Tuesday, August 30, 2016

tuesday tip

If any of my younger family members ever gather round my creaking rocker and ask, "Ancient Auntie Quinn, what words of wisdom can you give us, from the blurred vista of your long years?" I will be ready for them. I have my Words of Wisdom all figured out.

And since none of my blog readers is a member of my family (as far as I know, anyway...and if so, you're getting the jump on the rest of those slackers!) I will share my WoW right here and now. Ready?

Spread to the edge.

That's right. I'm talking butter. I'm talking mayo. Peanut butter. Jam.

Take the extra 15 seconds - the rest of your life will wait - and spread to the edge of your bread, toast, or muffin. No dull, bland, unadorned bites. Every bite: good.


Having shared this valuable tip for living an enriched and satisfying life, it occurs to me: perhaps I should include more useful information on this blog? I probably can't do it frequently, as I don't know very much universally useful stuff. And unfortunately I cannot promise to consistently deliver the same depth and value as "Spread to the edge." Which is good enough for an epitaph, I think.

But let's see. How about a tip for photography? I know a lot of us carry our cameras everywhere, and are always trying to get clear images under less-than-ideal conditions. Well, here's a simple tip you can try when you want to increase your chances of getting a sharp image under low light conditions, when your camera needs a longer exposure time. Or even if you are just tired. Ready?

Spread to th

Hah! Just kidding. Here's the tip:

Set your camera's timer to it's shortest delay, compose your shot and hold your camera steady (wrapping your camera-arm around a tree or fence, or pressing your back against something solid so that your legs and the Solid Thing function as a tripod, can help a lot - hey, there's another tip!) then press the shutter release. And keep breathing. While the timer is counting down (2 or 3 seconds is plenty) the camera will stop moving from the pressure of your finger on the shutter release. So when the shutter trips, you'll have a much better chance of a sharp image.

I mention breathing because even though we think of holding our breath as part of being "still," holding your breath can create tension in your body that may actually cause the camera to move a tiny bit, even on a short exposure. (Crikey, is that a third tip? I hope you were all sitting down when you began reading this post.)

So: stabilize your body, use a very short timer delay, and keep breathing.

It's not the same as using a tripod and a cable release, but heck, if you're carrying a tripod around, you don't need to worry about wobbling on long exposures.

Try it, fellow photographers! I hope this is a helpful tip for some of you.

And anyway, there's always the other one:


Sunday, August 28, 2016

saturday on sunday

Note: I wrote this post last night, but fell asleep while loading the images. All the visual entertainment in this post is being provided by Betula.

I wanted to do something for #DrawingAugust tonight, but it's been a really long day and I'm resting my back, too tired to move. First thing after chores in the morning, I loaded up for the dump and recycling and made that trip. It always feels good to get that done.

At the dump, I ran into one of the people I bought the barn fans and other things from last Autumn. He mentioned that he is now the Town Animal Inspector and when would it be convenient to have a look at my gang? I was surprised - this has never happened before, and I said as much. But I immediately added, "It sounds like a good idea to have livestock inspection visits, and you're very welcome to come. But not today - I've got the vet coming."

Yes, if trouble comes in threes, Campion was the first, Tansy was the second, and now Tsuga is the third, with a sudden thick mass and fluid in the udder. I have never seen this kind of condition appear in a dry (= not producing milk at the moment) doe; Tsuga weaned her kids over a year ago, and her udder and teats became nearly invisible soon after she stopped producing milk. Perfectly normal for a small, cashmere, first-time mamagoat.

So I have to wonder if it is not an oddly-timed infection, but rather a tumor of some kind. And after examining Tsuga today, the vet is not sure either. But we're both hoping that the medication, which is an antibiotic inserted directly into the udder to treat an infection, will show positive results in a few days.

Just so Tsuga's friends don't worry too much: she has shown no signs of pain or even discomfort since I discovered the swelling on Thursday night. She has no fever, her appetite is fine, and her behavior is normal. The only reason I spotted anything is that when you spend time every day with animals, even without consciously observing them, you notice little things. When something looks just a little bit different, you do a double-take and investigate.

