Archive for the ‘Adventures’ Category

Just like herding pigs

Last weekend down on the farm David and I set up a site for a new garden. We built a bamboo-post electric fence around it- an area about 25 by 50 feet- on Saturday, and then Sunday we moved the 3 pigs from their old pen into the garden site so that they would dig up the grass for us. Given all the trouble it was to get the fence wired correctly and and get the damn pigs into the area while fending off a swarm of horses, it may have been easier just to tear out the grass ourselves… But the pigs were so, so happy to have a new pen of fresh grass that it was worth it. I wasn’t able to get pictures or video of the chaos that ensued when the horses caught wind that we were leading the pigs to their new home with a big bucket of food, which sounded like a bucket of grain, but really, anything in a bucket makes the horses swarm. They’re like a pack of piranhas!

Anyway, hopefully by this weekend most of the grass will be gone and we can start planting veggies and cover crops. Pig poop is one of those manures (like cat, dog, or human manure) that you’re not supposed to use directly on edibles unless it’s super well aged and composted, so this season we will be planting edibles whose edible parts do not touch the ground (like corn), lots of clover cover crop, and things like kale and squash that we can feed to the pigs, chickens, and ducks (which arrived today in the mail!! We now own Ancona ducks!). We’re also going to start a couple things that won’t produce well until next season anyway, like strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb.

So excited! After 3 years with our small yard in Seattle, this garden will be HUGE!!

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Poor Oscar’s kidneys are failing, and he must go on a protein-poor diet so that nitrogen does not build up in his blood and cause him to go senile and feel crappy all the time. Because the commercial kidney health food is so expensive (ridiculous, because you’re paying a lot for no protein…) my mom supplements with a homemade mix of white rice, carrots, and broccoli. Oscar eats the broccoli first, then the rice/wet food mush mix, then the carrots, which he eats off of the floor after he’s removed them from his dish to get at the good stuff.

This was all quite hilarious to me- my family seems to raise dogs that love vegetables and fruit- Oscar loves oranges and apples, Indy loves bananas, they both love broccoli, Inka loves peas and beans and zucchini.

Still excited... weirdo dog.

Oscar’s diet abruptly became un-funny when we played frisbee in the park on Christmas day and his legs collapsed under him at every landing or abrupt change in direction- his muscles atrophied by lack of proper protein… and age, I suppose.  Though bad, the diet is not as extreme as it could be- it’s a compromise between weakness and senility and he’s losing brain function bit by bit as well.   Apparently he will stare blankly at trees in the backyard or wake up from naps scared, not knowing where he is.

This makes sense, but it was still shocking, considering Oscar’s past as a legendary frisbee star. At his prime he could leap to shoulder height to catch the disc, even though he weighs 50 pounds. On the beach my dad and I once measured the distance between his footprints at take off and landing- he had covered a good 25 feet. He could read a disc better than anyone I’ve ever met, except maybe Chris Rupp.  I was always hoping that playing fetch with Oscar would improve my game, but he never revealed the secrets of his mad skillz.  He also loves frisbee so much that, unlike other dogs that mark their territory every 10 feet, he will not pee until we are done playing and are leaving the park- he doesn’t want to miss any tosses, no matter how short or crappy.  When we’ve convinced him we’re leaving, he will, frisbee still in mouth, finally take a humongous piss and get back in the car.

An easy grab

Locked on and ready to launch

Look at that extension!!

Oscar only ever accompanied us on one backpacking trip, though he would definitely still enjoy an easy hike.  David and I took him and Emma (David’s golden lab) to the Sawtooth range in Idaho one summer.  He disappeared after about 45 minutes of hiking, running after some critter into the woods.  We searched for him for hours, until night fell and we decided to camp and keep looking in the morning.  I woke up sobbing, thinking about how i would have to tell my family that i lost our dog.  We hiked back to the car to get sunglasses (it was very snowy) and then were going head back out to see if he had joined another group of hikers- Oscar loves and belongs to anyone who will love him back and was probably just as content with them as he would be with us.  As David crossed the stream just before the trail head, Oscar scrambled out from under the Subaru where it seemed he had spent the night.  We were mutually overjoyed to see each other, though David kept threatening to strangle him for running off.  He still had his little doggie pack on, and right away i unzipped it to pull out the dinner and breakfast portions he had missed.  He was astonished.  “Wait- i’ve been carrying my own food this whole time?!  Well shit.”  He stayed with us for the rest of the trip.

It's funny because his ears are normally floppy, but are being blown up by the wind. No one really finds this as hilarious as I do.

Here David explains our backpacking route to Oscar, who looks quite surprised by its boldness. (Its funny, because Oscar's ears are normally floppy but are being blown up by the wind here. No one finds this quite as hilarious as I do.)

Another time, while accompanying me on my paper route in high school, he disappeared and when it came time to drive back home he reappeared carrying a big stinky stick in his mouth.  He wouldn’t put it down to get in the car, so i drove slowly and he ran alongside the car with the thing clenched in his teeth.  As he came up the driveway, i realized it was an arm, severed at the shoulder and wrist, with muscles but no skin.  My outburst of disgust caused him to drop it and i ran inside and woke up my dad.  He convinced me it was from a deer or a pig or something…

Despite the occasional disobedience employed to eat disgusting things, Oscar is a fantastic dog and has caused me to fall in love with Austrailian shepherds as a breed.  Indoors, they only wanted to be petted and sit next to you, lean on you, snuggle up – earning a few aussies i know the nickname “Velcro dog”.  Outside, they only want to work for you- catching frisbees, running agility, herding ducks (what?).  They’re amazing.

