Search this site powered by FreeFind

Sunday, September 30, 2007

"I don't have to move any faster than that..."

My goal of having a donkey and a cart and riding the donkey cart to Harris Teeter to buy my groceries arose from a revelation that I'm tired of rushing around, and donkey speed is fast enough for me.

Pursuant to the goal, I've engaged in many projects, small and large. Working on these projects I suddenly learned something vital:

When something impedes my movement towards a goal, I should reframe the goal.
  • When we were framing the donkey shed, vines on the ground were tripping me and making me furious. So the new goal became: pull the vines out of the ground. I put down the hammer and yanked up hundreds of vines. Then I went on with the framing.

  • When Menticia and I put a garden cart together, we found one of the wheels had a defective innertube and would not hold air. I was furious until I realized my goal now actually had to be: buy a new innertube and inflate the wheel.

  • There was a huge crater in the "pasture" and I was irritable thinking about filling it in. I realized this irritation came from judging the new garden cart too rickety for the job. The new goal became: reinforce the garden cart.

    After corner irons, screws and screwdriver were found (one goal), I installed the irons (another goal), and put the screwdriver and screws away (another goal), and then the cart was sturdy and I was ready to fill the cart with mulch and dumping the mulch in the crater.

    However, at this point I was stopped again, because the removable front of the garden cart seems to remove itself at the slightest provocation, causing copious mulch to fall out of the cart. I was ready to shout.

    Then I realized I had to reframe the goal again. Now the goal must be: fix the front of the cart. The rest of the mulch will have to wait until later.
I know this must seem obvious, but - like my earlier revelation that it's good when all the hangers on a closet rod face in the same direction - it's providing me with belated pleasure.

New York Bureau (Hannah): Hell is Contra Dancing

Hmm, I know I might get in trouble for this here, but there is really hardly anything that makes me more uncomfortable than contra dancing. I am visiting Zed this weekend at his college and some of the kids had a big contra dance party last night.

First, the things I DO like about contra dancing:

1) The music

2) The way it looks when you are standing peacefully on the sidelines observing.

3) Doing it with a bunch of college kids who have mastered the "swing your partner with great energy" piece of each dance and who do it with gusto. And some of them even asked me to dance! Guess I don't look too old yet.

The things I don't like about contra dancing:

1) I have a scar on my chin about an inch long. I got it from contra dancing. I was on a class trip in high school in the rural North Carolina mountains, near Brevard and Transylvania counties. I was spinning around in my group of four and me and the other girl got spun so hard we were lifted off the ground. Her hands slipped out of mine and the next thing I knew I was laid out flat on my stomach, chin split open, and a couple of loose teeth (they fixed themselves up again though). I had to go to the Brevard County Hospital and the doctor glued my chin back together.

2) The way there's no way you can make a mistake and go unnoticed. It's all done in groups of fours, and you and your partner move up and down a long line of dancers. If you screw up, you can set off a chain reaction of chaos that will disrupt the dancing experience for EVERYONE within 30 feet of you. TO make things worse, you can't just give up and go sit down because the group needs you to fill your place or the dance won't work. Oy!

3) The way the rigorous standards of courtliness in the dance prevent anyone from acknowledging your abject apologies for screwing up. In contra dancing, you must stare tenderly and chivalrously into the eyes of everyone you're dancing with (in my case, every "man" in the whole line of dancers). And the more experienced the contra dancers are, the more they're determined to maintain their courtly, tender stare at all costs. Even when they really and truly want to kill you. I am not a shy person, but this freaks me out every time.

4) The fact that in some of the dances, you are always spinning in the same direction in either bigger or smaller circles for the entire duration of the dance. It's the next morning, and I still feel dizzy thinking about it!

I love the kids at Zed's school. They were so much fun last night that I even had fun contra dancing. But in general, this is not my favorite hobby.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Incubating eggs: not for the faint-hearted (chicken watch)

Hatching eggs is not for the faint-hearted. My first two chicks fairly burst out of their shells last Friday morning (this is a picture of the first).

And here are the first two, recovering from entry into the world.

While the first two chicks were running around and squawking, another chick pipped (poked the first tiny hole in the egg) that day. It spent all day trying to get out, but not trying very
hard. It gasped through its peephole.

Eventually I helped it. It was very pretty, yellower than the first two. My houseguest Mitzi coddled it whenever she was home, trying to get it to perk up, but it never drank on its own, and never ate one bite despite our coddling, and died two days later.

At that point, I had eight other eggs which hadn't done anything at all. I had read online (remember I'm a beginner): "Any eggs which do not hatch within 24 hours of the first, throw them out."

Seeing as how my mentee wants to be a nurse, I figured she'd be interested - we took one of the inactive eggs outside and cracked it open. I thought we'd find a rotten mess of yolk and white but instead, to our horror, there was a fully formed, BIG dead chick inside. Or had it been alive and we killed it? I left the other seven in the incubator...

... so next morning, there were seven inactive eggs. With a sad sigh I took them out and put them in the compost pile. Then I heard two of them cheeping!! I picked up a cheeping egg and it cheeped louder!

So I brought them all back inside. One of the two cheeping birds died a few hours later (stopped breathing with its beak partly out of the shell).

The other one needed lots of help to get out but made it and is now a much smaller but determined member of the clan.

The first two are completely robust and intent on escaping from the brooder box, I had to make its sides very tall because they were leaping madly to get out. They have black-and-white feathers at the ends of their little wing buds. They eat and drink constantly.

Number three, rescued from the compost pile and hatched almost three days after the first two, may turn out to be "special" - it's very wobbly. However, it has started eating and drinking on its own and pecks at its older siblings.

Five days after the first two hatched, they were so insanely bored inside I made them an outdoor home. It's their dacha. All three seem to like it fine. They run and flap their new little wings. They don't like the banana pieces I gave them, but they do eat the ants that are visiting the bananas...


Monday, September 24, 2007

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Juggle"

There's been a lot of stress in my life these last few days, my son is ill and the chick-hatching project did not go well, leaving me thinking I'm a bad mother and there are too many emotional things to juggle in my life.

Technorati Tags:


Mike does Illustration Friday:

Mike wrote about this one: "I have been having adhesion problems with acrylic on canvas. After one try when all the paint fell off, I took sandpaper and scrubbed the whole thing. Hopefully this time it will stick."

Technorati Tags:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Visiting a donkey owner in Greensboro

I didn't expect to meet another Jewish donkey owner, but by the miracle of Craigs List I had a lovely field trip today to visit a man who moved here from New Jersey and has spent six years realizing his wish to be a farmer.

He has eight horses, two Sicilian donkeys, feral chickens, and a whole bunch of goats on thirty acres. He designed and built all the buildings on his property, from trees he cut himself and a sawmill brought to the site.

His daughter is a lawyer and an alpaca farmer in upstate New York.

His next plan is to get rid of all his current goats and import forty pregnant goats from somewhere in the midwest - he will sell meat to a local hallal butcher and to immigrants who see his sign by the side of the road.

He also wants to build a big greenhouse, with shrimp and tilapia on one side and hydroponic vegetables on the other recycling the water.

He offered me this most excellent trailer to convert to a donkey conveyance. He also said Menticia and I could come ride his horses some time.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mitzi and I hatch our chickens

I have a houseguest who was just as excited as I was to hear loud chirping this morning. We discovered this wet little creature newly popped out of the egg. Two are out so far. They like to sit in my hand. They are rare Java chicks.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to install the electronic doorkeeper

Here's a problem with having chickens: they want to go in their house at nightfall and not a minute sooner.

Tuesday, nightfall was about 7:21 pm. I had to be directing the Triangle Jewish Chorale at 7:30.

After nightfall, though, the raccoon comes - I know because he gnawed the feeder off its string and unscrewed the wingnut again, and hauled the whole thing off into the field. He would happily bite the heads off sleeping chickens.

So if I go out before the chickens are in their house, I may come back to bloody disaster. Considering this, waiting impatiently until the chickens finally straggled up the ramp, I was late to rehearsal.

There seems to be one, and only one, online solution: the VSB Electronic Doorkeep, made in Germany. It has a light sensor and a string which slowly rolls up, pulling the door with it, in the morning, and lets the door down at night. It's quite expensive but I decided if it means I can get to rehearsal on time, it'll be worth it. I ordered one from Foys Pigeon Supplies, one of the few U.S. distributors.

I'm offering this information for anybody who orders one and is as befuddled as I was (it came without directions but you can get them sent to you via pdf file).

First, if you don't want to pay $40-$50 for the door they offer, you have to make one. I used a piece of tin roofing left over from the donkey shed.

I cut it with a table saw. Use a blade made for metal, don't ruin your good blade!;

I filed the corners and the edges of the metal door smooth;

I drilled a hole in it at the top and added a small key ring.

Then I had to make the channel in which the door will slide up and down. Using the table saw I took some scraps of pressure-treated wood, about 1" x 1-1/2", and cut into each a kerf (slot) for the tin door to travel in, both sides and bottom. I screwed the channels onto the hatch.

Then I put the door into the channels, and miracle! It slides up and down just as it was intended to. I added a block at the top of the opening to reduce draftiness.

I removed the cover from the VSB unit and mounted it using four small screws. (It turns out drywall and deck screws all have heads which are too big, you'll need wood screws.) I mounted it as high as possible to keep it out of the rain, and also because the whole front hatch comes off and the VSB needs to be out of the way. (That's why I used a keyring, too, so I wouldn't have to tie and untie the string from the door when I remove the front.)

The instructions warn sternly, "do not connect the unit to power (ie the 4 AA batteries) at this point!" They say: "Lower the string till the door is fully extended, and also adjust the knot for the 'fully up' position."

However, error! I called Foys and they said you actually have to get the VSB powered up and fool it into thinking it's dark or you can't extend the string.

Well, there it is. I covered the light sensor with a black bag and it lowered the door very obediently.

As for the front hatch: I added a window (part of an old storage box) and several peepholes because the birds like to look out and squawk at me in the morning when I bring their food.

I'm going out to dinner tonight, we'll see if this door opener works. If it doesn't, I'll report back. If you have questions, leave them in the comments below.

By the way - the New York Times published a report on people who raise chickens in the city. Hannah - wanna try?

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Donkey shed: framing is finished.

Two days ago Bob and I framed the donkey shed. He came back at 8:30 yesterday and in two hours finished framing the side walls, nailed in the purlins, and let in the bracing. We're ready for siding now. It's great sitting out there in the donkey shed - too bad it will be full of manure soon.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

[New York Bureau]: I May Not Have a Donkey, But I Just Taught My Cat To Sit

You think cats are untrainable, do you? Ha! The Companionable Atheist and I just taught our cat to sit!

Yes, this very animal, who right now is staring at the kitchen faucet trying to get another wet mouse to jump out of it (i.e. another drop of water), will come to us and sit down in front of us. Just as long as we're holding cat treats in our hands.

We're using this book Cat Training in 10 Minutes, which is written by a lady who wrangles cats for Purina ads and such. It's very good.

We frame the donkey shed

We dug the foundation and I poured the concrete (putting the bolts in a somewhat incorrect position) on a previous day; when the concrete cured, Bob lapped the 4x6s in the corners and bolted them to the foundation. Today began with framing up the back wall.

Here the front and back walls are up and braced. Next, the header.

Bob brought over this header from a demolished house and it fit perfectly.

"We" nailed on the purlins and the tin. Actually I am fairly incompetent - that is to say, I know how to do a lot of stuff, and do it (see the chicken coop), but it never comes out perfectly. So when we work together I mostly hold - and compliment - while Bob does all the work.

I had a sketch I found online of an Appalachian shelter with an overhang that was like this only not as good. Bob sort of stared at the picture for a while and then invented a better way to do it.

So this is how far we got today. Tomorrow, the side walls and purlins. Then we'll be ready for siding.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Wedding"

After my too-exciting day visiting Jethro the Donkey and then rushing my daughter and her boyfriend to the airport, I was too over-stimulated to do anything but play with paint. This is "The Wedding of Lines and Circles."


Mike does Illustration Friday: "Wedding"


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Visiting Jethro the donkey

Today my daughter Hannah, her boyfriend the Companionable Atheist, and I drove two hours west to Mooresville, NC to visit Jethro, the donkey I bought a few weeks ago. He just got gelded Thursday and wasn't in a great mood but we had fun anyway. Craig, the man who sold me the donkey and who is keeping him now on his father's farm, called us "The Yankees."

Jethro's faith in the human race is somewhat less than it was before his operation, but he still watched us approach with interest.

Craig brought him some treats, admitting ruefully that it probably wasn't going to be as easy to get him in the trailer next time.

Wary as he may be, he's not too wary for treats. And when I bumped him in the shoulder, he bumped back. I can't wait to get him home and try this training method.

I think he was sorry to see us go, or maybe he was just hoping for another bucket of treats.

He'll come to my place around October 11, when Craig has to deliver a load of turkeys to Raleigh. In the mean time there's a lot to do to fix up his new home.

Technorati Tags:


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy New Year

The High Holidays have arrived. It's a fine thing, getting two new starts every year - Rosh Hashanah is just fine with me. I particularly like tashlich; I remember happily how every year my kids and I would take a casual ramble down to the tributary which runs through our neighborhood. We'd lie on the swinging bridge and throw bread crumbs (actually, usually bits of cracker) into the water - this was supposed to be symbolizing our sins. We'd watch the water carry them away. Sometimes the water was low and it didn't carry the crumbs away very fast. We would watch them swirl languidly and feel a bit anxious; it was time for them to head on downstream.

UPDATE: at I just read the following:

Why is it preferable to do Tashlich by a river that has fish?

a. Since fish have no eyelids, their eyes are constantly open. This symbolizes God's constant protective watch over the Jewish people.

b. Just as fish are suddenly caught in nets, so too we are caught in the net of judgment for life or death. Such thoughts should arouse a person to repentance.

c. This symbolizes our hope to be fruitful and multiply like fish.

d. In order that the evil eye shall not affect us, just as it cannot affect the fish that are hidden under the water.

3) What if the river has no fish?

Tashlich may still be said there.

4) Is one permitted to throw breadcrumbs to the fish?

No, it is forbidden to feed the fish on Yom Tov.

I ask you, how are we supposed to keep the fish from eating the crumbs?

I also have a fabulous recipe for honey cake, a traditional food for the new year.

On the other hand, I feel less Jewish during the High Holidays than at any other time of year. People who were born Jewish have a childhood history of dressing up and trooping to some huge space where tons of people, many of whom never go to the synagogue any other time of years, have shown up - because they, in turn, were forced to do the same when they were kids.

I hate crowds, and I don't like the idea of all these strangers packed into a room together, and I don't like the way the rabbi and the "officers," knowing there are tons of strangers in the room and that this is their yearly chance to hook them, have a different mien than during the rest of the year.

I don't like the way - unable to resist a large captive audience which is feeling repentant - they shill for donations. I don't like the way they charge a huge amount of money for tickets. All these things seem alien to me.

I wish I could do Yom Kippur with a handful of people. We would read prayers and discuss the holiday and meditate quietly. But that's not the Jewish way - the high holidays are SUPPOSED to be crowded and formal. The congregation is supposed to feel distant and uncomfortable.

I have no problem with repenting; the problem is, I repent constantly. Brooding over my errors, I feel regretful and embarrassed every day. I'm constantly apologizing; I keep up with my guilt load on a daily basis.

The biggest problem I have with Yom Kippur is this: I'm good at feeling depressed and remorseful, but lousy at feeling forgiven. When you leave the synagogue at sundown, you're supposed to feel relief. My feeling is always: I will never achieve forgivenness.

I can't forgive myself. Ask me how I feel about the gauche letter I sent a friend in second grade. It still gives me shudders of misery and embarrassment, it can still make me blush and groan. There is no statue of limitations.

Chicken Watch

I bought rare Java chicken eggs on (Did you know there was such a site?)

I bought a "Little Giant" incubator and stuck ten of the eggs in it. I turn them three times a day. Looks cozy, doesn't it? My fear is that all the eggs are dead.

However, my friend Judy has Buff Orpington chickens and she told me one of them had gone "broody" - that is, pathetically, that it had started sitting and sitting on an empty nest, not even getting up to eat. It didn't seem to notice it had no eggs. So we put five of my eggs under this chicken.

If they survive, they're supposed to hatch on Yom Kippur. I'll let you know.