As for today, since I was having the vet make a barn call, I also asked her to do the entire herd's booster shots: one for rabies, and one called "CDT" which is a combination vaccine for Clostridium perfringens type C + D, and tetanus. We worked together, and coordinated the injections with the feeding routine, which was very good - though the goats would not agree. Even perfectly-timed peanuts handfed in sync with each shot and followed only seconds later by the daily bucket of Chaffhaye and oats, were not quite enough to make the goats happy with their annual shots. I don't blame them, and I'll be wincing when I see sore muscles tomorrow. But it's a necessity. It really is.


Sunday morning follow-up:

All the goats, including Ms. Tsuga, were up and about when I brought them hay for breakfast. In fact, the creakiest member of the team appears to be the goatherd.
Have a grand Sunday, everyone!

Monday, August 22, 2016

monday already

It rained last night, but I slept right through it - quite a surprise when I went out to do the morning chores today and found a world soaked and dripping. And cool! Today has been the most pleasant day in ages. Breathable air! A refreshing breeze! Ahhhhhh!

I rarely sleep through rain, but maybe I was still tired from Saturday, which was - by my current standards - an event-filled day.

It began with an amble around the Hardwick Fair, camera in hand. I've never been to the Fair at that time of day. It was quiet and relaxed and I took lots of photographs. But chasing the morning light was not the reason I did chores at dawn and got down to Hardwick so early. No. It was all about the Pancake Breakfast.

I have never been able to make pancakes, and after many, many disappointments and wastings-of-food over the years, I am willing to admit defeat and just go somewhere every year or two and buy pancakes made by someone who possesses the superhuman skill apparently required to make a decent pancake. It's worth it!

As the day started heating up, I headed home but stopped at a yard sale and found some treasures. Highlights: a small hardwood turntable-thing which will be beautiful with just a little sanding, I think, and a deep Pyrex frying pan with lid. As I was trying to decide on a small lamp (would it fit on the porch windowsill? would it be heavy enough that I wouldn't knock it off, like the other one?) I got a text from a friend inviting me to ride shotgun on a trip to the distant feedstore where our Chaffhaye is delivered every six months or so.

A trip along forest-lined roads, with someone else driving, in a vehicle with real suspension? Heck, yeah!  It was a fun trip, talking goats all the way in both directions. About four hours later I was back home with ten 50-pound sacks of feed in the Little Green Sportswagon, offloaded from my friend's truck when we got back to her place. (I had only 500 pounds; she had a ton. It's swell to have a friend with a truck and a sharing attitude!) I also bought Piper a new toy at the feedstore; don't tell her. It's a surprise to celebrate her recent dental work :)

So if Saturday was a madcap romp, Sunday was more or less a recovery day. I did drag the feed out of the wagon, but apart from that and the routine chores, very little got done yesterday. Not even drawing! I've missed three days of #DrawingAugust, so today I made this ink sketch of a little larch branch I'd picked up on a walk with Piper last Autumn. I'll try to keep up the drawing momentum for the rest of the month, even if it's a only a few minutes each day. It's often hard to start, but once begun, I get pulled right in to the process and it's really enjoyable.

I hope you had a great weekend, and your week is off to an excellent start!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

votes for goats

I don't do much with facebook. I joined because it's the only place my local animal shelter posts information, and I have since found that many companies offer coupons and specials on facebook that aren't posted anywhere else. But I have no desire to become facebook-proficient; blogging and twitter and ravelry seem the right combination for me, with just an occasional visit to facebook.

Like yesterday, when I discovered the makers of Chaffhaye were having a "Cutest Goat" photo contest on facebook, with a prize of 10 bags of Chaffhaye. I don't usually use my animals as contest material, but this time it makes a certain sense. In addition to their hay and oats, my herd eats about 50 bags of Chaffhaye every year, so if the goats could bring in 10 bags for themselves, that would be pretty nice!

And just as I was thinking "must post this contest in my goat group on ravelry," I saw that entries were closing - in about 40 minutes! No time to share, or even to ponder my own gallery of "cute goats" - I chose the very first one that came to mind.

