Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I wrote about my family’s Australian shepherd Oscar a few years ago when he developed kidney disease and was no longer strong enough to perform his legendary frisbee-catching leaps. Now I write to say adios, Oscar, and to thank my parents for taking care of him so extraordinarily for so long.

I thought each visit to Boise might be the last time I got to see him and scratch his massive head, but he kept on trucking through a stroke, incontinence, and near-hind end paralysis- playing fetch and leaning in (and then collapsing) for scritches until he could no longer move. For the last couple years, upon coming home for Christmas or summer vacation, we were greeted by Oscar’s eager, increasingly Joker-esque face- the stroke had weakened one side of his body and now his head was permanently cocked to the side with a half-crazed smile. He could only eat and drink out of the right side of his mouth, could only turn right, and often got stuck in corners or amongst the table legs until someone rescued him (much like i imagine a disfunctioning Roomba would, if a Roomba could handle the massive amounts of dog hair present in every house i’ve ever lived in.)

Near the end, his back legs were fairly useless and he supported his increasingly frail frame on his front legs. My parents had covered the tiled kitchen floor (where he had to stay after he became incontinent) with rugs to give him enough traction to get around. Watching him pad around the back yard from my bedroom window, i was reminded of a horse costume worn by two people- the person wearing the head and front legs directs where the body goes- the hind end stumbles along blindly, out of step with the front.

After his stroke, Oscar really enjoyed being outside, even when it was cold and snowing. My parents built him several little forts in the back yard- under a picnic table, under the porch swing- where he could stay dry and warm. He still enjoyed playing fetch even when his body wouldn’t do what he asked, and would still scramble up the back stairs to the lawn when my mom got the frisbees out every day, little poops falling out of his butt on the way up- i guess he had to choose between controlling legs or sphincter!

One benefit to Oscar’s weakness was that it was much easier for my parents to groom him. No longer did my dad have to put him in a headlock between his legs in order to brush his fur or his teeth. He used to snap ferociously when we tried to detangle his fluffy haunches, chomping his nubby canines that were worn down by the time he was one year old. Before we adopted him, he had spent the first year of his life stuck in a barn, gnawing frantically on the wooden door because he wasn’t allowed out to chase the horses. When Oscar was 10 and it was no longer good for him to do agility trials, my mom tried him out herding sheep. He bolted into the pen and began tearing large chunks of wool off of the sheep. The instructor told my mom to bring him back when he was 14. She stuck with frisbees and stuffed toys.

The last time i saw Oscar was this past holiday vacation. We had invited the entire clan of in-laws over for dinner a couple days after Christmas. The younger, non-kid-friendly aussies were in their crates upstairs, Oscar was chillin’ outside, and we had cleared all the rugs from the kitchen so that the many people helping us cook and serve could navigate more easily without tripping. Our niece Leila is quite the mobile toddler now and absolutely loves dogs. She caught a glimpse of Oscar leering through the window from outside and let him into the house. He leaned heavily as we brought him into the kitchen, where he collapsed in a happy heap to be smothered with kisses and hugs from Leila. She cooed and wrapped her tiny arms around his neck, burying her fingers in the large amounts of fur that hid his fragile body, and he seemed unfazed to be kissed between the eyes so many times.

Gawd. What a fantastic, wonderful dog. Just the epitome of a good dog. I hope every person is lucky enough to adopt at least one dog like Oscar, and I hope every Oscar out there finds a good home.


Read Full Post »

Very glad to hear about increasing efforts to replace lawns in the SW with more water-friendly landscaping, though it is true, there’s nothing quite like a lawn to nap and play frisbee barefoot on. This is one instance where I support genetic engineering- soft, foot traffic-tolerant, drought-resistant lawns would be fantastic!

Read Full Post »

Jamaica turns to the earth

Suddenly I want to go to Jamaica. To learn, to help, to figure out how to give momentum to the same movement in the US. I always forget that everything revolves around money- here it’s much cheaper to buy food produced on giant farms halfway across the country. If we could figure out how to incorporate the cost of pollution, climate change, and dwindling health into conventionally produced food, growing our own and buying at farmers markets might very well become less expensive.

