Friday, December 23, 2022

Cold hands, warm hearts

We are being touched by the winter blast hitting most of the country. Temperatures dropped into the low 20s Wednesday night with a wind-chill of 10°; freezing rain/sleet arrived yesterday afternoon. This morning our world was white with the stuff, slick and treacherous. Rick and Brian had to chain up to get out and about and home today.

I've stayed busy with the extra schlepping required to support the animals and keep the house warm. (It's supposed to warm up and rain tomorrow, so it wasn't worth hauling out the extension cords and tank heaters.) I've been breaking ice for the horses, swapping out frozen buckets and waterers for sheep and hens, thawing the hummingbird feeder, putting out black oil sunflower seeds, and stoking the fire.

Without the bitter wind, the dogs have been able to go to the barn with me today. If I hadn't been so focused on staying upright, I would have tried to get video of them romping around with enthusiasm, slipping and sliding like cartoon characters. I did get some photos of Leo out in the pasture, enjoying an icy stem:

Ever since he and Gracie arrived, I've called Leo "Ice Man" for his color and pale eyes – and in the beginning, his emotional distance. Distant no more, he has a home for the holidays – and the rest of his days; yesterday Rick finally said we can adopt him.

Merry Christmas to all of us, to all of you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

In the nick of time

Yesterday dear, supportive, creative blogpal Debbie gave me a suggestion for Christmas decor. Since I was enjoying my first full day at home with just two dogs and much less chaos, I decided to implement it. The dogs and I went for a walk in the upper pasture, where I cut some small branches from our Douglasfir, tied them together, propped them up in a festive miniature orchard basket on the piano bench, wound on a wee strand of LED lights, and hung a few of the porcelain angels my mom brought me last month. Voilá – Christmas spirit flowed into a hole I hadn't even noticed! On a roll, I placed the gifts others had sent/left with us on the piano bench, lit my red 'knitted' candles on the piano, turned on my glass globe (a Christmas gift from years ago), and finally put the jingle bell collar on Poppy for her Christmas portrait. (I'd like to do the same with Leo, but he's just getting "sit" down; "sit stay" is not on the horizon yet.) Then I made a double batch of white chocolate cranberry cookies and four loaves of my whole wheat flax meal bread with walnuts and cranberries added while watching a Hallmark Christmas movie.

This morning is sunny and bright (a rather nasty-looking front arrives tomorrow), so I'm going to make holiday deliveries to neighbors and friends. I've already met the neighbor on our north at our mutual fence line with a loaf of that bread, and have four-five more deliveries to make, along with a grocery run ahead of the weather and holiday meals. I also need to get in a ride on Stella while I can, so I'd better keep moving!

Fa-la-la-la-la from . . .

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Gone girl; new girls; knits/purls

Gracie in the arms of her adoptive "aunt" (sister of new "mom")

After some final time together with us and Leo this morning, Gracie left for her new home today. The new owner (and her sister) were thrilled, and all the text reports I've gotten so far have been glowing. Leo is doing fine at home with Poppy; the only one struggling is Rick, who is feeling bad that brother and sister had to be parted. He still hasn't stated definitively that we are keeping Leo, but I can tell he's leaning that way. My main objection is the adoption cost; people, it is a LOT. I would rather get this little munchkin, a half-sister of Poppy's, next month when she is old enough:

But for now, at least, this is Poppy's playmate, now wearing a collar we had on hand that fits him instead of the harness:

Our new hens from the neighbors came in two trips. I only intended to get three of their six mixed-breed pullets hatched out this year, but when I happened to net one of their year-and-a-half Easter Egger hens first, I decided to keep her, too. I do love Easter Eggers!
This is Lady E, the Easter Egger

This is Ash, a crossbred pullet

The white splash pullet in front is Puff

The bigger white splash pullet behind is Pearl

Ash and Pearl look to be part Easter Egger; Puff looks quite different even though she has cheek tufts. Supposedly all three were sired by a Crévecoeur rooster; I think Puff takes after him. One of the white girls gave me a blue egg today, so that's fun!