You've probably seen this image before, as it's one of my favorites. It's Lily of the Valley with her brand-new first baby, Tsuga, back in 2013:

I always got a kick out of this image, because Lily looks like the good mama she instantly became, checking that her baby's jacket is properly fastened. And Tsuga's sweet, confident expression looks like she's saying, "My mama loves me Very Much."

(Excuse me for a moment, there's something in my eye.)

The voting starts Monday, with randomly-paired pictures, and goes on each day  until there's a single winner. (I think. It says "tournament style brackets" and I think that's what that means.)

Now, I know many of my readers are on facebook and enjoy goat pictures, so maybe you'd like to take a look? If you feel like voting please don't think you have to vote for Tsuga; vote for the goat you think is the cutest! I expect every picture sent to the contest will feature a totally adorable goat, and it won't hurt my feelings if Tsuga and Lily don't win. Those other goats have to eat, too!

UPDATE, Monday noon:

I just checked the Chaffhaye facebook page, and there are 80 (!) entries, divided into four "pens" - but no pictures up anywhere that I can see, and no info on voting. Maybe they had a much bigger entry than expected, and it's taking some time to get it organized.

 Here's what it said about the brackets and the voting in the original instructions:
  • Each day (starting on Monday, August 22nd) we will present the matchup of the day starting at 7am EST. At 5pm EST we will end the voting and determine the score by the number of “likes” (1 point)  and shares (2 points). The winner will be announced and moved forward in the bracket.
  • After each matchup for the round is completed, we will continue to the next round and so on until there is only one Cutest Goat Photo!
So, I guess I'll just check back later and see what's happening. If there are 40 pairs of pictures to vote on today, they'll probably want to give people a little time to look at all of them. Imagine: eighty cute goats! :)

MORE UPDATE, Monday 1:30PM

So the "first matchup" was posted as two separate pictures, entry #1 and #2, and each is accumulating votes in the form of Likes and Shares until 5PM, when the winner of that vote will be determined. If Chaffhaye is going to put up only one pair from one "pen" each day, this contest will be going on for a loooong time! Probably by tomorrow they will have figured out and announced any change in the original system; I think they must be blown away by the number of photographs they received. Bet they're glad they limited entries to one per person!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

nearly wordless thursday

Too tired to write much tonight, but wanted to give you an update on Tansy -
happy to say, she is doing well :)

Also, wanted to share this little watercolor portrait done yesterday:

I am tickled to bits that it not only looks like a proper goat - which would have been enough of a thrill for me! - but it's actually recognizable as Tansy.
I was so surprised!

Last year I drew my first successful goat portrait - Lily of the Valley - and now, an entire year later, this is my second. Got to love #DrawingAugust.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

cucumber salad and ginger beer

I often describe the weather, because it plays a major role in my ordinary life.
But complain? No. What could be more pointless?

There are times, though, when just describing something can sound very much like complaining, so I think I'll not write about the weather at all right now!

A goat note:

I want to thank my readers who have sent good wishes about my poorly goats. Campion is back to his usual self, which is a huge relief. The digestive system of a goat is a lot more sensitive than we are led to believe by the cartoon goat eating tin cans. It is critical that the system remains active, and a goat not eating at all is a goat heading for a dangerous situation. Happily, Campion's digestive system is very, very active again :)

Tansy (left) and mama Tsuga, in front of the fan

Tansy's lameness is a mystery. She is slightly favoring her near fore, and I can't even determine if the discomfort is from the foot, leg, or shoulder - when I gently examine her, she doesn't react as if any point or any movement is painful.
We are now soaking her entire leg, from hoof to elbow, in a warm epsom salt bath for 20 minutes daily, and I'll tell you what: this is a perfect example of why I take the time to collar and tie my goats for their daily feed buckets. No goat wants to keep a leg in water for even 20 seconds. If simply being tied was also an unfamiliar thing, the entire experience would be that much more stressful for the animal. For both animals involved, really. As it is, Tansy is being very good, and we are having long, quiet conversations about exactly how good she is.

