Thursday, December 05, 2013

Animal Portraits

I am working on portraits of all the animals on the farm. 

Marc Antony

Pretty Boy (Unnamed rooster)

Lovely birds
Beautiful birds 

Not an easy thing to do. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Cabin

This is all we need show people before they visit our cabin. Then they will be up to speed on what to expect and how to conduct themselves.

Thursday, November 07, 2013


Getting a colonoscopy wasn’t as bad as I had heard. It wasn’t as good as I had heard either, because I had heard both. I was told to expect to sit on the toilet all day the day before while the preparation meds did their jobs. It turned out I could have gone about my regular business (which is anything but regular) until about 5 pm when things started moving. I was looking forward to a pleasant empty feeling afterward. Years ago I was living with a friend I’ll call Matt (everyone else does), and we exercised and drank fresh vegetable juice every day. One day I heard nature's call and while sitting on the toilet I started to suspect that nature would not shut up. This was by far the largest amount of matter to leave my body in my life, and probably any body in anybody's life except for maybe a woman giving birth. To twins. The feeling when I was done was euphoric but I had to check the toilet to make sure that there where no vital organs left behind. That last sentence is true. I was truly afraid of what I might find. Happily, nothing out of the ordinary except, you know, a lot of number two. But in preparing for the colonoscopy there was no euphoria; there was no pleasant feeing of emptiness. In the morning when I showed up for the procedure I was, in fact, concerned that the doctor might not find the environment up to his ideal of spotlessness. For years that passageway has been for the illumination of stuff, some pretty foul stuff at that. It seemed reasonable to suspect that a mere twenty-four hours of not eating could clean something that has, to the best of my knowledge, never been cleaned.

Soon I was getting my blood-pressure checked and an IV put in. First a nurse put in the IV but waited until the doctor told me the risks before letting the drugs flow. The main risk was making a hole in the wall of my large intestine. “That would require surgery. Ready?” Then, in what seemed like seconds, I remember opening my eyes and seeing what looked like a throat on a TV screen. A squeaky clean throat too, by the way. I closed my eyes again and when I opened them, Jenny was coming into the recovery room where I had somehow been transferred. Then the doc entered to tell me the results. It all seemed to happen in quick succession. 

The drugs are what people have told me were the good part. To me they were good in that they made me sleep and not feel anything as a snake like camera entered my body through the back door. But, and maybe this is my own fault for not having a sorted drug life in my past, I did not feel anything special. Not even drowsiness. It was, drug, sleep, awake. Ok. I guess I was sleepy because I did go home and sleep for much of the day. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013


Our lovely Vision died. We went down to feed and he was lying down. Somehow in he had broken his leg. There was nothing we could do to save him. He died August 29th but I didn't want to talk about it. 

Sunday, August 04, 2013


Very little has happened to the hay barn since Tyler left but some progress has been made. I bolted the rest of the posts to their respective Simpson brackets. Last night our neighbor John helped me put a couple rafters up and I added more support cables. But look at the quality of this lumber:

It is warped, twisted, and split, but at least it was expensive. A friendly neighbor said it was "some of the best lumber he has seen..." and that was when I learned that my neighbor needs glasses.
More progress has been made on the hay barn since I began this post. We hired a local reggae DJ, Doctor Fresh, to help. The major time sensitive job that needed doing was the moving of twelve tons of hay into the barn. I moved 4 tons on my own and I think it was my physical appearance that made Jenny decide to hire a helper. In Jenny's words, "You look like you climbed Everest without oxygen during the Himalayan war and you lost. And it was hot and sunny and you got too much sun. And thousands of paper cuts. That's what you look like." I paraphrased (or completely made that up).



Doctor Fresh also helped put more rafters and support cables up. The hay has proven to be an effective scaffolding to stand on while putting up rafters.