I've managed a little knitting this month, making these mitts and hat with some stashed commercial yarn. They ended up man-sized and I don't know any men who would wear fingerless mitts, so into the gift stash they went.

Caught up for today at least at . . .

Friday, December 16, 2022

It's all in the titles

At least our nandina is festive-looking!

Goodness, it's been a madhouse here! The Frenchie fosters have been time- and labor-intensive, so decorating (or any other prep) for the holidays is a non-starter. Rick and Brian talked once about getting a tree, and I reminded them that unless it's small enough to be up ON something, Leo would be like, "A personal outhouse for me? Wee!!!" So yeah, no Christmas tree, no decorations, no nothing but one small batch of Christmas cookies baked. And it's not just me. Rick usually hangs exterior lights and he hasn't done that, either. Rick's mom is going to be elsewhere for Christmas and my mom isn't flying back to Oregon, so it'll just be the three of us – plus animals. How many animals is still in flux, but more on that later. Anyway, so much for Deck The Halls.

Ewe-nited we stand

Outstanding in his field

Leo meets a sheep for the first time

Poppy shows the Frenchies how it's done
On November 28 I shuffled sheep, putting Spot "out to pasture" and the ewe lambs in with the ewes. The young girls got punched around a bit at first, but they are so much happier than they were in the barn stall, and Spot is handling his bachelor status well. Chores are easier, and far quieter. Amen for Silent Night.

Since then there have been two Christmas parties, one concert (not a seasonal one, but excellent regardless), and one birthday celebration – yep, Unto Us a Boy Is Was Born 21 years ago this month! We had a birthday dinner here with his grandmother for the occasion; he didn't go party (that night 😒) since he had to work the next day. At least he's working....

In the Bleak Midwinter: This month a neighbor friend passed away, leaving a big hole in our rural 'community.' Other neighbors just lost their lease and have 90 days to divest themselves of a couple cows, flocks of sheep and goats, hutches of rabbits, and gads of geese, ducks, chickens, and guineas. (My friend Kate and I did what we could today, each taking four chickens.) And after many months of nurturing my rye sourdough starter, I let it go. No, I didn't store it in the fridge; no, I didn't dehydrate any to start afresh later. See paragraph #1.

But there have been bright spots. I got my first (and only) bloom from the Christmas cactus a friend gave me when she moved, and two of my phalaenopsis orchids have put out flower stalks. There Is A Flower Springing!

Since Christmas Is Going To The Dogs, I'll circle back to them. Poppy has loved having playmates and we've had some good laughs over their antics. I've taken tons of photos in the month(!) the fosters have been here, but in the interest of finishing this, you'll have to take my word for it. This week has brought rapid changes. 1) We found out from the rescue how much the adoption fee for young Frenchies is ($$$), and my friend who wanted Gracie had to back out. We may do the same on Leo; the decision is up to Rick since he'll have to fund it. 2) Someone stepped up to foster-to-adopt Gracie; she leaves on Sunday. 3) Gracie and Leo had their vet exams on Tuesday and were pronounced in good health. 4) Someone would like to adopt Leo if we don't keep him. 5) Gracie's spay is scheduled for the end of January but 6) Leo went back the very next day to be neutered, thanks to a cancellation. So he's on crate rest and Poppy is bored again (Gracie doesn't play much with her); I told Rick that if we don't keep Leo we'll need to look for a second dog/Poppy playmate sooner rather than later. Poppy's breeder has a three-week-old litter on the ground, but I don't think Rick will go for another Decker....

Anyway, Joy To The World, after snow (just a dusting on December 1) and rain, this week has been mostly sunny, cold and dry, a big help when there are 12 paws to clean after every chore time and potty break. Bonus: a pretty sunrise this morning!

I'll post again when I can, and maybe share from the glut of pictures I've taken. If you don't hear from me again for awhile, at least you'll know why!

I'll Be Home For Christmas at . . .

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Full speed ahead to Christmas!