Sigh… poor Oscar.

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Talking to my Ma on the phone the other day, she said that she and Pa decided not to build an outdoor fireplace on their new patio after all- both of them being space cadets, overhanging trees may catch on fire if they forget to put it out and the whole house and yard could burn down.  And the whole neighborhood and bone dry foothills of Boise- that’d be no good.  I said, “Oh, that’s too bad.  Wait, you guys are both space cadets?!” (This whole time i thought that my dad was the only one with a horrible memory.)  She laughed, “Yep- you’re doomed!”

So that partially explains my increasingly gawd-awful short-term memory of the past… oh… 10 years.  Add to that the medical finding that stress can cause short-term memory malfunction, and you have a good explanation for why, when i decide to go backpacking post-giant experiment or post-fellowship application deadline, i forget to pack a crap-ton of fairly important gear.

First example- following my latest giant experiment (of previous blog post fame), i slept for 4 hours, booked it back to lab to finish some stuff before Lauren arrived in Seattle, ran home to literally throw handfuls of gear into my backpack and get in the car for a 2 night trip with Lauren and Natalie.  Upon arrival at our first campsite, realized that i had forgotten my sleeping bag.  My SLEEPING BAG!  Who forgets their damn sleeping bag on a backpacking trip?!   Fortunately, Natalie happened to have a lightweight summer bag in the trunk of her car for emergencies.  So with long underwear and Nat’s emergency preparedness, i was saved from the emergency of me being a dumbass.  I also forgot my trekking poles, but luckily Nat doesn’t use hers going downhill, so that saved my dumbass knees as well.  And my sunglasses, but hopefully my hat saved my dumbass eyes from too much UV light.

Second example- after i spent the last 2 weeks working waaaaay more than i usually do in attempt to have awesome data and write an awesome research update for the training grant that i’m on- it’s up for competitive renewal, and if i don’t get it there will be some serious scrambling in my lab as we do not yet have grant funding for my project- aaah!!!- i got home, chose a trail with David while again throwing handfuls of gear into my pack and then left for another 2 night trip.  I did remember my sleeping bag this time, and upon settling down into said sleeping bag, realized that i had forgotten my hiking boots.  GAH!!   Hilariously, i did remember to take my Superfeet insoles out of my shoes and bring them along to put in my forgotten boots, so i managed to make some surprisingly comfortable footwear by putting the Superfeet in my Crocs.

Sidenote- i only condone Crocs as slippers for getting the paper, putzing around the yard, walking the dog, and as camp shoes.  Chacos and Tevas are of course better than Crocs in almost every way, but for backpacking Crocs have become my camp shoe of choice because they weigh negative 3 ounces (I think they’re made of marshmallows), and Chacos weigh a ton.  You can’t cross treacherous streams in them like you can in Chacos, but for knee-deep lazy streams they work just fine.  And you can waterproof them by putting plastic bags on your feet inside them, in case you are camping in rain or snow.

And apparently, you can hike in them.  Granted,  we hiked four miles to a campsite on a very easy trail, then day hiked sans-packs up a crazily steep trail to a sweet lake (Tuck lake)- so i was not carrying any weight on any sort of difficult trail…  good, because i also forgot my trekking poles. Again.  In any case, my feet did not die and the trip was pretty great despite my dumbassitude, perhaps because i walk the dog every morning for half an hour in my Crocs, and have built up some strength in the arches of my feet.  I did wipe out and scrape up my hands a couple times on the trail because Crocs have negative 3 traction, but there were no broken ankles or tweaked knees.  David even hiked the whole way in his Chacos to show solidarity.

Our feet were horridly, horridly dirty when we got home, which added to the shame of having forgotten that Jodie and Lisa were coming into town to stay with us that evening.  (David is experiencing job search stress, so he’s almost as bad as i am these days.)  Luckily we made it back into cell phone range just in time to prevent them from renting a hotel room.  I’m hoping that fresh eggs for breakfast partially made up for some of our dumbass (lack of) planning.


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This is my friend Schillaci’s blog.  I have recently discovered it and it’s utter hilarity.  It’s about running, which i do not currently do and thus i do not understand about 35% of the terms used in many of the posts, but the stuff is highly entertaining nonetheless.

Man… some people can write!  The post about what does and does not constitute a “journey” is my favorite thus far.  I will definitely remember that smackdown when i’m being overly dramatic about how i constantly fail to get myself to do yoga, even though it’s highly fashionable and would save me from microscope- and dissection-induced back pain.  Or when i congratulate myself for walking the dog for more than half an hour.  Or when i bike to work on Saturday, even though i’m allowed to park in the parking garage for free on weekends.

Come to think of it, have i ever completed a real journey?  Hmmm… i guess the closest i’ve come would be hiking 220 miles on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada.  That’s not too many miles, but i did it all by myself, with only the mosquitoes and marmots to talk to.  (That’s a lie- there were plenty of other hikers around- if i’d have broken my leg, it would have been at most 16 hours before someone found me.)  In any case, i didn’t get attacked by natives, or have to eat a sled dog, nor did i sow my seed in any sultanates (i don’t know what that word means), so really, i should probably attempt the PCT or the Continental Divide Trail, or a cross-country off-trail trek through the wilds of B.C. before i can consider myself journeyed.

But i might just change my tagline to “my journey toward urban farming nirvana” in the meantime.


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Sweet ride!

Dude. I wish i was doing something like this right now.

More real posts to come soon!

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