Monday, October 28, 2013


  — Muriel B (@QuiltingMuriel) October 28, 2013

Reading this on twitter made me laugh out loud.

Which brought Piper charging across the room, tail wagging, to fling herself down directly in front of my chair.

 Enough said?


Sunday, October 27, 2013

free books

This may be one of those things that everybody already knows about. I am quite often late to the party.

Except that one time when I was hours early because I had the time wrong, and those people never invited me again, which makes me feel a bit foolish and sad.



Here's something I find quite useful from time to time. And the price is definitely right!

Audiobooks are daily fare here, but a while back I wanted to read a book that was only available as a e-book. Rats. I don't have a Kindle or a tablet. My cellphone is a very basic pay-for-use, and while it may be smarter than me, it is certainly not a "smartphone." (To be honest, I'm not even sure what makes a smartphone "smart." Maybe my next phone will tell me.)

But I really wanted to read that book. So after doing a little poking around on the internet, I discovered and downloaded the free Kindle Reading App for my laptop.

Because here's what I didn't know: Amazon offers a free Kindle Reading application for all sorts of not-a-Kindle devices. See here, and click to embiggen:

It was So Easy. Also, Fast.

Also - did I mention? - Free.

And in keeping with the "free" theme running through this post, here's the bonus: you can also download free books from Amazon.

Amazon sells a quadrazillion books, of course, but they also offer loads of free e-books - thousands! - in all sorts of categories; everything from Jane Austen to gardening books. The list changes frequently. The search function works well.

For example, this morning I searched for "free kindle books canning preserving." Here are the search results, again with the clicking and embiggening:

Important: many books are free for a very short time and will soon revert to their usual price. So if you see something interesting, best download it immediately. I missed out on a book about dehydrating last week, but today I'll download several books on preserving.

These e-books will live quietly in my laptop library, perhaps until a snowy evening spent planning the next garden and feeding the woodstove.

And at that point, if a book doesn't look useful, a click will delete it. So much better than dusting the bookshelves (not a high priority task here, as you might imagine) and trying to decide - again - whether to keep a book I haven't opened since 1989.

If you haven't tried this app and would like to check it out, here's a link that should take you there.

Have fun! And if you find any special treasures, please come back and share them in the comments :)


Friday, October 25, 2013


Stockpanel shelters are very useful to me: they are inexpensive, quick to construct, and can be taken apart and reassembled in a different location or configuration. And this is key: as long as I can drive fenceposts and out-wrestle the wonderful but awkward 16' stock panels, I can put up these arched bungalows by myself – Requirement #1 for most projects here.

Recognize these tykes? It's Violet and Lily of the Valley, at just 5 days old. Their Mama, LeShodu, gave birth to them in that crude-but-cozy, rainproof, bug-screened bungalow.
The basic idea is simple, and you've probably seem similar shelters used for everything from extending a growing season to housing a flock of hens. Google "stock panel hoop house" and prepare to be inspired. Many designs are much nicer than mine, and maybe someday I'll come up with something that does more than keep the goats comfortable. But that will be Someday.

"2x4 local roughcut: Check."

Meanwhile, despite the rough-and-ready appearance of my goat bungalows, the goats seem to enjoy them. I've built them wide and low, narrow and tall, one panel or two panels deep, with and without gates, with rain flaps and bugscreens, etc., etc. With each new shelter, I tinker with some aspect of the design and then spend the next few seasons watching to see what works structurally (especially with snow), and what features the goats utilize.

My goats have multiple options for shelter, but generally spend most of their time outside anyway - even on the current cold nights, for example, they are choosing to sleep out in the paddock. But rain is a problem. Goats don't like to get wet and it is not healthy for them, so it's very important that they can get under cover when they choose. And since unnecessary squabbling between the goats puts an equally unnecessary line between my eyebrows, I'd rather just build extra shelters than have goats pushing each other around over one "best" spot.

Violet and Lily again - all grown up! - assessing materials.

One problem with shelters built on the ground: during long wet seasons, the ground gets soggy. Continually adding extra hay for bedding is costly, wasteful, and not terribly effective anyway. I tried putting a piece of plywood under the bedding in the a-frame chalet last year, but it wasn't much of an answer - turned into sort of a muck-and-plywood sandwich.

This Spring, I added a 4" high plywood platform in the middle of one bungalow, and got much closer to a solution. The platform has been both popular with the goats (LeShodu considers it her Royal Dais, but others have a turn) and effective in regards to mud. Also - bonus! - it created a very easy way to collect straight goat poop every day. A couple of swipes and a shovelful of pellets go straight into the nearest garden, a few strides away.

"Post-driver: Check."

My latest design modification is something I've never seen or heard of, and it may or may not be a good idea. We'll see! It's a simple wooden floor that is tied in to the stockpanel "walls" for maximum stability and function, and which is also raised slightly off the ground to reduce the time the wood will be in contact with moisture during wet seasons. (Snow is a different matter, but also not a real concern in terms of soggy ground.)

This week I built the prototype.


Of course, I had help. Lots and lots of help.

I used a couple of lead ropes to hold the bent panel in an arch while I fitted the first joist. Tsuga tried several approaches to untying that knot. Can you see the determined set of her jaw?

The inspectors, carefully checking clearances:
Acer, the ceiling, Betula, the floor.

Not quite finished, but time for a Test Drive!


One goat...

Two goats...

Three goats and a fourth on the way...

I built this floored protoype as a single-panel shelter, to limit the time and materials wasted if it's a bust. I thought maybe one of the does would claim it as a "private luxury apartment" for herself and her kid/s. It will be funny if a big group decides to abandon the larger shelters and cram themselves into this small one!