I am hopeful the soak is helping. It's certainly not hurting.

summer menu 2016:

Ever since my cucumber plants began producing, there's been a quart jar of cucumber salad chilling in the fridge. It started with my blog-friend Tipper's post about cucumber salad, and the helpful comments her readers left with their own favorite recipes. 

I've enjoyed cucumber salad for breakfast, lunch, supper, and insomniac snacks. By itself, or with cold tuna added, or with a few cubes of very sharp cheddar on the side. First, I made it with the Suyo Long cucumbers from Sow True Seeds, which, coincidentally, Tipper sent me back in the Spring. Thanks, Tipper!

Suyo Long

The current batch was made with a combination of Suyo and Poona Kheera; the Indian cucumbers grown from leftover seed (I just checked: the seed was from 2013!) planted for the heck of it and now producing madly.

 Poona Kheera start out green and yellow, then turn beautiful shades of brown:

I haven't yet figured out the ideal stage at which to harvest them. But as with summer squash, if I let cucumbers grow so long they develop tough seeds, it's the work of a moment to scoop out the core and present it to the delighted chickens. And both Suyo and Poona Kheera have lovely edible skins - no peeling, extra texture, and not a bitter bite so far.

Pretty tasty!

The other staple of summer 2016?
Ginger beer.
Fever Tree, when possible.
With ice.

I drink water all day long anyway, but many afternoons this summer I've enjoyed a cold glass of ginger beer. So refreshing!
It's the little things that help us along, isn't it?

What are your favorite foods and beverages to help you through seasons of unspeakable weather?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


The trouble I find with not writing a blog post until something is "over," is that sometimes things go on and on. Meanwhile, other things are happening. Soon I have a choice: either write a novelette-length post or wipe my brain-slate clean and post a photograph with no words at all. Helloooo, Wordless Wednesdays!

I'm going to try a middle-ground approach today: a sort of illustrated bullet list of things not mentioned in recent weeks. Let's see how it goes, shall we?

Goats: two worrying health issues. Tansy, recurring and baffling lameness with no other symptoms. Campion, shockingly off feed for a full day due to apparent mouth pain, now - I hope - resolved.

Little Tansy, Having A Think

Campion (My Champion)

Nothing wrong with Vinca.
Except an inability to believe a pocket can be EMPTY.

Piper: recovery from dental surgery going beautifully when suddenly a mysterious cyst appeared on near foreleg. My vet aspirated; after two extremely long days, lab reported no evidence of cancer cells. Whew.

Piper at the pond today
Me: saw doc mid-July for joint pain review. Two hours of standing/sitting at her office generated severe upper back pain, leading to a headache which lasted 8 days before I broke down and saw chiropractor. Note to self: next time don't wait 8 days, you eejit. Also: whew.

Gardens: the incredible lack of rain all season has been a challenge for plants. Currently harvesting cucumbers; watching squash and pumpkins. Yesterday something caused the entire center of my popcorn patch to fall over. It is hard to see plants on the brink of pollination...downed.

suyo long cucumbers

Tech updates: liking the free version of Zoner Photo Studio! Also, new laptop now communicating with both goatcams! Tiny laptop sent for repair, came back yesterday with totally new problems! Back it goes.

Me again: a person who cares about me and did not mean to be hurtful said, "If you didn't have those animals you'd be living in a chair by now." You know, I often say the animals are the reason I must get up and out and get things done, every single day, no matter what. It's a fact. It's my life. I am grateful. So what that person said was just another way of framing the same thing, I guess. But I spent the next few days trying very hard not to feel upset about those words.

DrawingAugust2016: been making an effort to play at drawing every day, for a little while, either working outdoors or from a photograph. It's a bit magical to do a simple pen sketch:

then add watercolor pencil:

then a wet brush:

As "magic" goes, this is inexpensive, portable, and fun.
I highly recommend it.

Well, that's it for the Illustrated Bullet List.
What say you...better than a novelette?

I hope your week is going well :)

Monday, August 1, 2016

hello august

And it's #DrawingAugust time again!

Maybe this year I'll make more of an effort to take good photographs.
Maybe I'll start doing that...tomorrow.
Right now it's time to get out and feed.

G'Night, everyone!