As for the chickens I've had for a few weeks, they are now truly "free-ranging." They thought there might be something tasty here amongst the hardware and they scuffle through the sunflower seed husks that fall out of my wild bird feeder. They eat slugs and are systematically digging up the foundation of their henhouse.

I post this picture for the people who've been asking me: "Why haven't you named them?" They are just poultry units, that's why. They're amusing as an aggregate but a little lacking in personality. I call them like this: "Chickens! Chickens!"

What weed is this??

Inquiring minds need to know! Is it poisonous to donkeys? Update: I just found out from my extension agent - this is "yellow crownbeard" and is not poisonous.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Momentum"

Hannah and I saw some weird and wonderful frescoes in Bulgaria, and also many icons, made as copies by art students. The one below was one of the strangest and we both promised to try copying it (it's already a copy, of course). It's some weird Wheel of Fortune, plus zodiac (the original seems to omit any female images), and a lot of writing in ancient Church Slavonic which I didn't try to copy.

Any further information on this image would be much appreciated! (Click for a larger view.)

Technorati Tags:


Mike does Illustration Friday: "Momentum"

Mikes says: The idea that water molecules stick to each enough to make a wave and then the upper layer topples when the wave breaks has always amazed me. I left fish and surfers out of this picture to experiment with water effects using acrylics.

Technorati Tags:


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Names for the raccoon

I found this in Raccoons In Folklore, History & Today's Backyards, By Virginia C. Holmgren.

You have to admire an animal which can unscrew a wingnut to get a meal.

The original names for the raccoon come from the tribal languages of Native Americans. Among those that eventually found written record are these:

  • Names describing agile forepaws
    • Abnaki: asban, one who lifts up things
    • Algonkin: ah-rah-koon-em, they rub, scrub, scratch
    • Atakapa: welkol, (wilkol, wulkol, wutko), they rub and scratch
    • Aztec: mapachitl, they take everything in their hands
    • Biloxi-Sioux: atuki, they touch things
    • Chinook: q'oala's, they scratch
    • Chippewa: aasebun, aissibun, they pick up things
    • Choctaw: shauii, graspers
    • Cree: essebanes, they pick up things
    • Creek: wutki, they rub and scratch
    • Delaware: eespan, one who picks up things; wtakalinch, one very clever with its fingers
    • Lenape: eespan, hespan, they handle things; nachenum, they use hands as a tool
    • Menomini: aispan, they handle things
    • Mohican: sha-we, grasper
    • Natick: asban, they pick up things
    • Ofo-Sioux: at-cha, one who touches things
    • Ojibway: aispun, essepan, they pick up things
    • Seminole: wood-ko, one who rubs
    • Shawnee: shapata, ethepata, grasper
    • Takelma: swini, picks up things with hands
    • Tschimshean: que-o-koo, washes with hands
    • Yakima: k'alas they scratch

  • Names describing face
    • Dakota-Sioux: weekah tegalega, magic one with painted face
    • Hopi: shiuaa, painted one
    • Huron-Iroquois: attigbro, blackened (face); gahado-goka-gogosa, masked demon spirit
    • Mandan: nashi, blackened face and feet
    • Mexico (tribe not given): macheelee, white bands on face
    • Nicaragua (tribe not given): macheelee, white bands on face
    • Wyot: cbel'igacocib, one with marked face

  • Names implying magic (both sexes)
    • Cheyenne: macho-on, one who makes magic
    • Dakota Sioux: wee-kah, (wee-chah, wee-kahsah, wici, wicha) one with magic; wee-kah tegalega, magic one with painted face (or wici)
    • Sioux: macca-n-e, one who makes real magic

  • Names for females with magic

    • Mexico (used by Aztecs, but probably borrowed from another tribe): see-o-ahtlah-ma-kas-kay (cioatlamacasque), she who talks with spirits; ee-yah-mah-tohn, she (little old one) who knows things
    • Yakima: tsa-ga-gla-tal, she who watches (legendary); witch, spirit

  • Names describing big tail (long tail, ringed tail)

