed.

Then yesterday I ran into a friend of mine at Petco and she recommended it too (she uses a small one on her cats) so I caved and looked at them.  They're
not electric.  I got a medium one for long-haired dogs for my dogs.  I'm glad I didn't get the large one partly because of the extra money, and partly because although it might have been worth it on the big sections, the larger comb would have made it harder to work on their legs and stuff.  And I was happy that it wasn't as expensive as the one my friend used on her horses.  Size makes the difference, it turns out.

Finn had way more undercoat than I realized he had.  Working with the regular undercoat puller I use, I would have cleaned up his hindquarters in a few minutes and considered my work done.  But running the furminator over his supposedly-clean back was enlightening.  Yikes.   I pulled almost as much undercoat off of him as I did Brian, Brian the Fluff Generator, Brian the Puffy Source of Endless Hair, Brian the ... you get the idea.  

For full-time (or in our case, mostly full-time) outdoor animals, pulling out the undercoat isn't just a matter of neatness or appearance.  Those old undercoats hold a lot of dirt, and way too much insulation value for our increasingly warm temperatures.  I'm really glad I helped Finn rid himself of it before August. Heck, if I hadn't pulled it, it might have hung around until his winter coat came in and shoved it off within reach of our normal brushes, and by then the dogs would have been dangerously filthy, even with baths.  It's just too hard to wash that stuff out, even using the awesome rubber brush to help work the suds in down toward the skin.  

Brian had some mats in his fur that I buzzed off so that I could save him some tugging prior to using the tool.  He hates having his mats pulled.  (So far I haven't let them go so long that they end up matted close to the skin but they are clingy ...)  It turns out that I shouldn't have buzzed them after all.  The furminator pulled out the remaining smaller mats very easily and Brian never gave me the 'owie mommy' look he does so often when I'm using a standard undercoat puller.  I ended up not shaving much around his seat and pulled the mats with just the furminator with no trouble at all.  It's kewl, though.  His tail looks a little funny right now, but he'll be fully feathered in no time.

Getting that undercoat out turned out to be especially gratifying in Brian's case.  Both dogs had dirty undercoats, but Brian's hair is a different consistency than Finn's more labrador retriever-like fur.  The dirty undercoat pulled free of his guard hairs and an almost pristine white summer undercoat.  It was almost as good as giving him a bath.  Combing with a nice bath, he'll be in excellent shape to endure the heat we'll most likely experience in August.  These dogs do really well in very cold temperatures, but tend to suffer in anything over 75 degrees F.  The last two years I've taken Brian to get shaved, and this year I planned to shave him myself (after buying a spacer--the one I like to use on him broke) but now I wonder if it might not be unnecessary.  I think just keeping him groomed, and taking him to the river on 90+ degree days, will be sufficient.

The girl sat down and (very gently) furminated Wizard, our big, fat, very happy and formerly feral tiger tabby shorthair cat.  He loved it.  As an experiment I ran a nice cat brush over him.  We didn't get much.  We ran the furminator over it and pulled lots of undercoat and dander along with it.  They have small ones for cats, but I think that we'll use the one for our dogs on the cats as needed, being careful not to push because the teeth on the one we have are sized for long-haired dogs.

Furminators are expensive, but I think they're worth it.  Now that I have one, I don't see any reason to visit a groomer, which will pay back the worth of the comb by next summer, and that's for an ultra-minimalist grooming schedule (once a year.)  

One minor note about the instructions.  They suggest bathing your animal first and letting it fully dry before using the comb.  In our case, I think it makes more sense to use the comb as a kind of dry bath.  And then, when we get around to a big, wet, soapy bath, we won't have to try to clean old, wooly undercoat hair that shouldn't be there in the first place.  And that undercoat really hinders getting the soap down to the skin and makes rinsing that soap out much more difficult.  

Half of Brian's pile.  The rest is outside.  Bear in mind we brushed him last week to get the worst of it off.

Also, because they're pricy, I suggest that folks living within a budget to shop around and maybe investigate getting a used one if possible.  If you do get a used one, be sure to clean it thoroughly and disinfect it in case the animal it was used on had a transmittable disease.  I don't usually recommend a particular vendor, but in this case, Amazon has one of the best prices for new ones available.

I'm happy with the tool.  The dogs enjoyed the attention, and are tons cleaner, lighter, and cooler.  Wins all around.

Update:  Carey is still not home.  We made some calls and put up ads on Craigslist.  We also left some fliers around town.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.  Thanks for your well-wishes.

Friday, July 20, 2012


The beloved Fluff, Carey, is missing.  We're looking but we don't have as much hope as I'd like to have.  Between the weasel and the huge number of coyotes (more than I've ever heard since we've moved here) ... yeah.  She's not on the side of the road.  We called our local veterinarians to see if anyone brought in an injured cat matching her description.  Today we'll go to the shelters with 8 1/2x11 pictures of her.  I miss her very, very much.  While eating fried chicken, her favorite, I wanted nothing more than to see her waiting patiently by my feet, expecting her share.  The other cats don't mooch for food, so it felt like I was eating dinner alone.  I had a terrible, empty feeling that my daughter (Carey is her cat) felt the same emptiness, though we sat in the same room together.