Let the testing begin.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

words change everything

I don't spend a lot of time on Twitter, but for about a year now it has been a very useful source of up-to-date information, and has provided a few good laughs as well.

Every now and then, a tweet really makes me think, or see something in a new way. I love that.

Today this popped up:

Not the kind of image that usually comes to mind when I think of tarantulas.

Wandering the foothills in the fall, looking for mates.

I think it's the "wander the foothills" phrase. Those low, gentle hills, rising toward the mountains. From a tarantula-viewpoint, the foothills themselves must loom as high as mountains.

The rustle of drying underbrush and the clear golden autumn air.

I can see it, I can feel it.

I can relate.

Well done, National Park Service tweet-composer. You have changed my view of tarantulas. And in a good way.

Thank you! @QuinnPiper


Monday, October 14, 2013

just a short one

Yesterday morning started out sunny, with clear blue skies. 

But, when Piper and I were on our way to the Farmers' Market, the sky turned grey. Thinking it might rain, I decided to stop for a short walk right away, so Piper wouldn't miss out if it was pouring by the time we were through with our errand.

I encouraged Piper to run on ahead, while I took a few pictures.
In the gloom. And the murk.
In the gloomy murk.
And the cold.
The temperature must have dropped five degrees in five minutes.
Which would have been fine if I had thought to bring a coat.

Piper did not notice. She was having a splendid time! 

It had to be a short walk, because I had arranged to meet the man from the apiary to pick up my winter supply of honey. It would be my only chance - the local weekly markets are all packing it in.

At the Market, every single person I spoke with mentioned how nice and warm and sunny it had been earlier. They said this with their chins tucked into their collars, hunched into their jackets, hands in pockets.

I was not wearing a jacket, but I was hunched a bit, too, and didn't linger.

How odd is it, that none of us was prepared for a sudden drop in temperature on a day on mid-October? It makes no sense at all. Unless possibly...could it be...I am not the only one who is wincing a bit at the thought of winter? And kind of looking at it sideways?


Oh yes. Winter is coming, alright. Just look at this little fern.

Two weeks ago it was the color of the darkest glossy leaves that surround it.
Now it is a pale ghost of its vibrant, verdant self.

I know the feeling, little fern.

Not Piper, though!

The rain held off long enough for us to stop in the woods a second time on our way home. And Piper had loads of fun all over again!

Keep that enthusiasm coming, Piper! I need the inspiration.


Friday, October 11, 2013

pattypan reprise

One late little pattypan squash recently appeared, glowing like a beacon amidst the thinning foliage of the fading squash plants. I waited for a few days, but with plant-eating bugs still attacking the neighboring cabbage and cauliflower and potato plants, it seemed risky to delay harvesting the little squash any longer.

And I picked a few beans and lemon cucumbers, too.

This picture really shows why they are called "greasy beans"!

A few weeks ago I decided to let the last few pole beans dry on the vine, then gather them for for shelling as the last part of the experiment. But to my surprise, the plants continued to produce, yielding more beans at the end of the season than they did earlier. Maybe I should check the packet and my planting notes.

I don't know if these little lemon cucumbers are ripe, but I was told to pick them before they turn yellow. And they do smell lovely! So we'll see.

Did you have a garden this year? Are you still harvesting vegetables, or have you already put the garden to bed for winter?

And who is just planting their gardens, in the southern hemisphere or parts more tropical than Massachusetts? Links to your bloggy garden pictures very welcome  :)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

sky candy

It poured all night long, and has been raining off and on all day. So here are two pictures taken earlier this week, adding some cheery color to this gloomy day.

I hope you are having your favorite kind of weather, wherever you are!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

not quite as planned

It's been an odd, unsettled sort of week. Despite mostly great weather, very little was done on my list of "do it NOW!" tasks: collecting plant materials for dyeing, building a more convenient stovewood storage area, creating new garden beds for next year, and so on and on. Almost none of that happened. Other, unplanned chores took a lot of time.

I suddenly had to split the goats into three groups - something I sincerely hope will be temporary, because 1) I like a herd that gets along nicely, and 2) splitting them up increases the time spent doing routine daily chores by about 300%. And that's not counting the time spent moving fencelines and building gates and extra hay feeders.

So why the rearranging?

Because Lily of the Valley was suddenly lame. It was very worrying; one night she was fine, and the next morning she was on three legs. I could not find any sign on a hoof injury or a broken bone, but there seemed to be a slight swelling at one fetlock - so, maybe a sprain.

Stall rest for you, young lady!

Happily, at no point was there anything wrong with Lily's appetite! This is an "after breakfast" picture, and that bucket is clean as a whistle. Always reassuring.

After two days, she still wasn't putting any weight on the leg and my favorite goat vet - who actually stayed in touch with me from her vacation in Florida, just to see how Lily was getting on! - recommended aspirin to relieve the inflammation.

In less than two days, Lily was walking normally, and after five days with no apparent discomfort, I reduced to the dosage to half. I'm now keeping a close eye on her to see if she begins favoring the leg.

Meanwhile, Lily and her daughter Tsuga (now known as Florence Goatingale) are still separated from the other goats, to prevent prematurely rambunctious activity.

While mum rests in the barn, Tsuga blocks the entire doorway - prepared to hold the fort against any and all comers.
"My patient must not be disturbed!"
Clearly Lily is feeling better, but it's not a sure thing that the injury has healed. It may be that the original dosage of aspirin was making her feel comfortable. Fingers crossed there won't be a recurrence with the lower dose, and I'll be able to stop the aspirin completely.

And while I continue to watch for any sign of discomfort, Lily is making up for lost leaf-browsing time. I think she is almost caught up now.

And I feel deeply grateful for a caring vet, and for every Autumn day that means One More Chance to get things done before Winter.