Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Calm before the NEXT Storm!

On December 22nd I wrote about the arrival of the Pineapple Express. I had no idea what havoc this God-forsaken weather system would wreak. We have gotten something like 7 inches of rain in the last week and 4 1/2 inches of it in a 48 hour period. The picture above was taken Tuesday night as we were checking on the level of the creek and making sure it was not blocked and then flooding. It was fine...but we couldn't believe how high the creek was.

The next morning I went outside to take a peek at the creek level, with the help of my trusted companions. They were quite willing to pose for pictures!

The dogs were pretty crazy after having been locked inside for the better part of 2 days so I encouraged them to hang out and run around outside.

We are still very much on a learning curve about the chickens and my ignorance of the water-shedding abilities proved to be fatal to our beloved rooster, Jasper. He was out in the rain a week ago and I didn't think to dry him off...and he caught cold. His comb turned a pale color and flopped over. His eyes looked as though he didn't feel well. He got weaker and I isolated him, gave him antibiotics in his water...but he died this afternoon. This farm life has a lot of life and death in a shorter amount of time. He was a cute little rooster. We'll miss him...and now I have learned that if the chickens get out in the rain...I need to towel them off. Won't that be fun to watch!

We are getting ready for another wallup from a series of storms. We have heard that the one in the next few days will have winds like a hurricane...and to prepare for losing power due to trees falling on power lines. Great. Tell this to a woman that has an inner boy scout sharing her body. I have: bought batteries for the radio, washed a load of laundry (undies and jammies and t-shirt and socks) gathered the candle holders and bought yet more candles, bought water in 2 1/2 gallon jugs, made a pot of soup, pulled together all flashlights and have mentally prepared to be without heat and water until Wednesday. Why no heat? Because it takes electricity to turn on our heater...and we have no fireplace. Why no water? Because we are on a well...that requires electricity to pump the water. Thankfully there is a shower at work!

The new bridge has worked out really well...and the dogs love it, too! Farmer Jeff did himself proud!
These next storms are supposed to bring up to 12 inches of rain. I don't know how much higher our creek might get, but the Russian River in Healdsburg is supposed to be at flood stage on Friday. It is currently at 15 feet right now...and expected to hit flood stage at 19 feet. One of our friends in Guerneville moved all of his belongings up from the ground level floor to the upper floors as he was concerned flooding was imminent.

In the meantime, the dogs are taking all of this in stride. Now we just need to figure out how to keep them out of the river!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A visit from the Pineapple Express

I mentioned to a friend the other day that we were going to have an extended visit from the pineapple express. He was distinctly puzzled...and then asked if we had friends coming from Hawaii.

No, I you know what a pineapple express is?
According to the "Weather Doctor Almanac": The Pineapple Express is actually the Subtropical Pacific Jet Stream, a very moist, warm channel that has ventured further north than usual. Being tropics-born, this Pacific airstream has been linked to an origin in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands, the land of the Pineapple, and thus, the appellation, the Pineapple Express, arose among local meteorologists and the media.

What does this mean for us? How about 7 inches of rain from 5 pm Saturday 'til right now. Our creek is flowing and the frogs are SINGING!!! I love to hear them, but a friend told me that it means more rain is coming. We have had enough, thank you VERY much!!!

What have our lovely dogs done during all of this rain? of them, Callebaut or India, so desperately wanted to get out of the rain that they reached their paw in under the house and tried to clear away what they thought was blocking their entrance. And what was that, you ask? IT WAS THE MAIN WATER PIPE THAT COMES IN FROM OUR WELL!!! There was water flowing into the garage, under the house, and into the basement!!! The dogs couldn't go in their dog houses, or under the 18X22 foot pole barn we built. NO...they just HAD to go under the house. Farmer Jeff was kind enough to rush home and shut off the water (in my panic I forgot how to do it!) After a vain attempt to fix it with emergency purchases from Home Depot, we just shut the water off...and lived with no water overnight.

You have no idea, or at least I had no idea how often I wash my hands or turn on the water for little stuff like brushing my teeth...or SHOWERING!!!