Read Full Post »

Check out this video, and then check out the speaker’s response to all the correspondence he got about the speech.  The welcome statement his congregation says at the beginning of each day is what did it- the last line:

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here:

If you are young or old, you are welcome

If you have brown skin, black skin, white skin, yellow skin or any color of skin, you are welcome

If you are married or single, you are welcome

If you are gay or straight, you are welcome

If you cannot hear or see, you are welcome

If you are sick or well, you are welcome

If you are a man or a woman, you are welcome

If you are happy or sad, you are welcome

If you are rich or poor, powerful or weak, you are welcome

If you believe in God some of the time or none of the time or all of the time, you are welcome here


Read Full Post »

Only in Seattle…

I believe I just traded chicken coop plans and advice for a protocol on how to make bone marrow chimeric mice.

This also speaks to my ability (and perhaps to an inevitability in life) to do good and bad things at the same time. Extinguish life, nurture life. Experiment on mice, save chickens from factory farm fate. Kill mice, save kids from malaria (eventually). Make husbandry mistakes and watch my chickens keel over from unknown causes, save (a small part of) the environment.

I’m finding the key is to be very good and efficient at the bad things so you don’t have to do them often. If I make my bone marrow chimeras well, they won’t die by accident and I won’t have to repeat the experiment. Make their little lives count!

Gawd I hate bone marrow chimeras…

Read Full Post »

Well said, Tad.


Looking forward to reading this book!

Read Full Post »


Today's harvest: swiss chard, broccoli sideshoots, purple sprouting broccoli, pink kale, baby beet greens

Today i finally transplanted the mustard seedlings that were going crazy under the grow light in the apocalypse room.  They were in a flat with leeks, arugula, and lettuce.  I cut around the mustard and scooped out the entire row, then broke groups of plants apart and planted two per hole- in case one doesn’t make it, and because the holes were far enough apart.  The soil wasn’t too dry- i had only begun keeping the rain off of it two days ago.  I didn’t dig up the soil at all, except to make little transplant holes, so hopefully that small amount of digging won’t turn the soil to brick. 


I forget what kind of kale this is... Red Chidori? Waaay more ornamental and milder tasting than expected.

There was a good layer of worm castings underneath the fallen leaves that I raked away- so i know the worms have been working the soil and bringing organic matter down into it.  We’ll see if the “no-dig” method works for these guys (and the kale i planted earlier).

Yesterday, while it was freezing cold (not actually) and windy outside, i sowed 15 tomato plants, and some broccoli, cabbage, and swiss chard inside under the grow lights. 


The kale transplants in their new greenhouse, with beer traps alongside- they're working well!

I’m trying 14 different varieties of tomato this year, and planting two sungold cherry tomatoes, because they’re consistently the shit.  I’ve got some non-early season heirlooms in the mix this year, which will hopefully produce with the help of the mini greenhouse.

After i finished seeding all the pots, i somehow got thinking about grafting tomatoes.  Territorial has sold them for a couple years and claim they’re amazing and vigorous.  The pictures always show someone gasping at how many huge, red tomatoes there are on the vine.  So I looked up tomato grafting on the interwebs, and found this sweet video from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  They sell the rootstock (Maxifort) used in the video for about 50 cents a seed, and it’s a hybrid plant so its impossible to save the seed.  I bought some anyway, just to try it out. 


Our neighbor has become interested in our greenhouses and chickens- David is giving her the tour.

Maxifort is very vigorous and works best for greenhouse tomato grafting, but i’m hoping i can keep mine warm enough to take advantage of said vigor.  At the end of the video the dude mentions that you can also graft cucumber, melon, etc, onto winter squash, but i couldn’t for the life of me find the “bombo/shintoza” squash variety he used anywhere online.  So i got one called “triumph” instead. 


Cat immediately found the seedling heat mat with her sixth sense

I’m not sure that the squash rootstock will keep the cukes and melons and zucchini from getting downy mildew (which they all succumb to eventually here- it’s a race to get some good fruit out of them before they’re taken down), but it may help them grow faster and produce more before they die.  Also, apparently downy mildew strikes plants that are weakened- usually by water stress- so a more vigorous root system may keep that from happening.

If only i had garden trial grounds where i could more thoroughly and scientifically investigate the advantages of grafted veggie plants… sigh…

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »