Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hood to Coast 2011

Due to the sorting yard is being used again to process logs, the Hood to Coast Relay has been rerouted to go past our house this year. They did this one year a long time ago and it wasn't a pleasant experience at all. I was expecting an onslaught of vans with shouting passengers and horns a blaze, but fortunately all traffic was diverted in another direction and all we had was the sounds of heavy breathing and foot falls.

It was amazing that there were people running by at 6:30 in the morning while I was tending the horses, and there were still people running by at 6:30PM.

Not seeing any vehicle traffic, I was lulled into thinking it was safe to drive into town and once I got to a relay point at the grange I saw the Hood to Coast traffic jam with grotesquely and garishly decorated support vans. It appeared that all 1250 vans were stacked on Lewis and Clark Road.

By the way the entry fee is $1320 per team of runners and $888 for walkers.

This made me wonder about creating a new event where we forget about the runners and charge people to grotesquely and garishly decorated their vehicles and drive really slowly for two days. Instead of going from Mt Hood, let's make it Astoria to Brookings where we can totally clog Hwy 101 with gas guzzling vans with rude drivers and passengers that shout, race their engines, honk their horns and urinate on the side of the road. It will be a 362 mile parade of the best Oregon has to offer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Over Run

One thing that separates a small hobby farm from a real farm is equipment. Every day I wish for a Bobcat or an old tractor with a loader. Having two horses presents endless piles of manure, which is pretty manageable during the summer when you can add grass clippings to cook the pile down, however the composting slows down in the winter. It would speed up greatly if I had a machine to turn the pile every week or so, but for now it is turned by me and a pitch fork.

The problem is the manure under the shed gets piled high and I have to start piling it outside, then the pile inside cooks down and then I have to move the outside stuff inside and then it piles up again on the outside. It gets bad unless a lot of it can be totally removed from time to time. I can use a couple yards of it in our garden a couple times a year, but the horses and chickens are producing well over eight times what I can use.

Fortunately I have some neighbors that are really getting into gardening and he has a front loader, so I count on them taking several loads a year to reduce my inventory and keep me from being totally overrun. Today we loaded and hauled out four half/ton trucks and one 3/4 ton. There is now light at the end of the manure tunnel, however we could easily haul off another four loads.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zucchini Bread 2011

Every year I post about making zucchini bread. I had a marathon session yesterday turning out 12 loaves. This year We got a new food processor since the shredding blade broke on my 20+ year old La Machine and the cost of a new one was nearly as much as a new machine. Also we got a new mixer earlier this year which is better than the hand held mixer I've used in years past. Good equipment makes the task much easier.

Later this week I'll bake another 12 loaves and I'll be set for another year.

For those of you who are playing along at home; here again is the recipe I use.

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips (Added after five to 8 minutes in the oven)

Beat eggs until frothy. Add next three ingredients. Beat until thick and lemon colored. Add remaining ingredients and mix completely. Bake in 2 oiled and floured loaf pans or a bunt pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a rack.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Extended Coop

You may recall the chicken coop I built two years ago. I built it and there it sat unpainted and unsided. Though it was an 8 foot by 8 foot structure I divided the inside to store a bale of straw and feed which gave the chickens a five by eight area for their housing. Inside their portion was six laying boxes and three dowel perches and it was nearly impossible to clean the coop, get alone gather eggs without stepping over the perches. With 18 chickens I felt like they needed more room, as did I for their maintenance so I added on a four foot by eight foot extension.

Then I scored some used cedar siding and used all but about 10 feet of the siding. Now all I need is some paint.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Eye

It's happening again. About a month ago I started having trouble with my left eye again. Things look blurry and blue which makes which makes it difficult to read and track line by line. Depth perception is difficult to the point where it is often easier to see if I close my left eye.

The condition is called Central Serous Retinopathy, which has no known cause though the suspected cause is stress. Oddly it is rare that I stress over anything.

There is a laser treatment, but it offers a 10% chance of complications. I am going to see if it resolves itself rather than risk surgery at this time. Last time it too about six months to get better on its own, which was two years ago.

So to my friends, If you see me and I don't see you, I'm not being a douche, I just don't see you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Conserving Cartons

I’ve written before about how the egg carton is to me one of the greatest ideas ever. Eggs are real fragile and as a container the egg carton is a perfectly engineered for the task of protecting eggs in transit and in storage.

Sadly, most egg cartons are used only once and then are thrown away, or recycled. Some people save them up for people with chickens and I used to gladly accept such donations, but then I realized I’d be better off not using cartons from other commercial brands. My eggs needed their own brand and identity. A while back I started buying blank egg cartons and I made a label and an insert which I paste on the outer and inner carton. The outer label simply describes the eggs and the brand and the inner label tells about the eggs, the chickens, our agricultural philosophy and the other products we have.