All I have to say to Farmer Jeff: the cats never do stuff like that!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Supporting Cast of Characters - India

When we moved to Eastside Road from the city, it was obvious that Callebaut, the chocolate lab, wanted and needed a friend. This was made clear by the amount of the back sliding glass door frame he was eating in a 24 hour period. We called him “wood chipper boy”. He was gnawing on EVERYTHING.

We had been in the house for 2 months when we finally decided to go to the animal shelter to see what dogs were available for adoption. We had been told there was a sweet female golden retriever there, but by the time we got there, the dog had been adopted. We went back through the cages and talked to the dogs, then came upon an enclosure in which a medium sized black female would roll on her back when you talked to her…and just smile! They had named her Millie, and while there, it seemed to fit! She was attentive, seemed like a smart dog and one of the keepers/attendants had written a note on her posting: this is the sweetest dog I have ever worked with! Well…that did it.

We signed all of the forms, paid the money to have her spayed, and left, knowing that we would pick her up 3 days later on a Friday. Apparently it would take a few days for her to recover from her surgery. They called on Wednesday, told us to come and pick her up on Thursday. It seems that she had already been spayed. We couldn’t figure out how someone would give up such a sweet dog!

We no sooner had gotten her home and off the leash when that dog was running all around the yard at about 90 mph. Poor Callebaut, about 15 pounds overweight at the time, was trying to keep up as she just sailed around the yard. I started laughing and yelled to Farmer Jeff: this dog is NO Millie. Millie is an old, fat cocker spaniel and this girl is running like she is at the Indy 500!!! Why don’t we name her India ‘cause she is black as India ink, but runs like she is at the Indy races. Well, the name stuck!

What we didn’t know about India…well, there were quite a few things. One, she is an escape artist of the master level. We can put her in the back yard and she is gone in less than 10 minutes. Mind you, we have 5 foot deer fence ALL around the yard, but she figured out something. The first few times it was by crawling under the house. We didn’t know she was out but did notice that the neighbors sheep were making a bit of a fuss. Turns out she was herding them. It wasn’t until the neighbor comes walking down the road with her in his arms did we know she had even gotten out. I just about had a heart attack because there is a fine of up to $2500 per animal bothered. The law/fine is called “worrying livestock”.

Another time she got out and Farmer Jeff couldn’t find her. I ended up leaving work to look for her. We drove up and down the roads, dropping off flyers. I finally spotted her sitting in a car in an open garage, waiting for the driver of the car (not anywhere to be seen). I called her and she hopped out, then rolled on her back. I was so happy to see her that I couldn’t even scold her and she happily jumped in the back of the car for the ride home!

Farmer Jeff, while I was away on a long work trip, finally had to resort to getting an electrified fence that activates a shock in the dog collar. That was 3 years ago and once those batteries die, she takes off. I guess the dogs are always testing the batteries, and once they are dead, they know it.

India is also fiercely protective of us, even against Callebaut! Farmer Jeff and I can be sitting together, inside or out, and India will plant herself at our feet as our guard. Callebaut, being the ever playful fellow, will approach us/India with one of his various toys in his mouth and taunt India. India, because she is guarding us, will NOT play with Callebaut but instead run up to him and nip at his flank! Callebaut is thrilled because India is playing with him, not realizing that she ISN’T playing with him!

Out of all of the animals we have, she is the one that runs the WHOLE show. She is top dog/top animal of the entire household. She is loving, fiercely protective of everything, takes her guarding duties very seriously and expects everyone else to, as well.

We sometimes call her “Watcher of the skies” because she is the only dog I know, so thorough in her guarding the yard duties, that she actually barks at the vapor trails in the sky!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Just thought I'd bring everyone up to date on what is going on...

We are working on extending the yellow brick road/path around the yard, but in the meantime it is just a dug out muddy path. Since it is muddy we now have to go back to washing the dogs feet when we let them in at night!

The five porch kittens are being caught, one by one, and neutered or spayed, vaccinated and checked all over for their overall health. Mama Joleen is not coming up on the porch as frequently and we are worried she might be pregnant! We just have one of the kittens left to "fix", and that is Tiger. We are making another attempt tonight!

The dogs are fine, the indoor cats are fine...