    • Chinook: siah-opoots-itswoot, long-tailed bearlike one
    • Huron: ee-ree-ah-gee, those of big-tailed (long-tailed) kind
    • Iroquois: gah-gwah-gee, cah-hee-ah-gway, big (long) tailed ones
    • Sioux: shinte-gleska, ring-tailed ones
    • Seneca: kagh-quau-ga, big (long) tailed
    • Wyandot: ee-ree, big-tailed, long-tailed ones

  • Names comparing to dog

    • Arawak: ah-ohn, dog, of dog kind
    • Guyana: mayuato, doglike leaper
    • Huron-Iroquois: agaua, doglike one
    • Klamath: wacgina, tamed like dog
    • Narragansett: ausup, night doglike one
    • Taino: ah-ohn, ah-oon, of the dog kind
    • Tupi: agwara, doglike leaper

  • Names indicating eaters of crabs, crayfish

    • Choctaw: shauii, graspers (of crayfish)
    • Guyana: mauyato, doglike leaper on crabs and crayfish
    • Kiowa: seip-kuat, pulls out crayfish with hands (seip-mantei, crayfish)

  • Non-Indian names

    • American-English: coon, rattoon
    • Canadian French: chat, chat sauvage, cat, European wildcat
    • Danish: skjob, fisher, fur trade name
    • Dutch: schob, fisher, fur trade name
    • French: raton, raton laveur, little rat, little washer rat
    • Finland: siupp, fisher, fur trade name
    • German: schupp, fisher, fur trade name; washbä, washer bear, from Linnaeus Ursus lotor
    • Latin: Linnaeus, Systema Naturae, 1747: Ursus cauda elongata; 1748: Ursus cauda annulata, fascia per oculos transversali; 1758: Ursus lotor
    • Latin: Hernández, Francisco, Historiae Animalium... Novai Hispaniae, 1651: cane melitensi, badgerlike dog
    • Lithuanian: sunluskis, dog-bear
    • Polish: szop, fisher, fur trade name
    • Russian: jenot, fisher, fur trade name
    • Spanish: mapache, from Aztec, mapachitli, uses hands; oso lavador, washer bear (from Linnaeus); perro mastin, mudo, tejón, masked, barkless, badgerlike dog, popular usage
    • Swedish: sjupp fisher, fur trade name; tváttbjörn, from Linnaeus, washer bear

Text and content copyright © 1990 by Virginia C. Holmgren

Chicken watch #1

I am the entertained owner of three Buckeye pullets (young hens who don't yet lay eggs).

I was worrying they were starving to death - or about to die from heat stroke or lack of water - in our current horrendous drought. (The grass crackles when I walk on it. I don't think it's rained since Hannah and I got back from Bulgaria August 15...) but reassuringly, they've bulked up considerably since they got here.

They don't really like their coop, although they hop into its henhouse at dusk every night to go to sleep. (Sometimes they sleep in a pile - the same one is always on the bottom, getting stood on by the other two.)

I think they don't like it because it's out in the open and they're afraid of hawks. "They always have one eye on the sky," explains my friend Judy, a chicken owner.

Also, they've had a visitor every night, who turns the water black in their wading pool and once disassembled their feeder (it looks like this picture) when I forgot to take it in the house. The wing nut had been removed and the feeder, unharmed, dragged into the woods. That's got to be the mighty aracunum (my ex father-in-law said that was a Native American name for raccoon). The place must reek of predator.

So, since they can go where they please after I let them out in the morning, they've adopted the space under the house and the adjoining bushes they hang out there all day looking for bugs and chuckling to themselves.

Every time I come near, they speak out loudly, jump out of their hiding place, and follow me around. They went on a walk with me and my friend Mitzi recently. When I leave they run back under the house.

The most excited I've seen them yet was yesterday morning: one of them scored a huge black slug. It hung, heavy and flopping, out of chicken's beak as she ran round and round trying to avoid her two friends (each determined to steal the slug). When she put it down to try and get a bite, one of them lunged in and sliced off half. Then those two ran around with half slugs hanging out of their mouths, the third bird following.

Since they eat and drink most happily when I'm with them, I've taken to hanging out in the coop at meal times. And, as I predicted when I told my son I didn't want a pet because I'd start talking to it - I talk to them. It's an inexorable slide into extreme eccentricity.

A few more pictures from Bulgaria

Note Hannah in the fifth picture.