The other kitties are being forced to stay indoors much more.  They were out for only a few short hours yesterday.  The whining and wheedling first thing in the morning was amazing to behold.  They expect to be let out before we do anything else--before going to the bathroom, breakfast, coffee--preferably before we're awake enough to do anything except stumble to the sliding door and open it.  They'll get used to it, eventually, I think.

The other thing I miss is seeing Carey on the driveway, watching Chase race the cars driving by.  If it was a coyote, that's probably where he grabbed her.  She never goes out of sight of the house except to go next door to our down-the-hill neighbors, where I suspect she has a kitty friend.  Our neighbor takes in strays too.  He was the first one we talked to when she went missing, to see if she might not be there.

Living in a rural area is wonderful, except ...

Of course, in town, there's the traffic issue, and stray dogs, and raccoons, and people using rat poison ...

The world isn't a safe place.  I won't lock up all our animals 24/7 to keep them safer.  Might as well keep our chickens in tiny cages and the goats locked up under artificial lights, etc.  If I could go back and do things over, I wonder if it might not have been better to keep Carey an indoor cat.  She's a long-haired kitty and they do better indoors full time anyway.  But she loved to sit on the driveway, and sleep on the deck, and walk out to the barn and to the veggie garden while we did our chores.  I wonder why she's the one that's missing, when the other kitties go so much farther afield and don't spend as much time close to us when we're out.  Just one of those things, I guess.

Veronica, aka the Poop, sleeps where Carey used to sleep inside the house.  She's been crying by the sliding door most of the night the past few nights.  It's hard to say if she wants us to help her look for Carey, or just wants out.

There's a chance, of course, but hope is fading fast.

Carey with her best friend, Veronica

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Tardis Room and DiPrima Dolci

Ate at a couple of spiffy places recently:  The Fish and Chip Shop on N. Killingsworth in Portland, Oregon, known as the Tardis Room, and an italian deli just down the road.  Awesome for lunch, a pleasant walk, and dessert.  Parking is on the street and limited near the Fish and Chips, so be forewarned if you want to meet with a group.  The decor in the Tardis Room was lots of fun, and I loved the fresh, hot fish and chips there.  Bear in mind that the chips (fries) and the batter on the fish has next to no salt--you're expected to be a grownup and salt your own.  I also used lots of vinegar on mine, and the lemons that came with the fish were nice and fresh.  I had the cod, and it was very, very good, fresh fish.

At DiPrima Dolci we sat out on a back patio in the sunshine amid a very nice, romantic garden all overgrown and bountiful.  I bet it looks even better later in the year.  If you love gardening and would like to combine it with fresh cannoli and not-too-sweet but rich and tasty cheesecake, this is the place for you.  I'd also like to thank them profusely for having high quality tea and not pouring boiling hot water over it so that it ended up overcooked.  It was perfect--rare in this day of Stash or Taos tea with hot water meant for espresso searing it so that it tastes muddy and sour.  I recommend going on a day when it would be nice to sit outside, and prepare to relax completely.

Oh, and I have to say that I appreciated the portions at both places.  At DiPrima Dolci I ordered a small cannoli and RL ordered the marbled cheesecake.  I didn't feel guilty snarfing as much as I did--the whole cannoli and half (or more) of the cheesecake.  Much as I adore Rose's giant cake slices, I always mean to take half of them home and end up eating them all in one sitting, which does nothing good for my manly waistline.  At the Tardis Room, the two pieces of cod and the sides were plenty for a heavy lunch, at least for me.  There's a large (probably three pieces) available for folks with bigger appetites than I want to have.  Yes, I would have gladly eaten a third piece of fish, but I'm glad I didn't.

If you're local, plan to check it out and worried about the neighborhood, don't be.  It might be a different story on a hot night, but everyone seemed friendly and nice, and there weren't any people trying to intimidate or conduct questionable business there on a Sunday afternoon.  It's not the prettiest place I've been in Portland, to be sure, but I loved the houses and gardens, and it looks like the locals are dedicated to keeping their area safe, beautiful, and welcoming to visitors.

I hope to visit both places again soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cuteness, with teeth

I was on my way home the other day when something darted across the road.  It was so thin, with a sharp face and long, trailing tail held out in line with its narrow body, that dart described its movements almost perfectly.  Legs scuttled rapidly under its body, making it travel with nary a bump or a squiggle, until it vanished on the far south edge of our property.  It was the color of a squirrel, but definitely not a squirrel.  I asked the girl to grab our copy of North American Wildlife and told her to turn the page to weasels.

Yep.  Sure enough.  I'm pretty sure it's the long-tailed weasel, but it could have been an ermine, too.  Just barely over a foot long including the tail, maybe six ounces of animal tops, they regularly kill rabbits.  Our cats are all over 6 pounds and they very, very rarely take on rabbits.  When they do, it's usually a juvenile.