The chickens have had some change in their numbers. We traded in a couple of the teenaged roosters for 3 more red girls: Ruby (she is DEEPLY red), and then 2 more pale orange ones.

We moved Dot and sister Domino over to the enclosure with Napoleon Dynamite, Josephine and Elba. Josephine and Elba were the recipients of Napoleon's "affection" and we decided to share the wealth and give them a break. We'll see how the 2 new girls do. We moved them last night and this morning when they came out of the nightly sleep coma they were not too pleased with their new living arrangement! We'll see how they do over the next few days! We are hoping that having the two new/young girls over there will inspire Josephine and Elba to lay eggs again. Who knows...maybe they are past egg laying age and are done?

Sadly, our beloved baby Grace, who was growing up to be a baby Huey in comparison to her foster mother, died yesterday in the egglaying crate after having laid her one and only egg. We are guessing that she got her head caught in the handles of the crate and panicked.

A wise and kind woman with chickens told us that it is best to think of our chickens as a unit, not as individuals. That has helped me in my grieving over the losses of the chickens. Chickens are actually much more fragile than I ever knew. I have never lost an animal because it caught its head in something, but I guess that could happen with any animal.

Rest in peace, Grace. Say hi to the other animals for us.

We are going to go ahead and let a few eggs accumulate. I am hoping that either Goldie or Mama Roux will sit on the eggs, but I don't know if they are feeling "broody" enough to sit on the eggs. We'll see! I will let you know what happens!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Rainy Days are HERE!!!

Over the last few months we have done some things around the yard in preparation for the inevitable rains that will arrive in November or December.

Well… thank GOD we have done some preparation because last week during a 36 hour period we received 3.3 inches of rain! Not only do we have the rain falling in our backyard, we get the run-off from the neighboring properties running through our yard via the creek/drainage ditch! We didn’t know this, or at least didn’t realize what that meant in the sheer volume of water that would flow through our property every rainy season.

Farmer Jeff realized that our bridge over the creek was starting to fall apart and that once we were deep into rainy season it would begin falling apart unless we did something to repair it. Good idea! In taking it apart we realized that it was just a short matter of time before it DID fall apart. He got that thing built over the long Labor Day weekend and I stained/sealed it. Very clean, slick lines.

The next project was creating our very own “yellow brick road”. The dogs have so thoughtfully created a path in the yard but it becomes VERY muddy during the winter. Since we now have to go out to the chicken coop twice a day (let them out and feed them/lock them in and keep chicken feeding critters OUT) Farmer Jeff suggested we have a path. We found this wonderful material that pours like fine gravel, but packs down and creates a pretty clean walking surface. We found a color, Melita Gold, that really looks quite nice and is really golden in color, hence, the yellow brick road! We have also found that it cuts down on the amount of mud the dogs have on their feet when they want to come it. Pretty nice considering we have to do a John the Baptist routine with them every time they come in from the outside during rainy season.

THEN Farmer Jeff realized that we needed an area secure from the rains to store the lawn mowers, outdoor equipment and patio furniture. After several days of building, he is putting the last of the corrugated metal on today.

The last project will be to create a water proof area to store the chicken feed. For the moment it just may end up in the chicken coop itself. The girls will just have to walk around it!

Now…being the city girl that I am, not only did we build a warm and secure chicken coop with a linoleum floor, but I wanted the girls to be protected when they went out into their yard. Also, it is a pain to keep their feed dry when it rains and I have learned that molded feed is highly poisonous to the chickens.

I came up with the bright idea of putting huge tarps over the top of the outdoor enclosure. Well, I learned pretty quickly how much I DON'T know about the physics of water! What a mess! I created very effective catch basins for the rain which just about pulled down the outdoor enclosure! The first night of the rains I was out in the pen in my rubber boots trying to push the big pools of water up in vain attempts to displace the water and get it off the tarps. It was fun to see it cascade like huge water falls…until I started to get MIGHTY wet!

The next day, during a particularly heavy deluge, Farmer Jeff had to go out and create circus tent poles to drain the water off. It worked pretty well but this saga is NOT over. It will go on for the whole winter…or until we figure out what the heck we are doing!!!