What changes this holiday weekend has wrought! Between Wednesday, when I drove to town for work and errands, and Sabbath, when I next went to town for church, most of the leaves dropped from trees and shrubs and things look very different. The biggest Japanese maple at the front of our house is still showing off, but the one in the island is just about bare.

Now that someone has condensed the Christmas season into something like a week, I no longer think there is time to put up a Christmas tree, much less write a year-end letter and send out Christmas cards. Seriously, when did I find time to do these things in the past? Now it feels like I could take a long winter's nap (oh, what a blissful thought) and miss Christmas altogether! I suppose the current state of affairs might have something to do with the foster Frenchies . . . and my age. I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew with two; sigh. I'm going to talk to Rick about talking to the rescue about moving one to a different foster home. Our contact mentioned doing that early on, saying they might both adjust faster; the wisdom of that is becoming much clearer. And somewhat to my surprise, my choice between the two would now be Leo, as he is more likely to play with Poppy – and Gracie is proving very difficult to house train in the current chaos.
Leo and Poppy playing tug

"I wish they would play more."
I do have some Christmas shopping done for essential personnel, but since that is a year-round activity for me, I didn't need to squeeze it into this abbreviated season. And today I finished a quick knit for one of the Christmas party gift exchanges that's coming up, a pair of fingerless mitts out of handspun yarn. They knit up so quickly, in fact, that I grabbed some commercial yarn in my stash to knit up a second pair for the other Christmas party gift exchange on the calendar. Of course, this means my spindles are idle; I'm, as ever, hopelessly monocraftual.

One item on the calendar is already behind us; in fact, it happened before Thanksgiving. The Elsinore Theatre in Salem featured a one-man play on November 20 called "Christmas with C.S. Lewis." When Rick decided to do his continuing education online instead of in person in San Antonio this year, I bought us tickets, as we so enjoyed the one-man play on C.S. Lewis we saw up in Portland a few years ago. This play was by a different actor and production company, but every bit as good – and closer to home at my favorite venue. Win!

My friend picked up her visiting ewe last week, but I learned today that Spot is not going on a second honeymoon. The weather in the Columbia River Gorge does not look good this week, so the person who was going to come get him decided not to risk a trip. He'll have to "bach it" in the Ram-ada Inn; I don't need lambs after the end of April and the ewe lambs desperately want OUT of their barn stall.

We had some heavy fog last week. One evening it started to break up around sunset, and I captured this incredible reflected color in the east:

Hanging on for dear life at . . .

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Chaos and progress, dryness and rain

Leo: from flight risk to off-leash in five days!
Leo and Gracie are making a LOT of progress – from unsettled and unsure little creatures to much more engaged and happy little characters now. It helps that Gracie seems to have gone out of heat; it was also very helpful to have dry, sunny (if cold) weather until today in which to take them outside to exercise and eliminate. But make no mistake, it is still a LOT of work to potty and exercise and clean and supervise these two new additions; so much so that I have not yet committed to doing ANYthing special or extra for Thanksgiving this year. Rick's mother can just join us for a spaghetti dinner for all I care . . . but she and her son will probably not be okay with that....

We were (again) in desperate need of the rain that finally returned today. After "the rainy season" started and we got several inches, it turned sunny and cold for the longest November stretch on record here. (Cold and sunny + wood heat = extreme dryness; there is not a rich-enough moisturizer to keep my hands and feet from cracking!) The arena will need another laborious session or two with the heavy-duty backpack blower that leaves me feeling like I've been wrestling alligators, but I am enjoying every iteration of my Japanese maples.

"Spot and Blais-y sittin' in a tree...." 🎶

The honeymoon is almost over for the breeding group; Spot is hopefully leaving for another assignation in Washington on Wednesday (or next week, if Wednesday doesn't work out). My friend Kate will pick up her ewe, and the three ewe lambs, who have been vocally unhappy in the extra horse stall, will go back in with the ewes in the Sheep Sheraton. I haven't witnessed a single breeding, so lambing dates are unknown, but regardless there will be several months' reprieve before lambing and shearing swamp me.
Poppy and I enjoying some quiet lap-time today – priceless!

That's it for now from a tired but still thankful . . .