My egg customers are real good about returning the used cartons to me for reuse. I estimate I reuse them at least ten times before they get recycled. Sometimes the whole carton it trashed by then, sometimes only the labels need to be replaced. Every time I reuse a carton it ends up costing me less. A single use carton would cost me 50 cents and if I reuse that carton ten times it brings my packaging cost down to 5 cents per dozen. This fits in perfectly with out marketing and agricultural philosophy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hard Time Hens

My chickens are in jail doing hard time over their criminal offenses in our garden. We have a four foot fence around our garden and it wasn’t enough to keep them out. The younger hens haven’t put on enough” henny” weight to keep them from flying and we’d find a couple of them ripping up stuff in the raised beds. Now they are locked in the Super Max until the garden is finished for the year.

Their enclosed yard has ample room to keep them occupied, and they get a daily dose of entertainment, be it table scraps, flakes of straw, weeds, bags of lawn clippings. Their diet isn’t suffering and the quality of the eggs is still as good as ever.

There is no way to reform a chicken. If we let them out today they would offend again by this evening. So it's the Hoosegow until the frost reclaims the garden.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blue Berries, Finally

It seems that every year the birds find a way to rob us of our blue berry crop. Years ago I enclosed the blue berries inside a wooden fence to keep the deer out and we got blueberries. The next year I was looking at the crop one evening and I planned to go out to pick them the first thing the next morning, but when I got out there a flock of robins had stripped every branch of every berry. The next year I draped bird netting over the fence, but the birds found any gap in the junction of the cloth and got in and wiped us out again.

This year I got more bird netting and closed up every possible hole where even a humming bird could get in and finally we have the problem licked. We actually have a crop and are now freezing berries to use the rest of the year. So far we've put up over a gallon of them with more to come.

Next will be the black berry crop.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Other than the chickens invading the garden we were finding evidence that deer were hopping the garden fence so I strung electric fence tape two feet above the fence and hooked it to a charger. This was good for about two weeks but then the deer learned to jump over the six foot high tape. Raspberries, lettuce and peas were drastically pruned.

We found a solution and it was probably the best $70 we’ve spent (though you can get it for nearly half that price on-line). It is a motion detecting device that sprays a noisy jet of water all around to frighten off any deer that even comes close to the garden. We’ve had it set up for three weeks now and we have seen no sign of deer in the garden since.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Going To Need A Better Fastener

Recently I went out for my morning chores and I saw some of our chickens out and about. This is odd because I normally do a head count when I put them away in the Super-Max for the evening. How these four hens were overlooked was beyond me. I later released all the other chickens to go about their day and life was normal.

That evening when it was time to put them away I noticed something was wonky. Some of the hardware cloth on their Super-Max enclosure was missing. On inspection the hardware cloth was pealed back away from the wooden frame. This was major. I used one-inch quarter, crown staples to fasten the hardware cloth to the wooden frame. It had been ripped back by a brute force I had never seen before. I seriously doubt I could have unfastened it with tools.

Here is my summation, though strong animals I doubt a raccoon could have done this. They would have worked at unfastening it from ground level. I suspect ti was a beat or a cougar because it was at the three foot level. The screening had large holes punctured in the mesh like a large claw had done the job. Also no chickens were harmed. The entrance into the coop is too small for a bear or a cougar to get in so the chickens were safe.

I've now fastened the hardware cloth back with roofing nails, though I'm sure this would be quick work for a bear or a cougar to get through.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Picture Yourself on a Boat on a River...

Like everyone, I spent hours as a lad laying in a hay field looking up at the clouds trying bring order to the abstract images in the sky above. At my present age I don’t intentionally spend much time on the ground. Instead of making sense of abstract images I now see thing that are real and turn them into something imaginary. My most recent piece of brain art came when I drove by a field where the hay had been baled in round bales and bagged in white plastic Ag-Bags. My mind turned the image into a field of giant marshmallows.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Missed It

This is the first year of the last twenty-two that I was unable to attend the County Fair.

Instead of seeing all the kids who labored all year to produce a fine market animal or champion performance animal; I was driving in traffic with six lanes and traffic lights every block. Instead of seeing the joy of people eating Fair food, I saw robotic people in eating from fast food drive-through windows. Instead of seeing vendor tents I saw miles of roads laced of big box stores. Instead of seeing horses competing in an arena, I saw drivers competing for parking spaces in acres of lined asphalt. Instead of hearing the sounds of roosters, geese and cows; I heard sirens and accelerating engines and freeway sounds. Instead of returning home tired and filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the joys of summer; I returned to a hotel room that was identical to millions of other hotel rooms around the country with a sack of human feed. I’m glad that is over.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Give and Take

When you have horses you are often presented with new ideas and ways of solving problems. Often they are problems you didn’t even know you were having until a solution came about.