Weasels, of course, are famous for wiping out whole coops of chickens.  So our days of forgetting to close in the chickens (forgetting=looking outside at the beautiful evening and thinking meh, they'll be fine) are over.  We have just the two, and I treasure my faithful biddies.

I knew this day was coming.  We have to fill in the floor of the coop with cement.  Dang it!  I guess we'll just have to do it in our copious spare time.

On the plus side, the weasel was adorable.  Seriously.  I can see why some people in medieval times kept ermines and such (very occasionally) as pets.  Ferrets are cute too.  Will I have one as a pet, ever?  No thanks.  But I'll play with the ones my friends keep any time.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Weeds, Tea and Soup

The garden is growing really, really well.  Too well, in some cases.  Can you have too much bok choi? Apparently so.  Sadly, the goats don't like it, which I find weird, but useful in that the deer haven't bothered it at all.  I guess I have to eat faster.  Something to think about--bok choi, when cooked, forms a nice, not-too-thick gel.  It might be a good ingredient for soups.  If an experiment comes out all right along those lines, I'll post about it.

Anyway, I noticed something that produced a duh moment for me.

I have areas in my garden where not just the plants, but the weeds are positively huge.  It made me realize that the places that have small weeds are under-fertilized.  Sooo ... when I put the beds to sleep (heh) in the fall, when I put down my homemade fertilizer and cover things over, I can put extra in the places where the weeds are really pitiful, and less where they're gargantuan.

Not that I'll have weeds, of course.  Everything will be perfectly manicured and weeded by then.

But if I did have weeds, I could totally use them as a gauge for how much fertilizer to put down.  Aaaand, the beauty part, if I overdo it in the fall, its not going to burn my veggies because I won't have any in the ground at the time.  It'll have time to mellow for many months before I plant again.  Remember, though, if you add amendments in the fall, if they're super water soluble, they'll just wash away into the soil too deep for the plants to reach them in spring, so either protect against rain or just wait until after your seedlings sprout in the spring.  Don't fertilize when you plant seeds.  It messes them up when they germinate.  If you must, scratch the fertilizer in at least six inches, preferably farther, away from your seed line.

Speaking of fertilizer, I have a scary bucket of chicken poo waiting by.  I haven't decided what to do with it.  It's super hot, and only partially composted.  I'm tempted to spread it between the smallest of my zucchini plants and maybe make tea with some of it to water with around the fruit trees.  Chicken poo is awesome fertilizer, but you have to be careful.  It burns, baby, burns!  There's really no way to measure how hot it is, so I'll have to guess.  In cases like that, it's good to remember that you can always add, but you can't take away the damage from too much once it's done.  It's not like too much salt in your soup, where you can stick in a couple of celery stalks or add potatoes to fix it.

Soup again.  I must be craving it.  I think I'll make soup for dinner tonight.

Watch out for the weather.  Stay hydrated in hot spots, and look out for lightning.  We had an incredible lightning storm just east of us.  It sounded like fireworks show off in the distance, and for a while I thought that's exactly what it was, a post-4rth show, until I looked out the window.  Often there were multiple flashes at once.  We don't usually get that kind of weather around here.  I was very, very glad I could appreciate it at a distance instead of being directly under it.  It must have been terrifying.  Here's the weather report for it.  Photos here.  BTW, it takes three to four hours for me to drive from my home to the worst-hit areas of the storm, but I saw the closest edge of it quite well from our deck.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


I've been having trouble signing in through our family-shared computer at home.  Sorry about the long silences.

I decided to start walking every day, preferably twice a day.  Re-decided would be a more accurate statement.  I decide these sorts of things and then, to no one's surprise, they don't happen.  For some bizarre, reason, though, I re-decided, put on my walking shoes, asked if anyone wanted to come along, and then I went out.

I had one taker.  The sun hadn't quite set, but it was heading toward the horizon fast.  Fireworks had already started to boom and pop in the distance, but around us the people who were home waited for dark.  The boy and I went up the road a short distance and then turned on one of those rural roads where you never know what you're going to see around the next bend or over the steep hill that would make a great sledding slope if it wasn't so darned dangerous.

We talked, and I huffed and puffed and did a bit of rue-ing but mostly I loved listening about the boy's friends and school and life.  We startled a deer, and then snuck up on it.  It's not a real sneaking up, but if you startle a deer, generally they don't go very far.  They'll find someplace where they have enough room to run and see and set themselves at a 90 degree angle to you and listen.  And wait.  The boy saw her first, and moved me so I could see her through the narrow opening in the brush where she stood, both of her huge ears open to us, her large, dark eyes focused toward us but perfectly capable of seeing almost 360 degrees around her.

We also tried to spot birds.  I wanted to get another look at an indigo bunting.  I could hear them everywhere, but despite being brilliant blue, they're tough to see.

The experience inspired me to get out early and walk again this morning.  Scared the same bunny twice--he came out to eat miner's lettuce on the edge of the road.  When I get home, I'll have dinner, put my feet up, and then before I sink too far down into cushiony, weary bliss, I intend to go out and walk again.  And again tomorrow.  Always again, because I love it.  I'd forgotten that.