I recall attending a clinic for the Strasser Barefoot concept. A lot of it made sense, but the more one finds out about the Strasser Cult horses the more you hear about abscesses and foot and joint problems that don’t go away. It seems Dr Strasser studied wild horses and tries to trim the domestic horse hooves at the same angle. We have since gone barefoot with our horses, but we don’t do the Strasser Trim. It supposed to be better for their circulation as the movement of their hooves pumps more blood around the leg.

Well the newest thing to come down the pike is a diet where we soak alfalfa, and pour off all the nastiness before placing it in their hay racks. We also soak their pelleted grain into a mush and add other oils and nutrients. Normally I avoided ever feeding alfalfa to horses that weren’t being worked hard, but now there are indications that alfalfa is good for all horses.

The transition to alfalfa was sad for me. It removed me from the ritual of driving to Birkenfeld to get a trailer load of hay every few months. It was sad seeing the usual two bales of hay in the hay room that was normally filled to the rafters at this time of year.

Sadly, yet happily there came a break. The price of alfalfa went from $15 to $20 in one week. New diet be damned, they are getting $3.50 a bale Birkenfeld hay again. I still feed them soaked alfalfa but only once a day. Now a bale will last me over a week and I won’t go broke in the process.

In a perfect world I wouldn’t have to make this sort of a compromise, but then where does one turn when you need a 9-volt battery in a hurry? That’s right, one of the smoke detectors. Horses can survive eating grass. It isn’t optimal, and neither is reducing one floor of our house from four to three smoke detectors. They will still get some alfalfa, and I will replace that battery.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Old Friends

Five years ago when I started the blog I became friends with Syd and a number of her fans. We were all exploring this blog thing together in the virtual blogosphere. Over the years many bloggers have traveled to Astoria, probably because of the colorful images I’ve written about over the years.

Lori Hahn (Hahn at Home) visited me and former blogger, Auntie. We spent an evening having dinner and drinks.

Matt Stansberry (Upstream in Oregon) and his beautiful bride met me for lunch at the Blue Scorcher one afternoon.

Trop (Greetings From East Jesus)and her lovely bride came over to Oregon on a business trip and she took the time to rent a car, drive to the coast and spend a night at our house.

Last week I saw on Facebook that another legendary blogger and photographer, Lachlin (My So Called Blog) that I’ve been following for five years was headed to Astoria. I imposed myself upon her hoping to meet for a beer, lunch or coffee, and she welcomed the meeting. We had a beer on her first night in town and lunch the following day. It was a visit with unexpected twists and turns around every corner such as a lost wallet, a wallet found and bar fight that we weren’t involved in.

I have enjoyed every encounter I’ve had with every blogger I’ve met. These people are bright and interesting and I wish the geographical distance between us was less. I’m not a hanging out type of person, but I could easily hang with these people if they lived closer.

Sadly, most of the bloggers in our old circle no longer blog. Syd posted twice in the last month, but less than monthly in the last year or so. I can’t recall the last time Trop or Weese (Weese just posted yesterday, first time in forever) or Laurie posted. Matt has been posting again, but his topic has been distracted for his fishing excursions to being a father and a newly discovered talent for art.

Lachlin and I discussed the demise of blogs, and we both promised to give it another go and how we would try to convince our old friends to pick up their pens again. I know you can never return to the way it was when times were good, but here is my effort to do my part. Anyone care to join in on the fun?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Well, it’s been three months since my last post. I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking if I missed blogging. My reply was often, “not enough, yet.”

I’m still not sure if I’ve had enough time off. It’s a luxury to abandon a discipline, kind of like retiring in a way. I remember when I left a ten year career with the Postal Service. It was such a relief to know that I would never have to work for and with so many assholes. I could let their images and voices that got into my head fade into a mist of retirement. I am in contact with one employee who is still there. We get in touch once a year or so. She tells me who retired or died. Somehow I can no longer put faces with the names and I’m OK with that. That was a long time ago. Occasionally I will have a dream (nightmare) that I’m back there again, but fortunately I forget my dreams quickly.

So why should I start the blog again? I had a clean break, why not just let it be? It’s hard to say. I still think in terms of a blog. I’ll see something and think I can use that in a post, or I’ll run across a photo on the web and think it would make a good illustration for a post.

It’s funny how the blog is still getting a lot of traffic. I’m still getting a lot of e-mail and comments on posts. I occasionally visit friends who were the recipients of the very limited edition Astoria-Rust coffee mugs and they are actually using them.

OK, so I’m back. I may not post as often, but I’ll be posting when I feel inspiration and the need.