Chicken update:

Our chicks have turned into chickens - half of them roosters. These, by the way, are what you get when you cross a bantam Phoenix hen (second from right, rear) with a bantam Cochin rooster (deceased).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hay Barn

Tyler came to help ( by help I mean let me help him) build a hay barn. I emailed him a photo of a typical hay barn and he drew it in a design program. I ordered the lumber but Home Depot thought I just wanted a quote, so the lumber that was supposed to be delivered on a nice pallet before Tyler arrived was waiting for us in various stacks throughout southwestern Idaho. Some of the lumber was no doubt still tree shaped and attached to the ground with its own powerful roots. When the bulk of the lumber was ready for pickup at Boise Cascade ( about a 3 minute drive from the Airport were I had earlier picked up Tyler) a helpful man said, "That stack of lumber will snap your tailgate off." So we had to rent a trailer. During this ordeal, a certain Home Depot Pro Dest Name was bandied about with sentences like, "Blank should spend more time working his brain and less on his muscles." If I said to some one, "A guy at Home Depot told me this would be ready," the one word response I got most often was the name of this Pro Desk dude.
The days before Tyler's arrival were spent digging holes and trying to determine the best way to get concrete in the holes. Basically digging holes and filling holes. The first attempt was a trailer full of a yard and a half of mixed concrete from a place that also advertised Foxy Ladies.

Mixed concrete and 107 degree weather do not mix. Jenny and I managed to fill three holes with six left empty.  Getting the quickly solidifying concrete out of the giant trailer was a challenge (nightmare) as was figuring out where to put it. The next day I fetched 75 bags of concrete and mixed 68 of them to fill the remaining holes. I returned the remaining bags.

When Tyler arrived we quickly raised nine 14' 6x6 posts then proceded to slowly do a bunch of other stuff. Our tallest ladder was about 2' shorter than we needed it to be, and no amount of cajoling would make it change. We borrowed another ladder from the neighbor that was sadly shorter and just as stubborn.

By the time Tyler left on Sunday we had rafters on one half of the structure and cabling up on the north wall. We had also marked where the next face boards (?) (the boards that the rafters are attached too should be placed).

Thursday, June 13, 2013


There is no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free pair of gloves or socks or a nice warm scarf. Removing the fiber from alpacas does not come without some cost, and I am not talking about the cost of professional shearers. First, we have to catch the poor sweeties. I was about to list everything that comes after but the photos below give a pretty good idea of what the alpacas go through. If I could add sound you could here what the two adults sounded like during the ordeal. Tiger Lily sounded like a small, high pitched horse. Siri sounded like a chicken in distress or a dog or a combination chicken/dog in distress. 
And when it was all done they looked like new animals. A different species even. They went from stubby-legged, chubby, furry creatures, to long-legged, long-necked, skinny, short-haired creatures. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A windy day at the cabin

A windy day at the lake brought an aluminum boat to our dock (it's the boat on the left). The laws of the high seas state that if a boat is found unattended, that boat belongs to the sailor who finds it. At least that's what our former, both moved away and dead, next door neighbor said. He moved because his cabin was wiped out by an avalanche. One day a boat floated to our mutual cove. The neighbor took the boat and he and his boys immediately got to work repainting it. This being the 1940's, I am sure it was a cute or perhaps beautiful wooden boat. Eventually the boat was discovered by the rightful owners. Mr. Clifford, that was the neighbor's name, claiming the laws of the high seas, refused to give the boat back. I do not know how the issue was resolved. But now that I am in a similar position, but with a dented aluminum boat that hasn't been registered since 1990, I have some ethical questions to wrestle with. First, I doubt Echo Lake can be called "the high seas," but can I claim the boat anyway? Also, I am not sure that the law of the high seas really says you can keep any boat you find, but can I claim the boat anyway?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


This is Gavin. He is handsome and dignified, except there is nothing dignified about the way he desperately escapes when a camera is pointed at him. I cannot use the same logic that I use on my photo students, "If you want to be a photographer you are going to have to let people photograph you. It's called Karma dumb asses." Turns out Gavin is not an aspiring photographer. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Farm stuff

First a few necessary agenda items to get out of the way:

Started irrigating May 3rd.

Replaced two sprinklers, repaired a gate valve (mostly), and replaced a 5 inch nipple - all in the North pasture, second row from the East-most row.  

First Northern oriole of the year today, May 7th.

Six chicks hatched April 21. Cochin/phoenix x. The cochin rooster (the paterfamilias) died a couple weeks before they hatched so his legacy continues. 

In other news: I've got a wallet that I greatly admire. It is a Pendelton brand wallet that looks like it is wrapped in an "Indian" blanket. It was bought when I was looking for a thinner wallet that would better fit the pockets of my skinny jeans.

I inadvertently stumbled upon this wallet, so, as a lifelong fan of Pendelton products, I had to buy it. Even though it in no way fit the criteria of fitting my skinny jeans. It is thick even when empty. And it is always empty, otherwise it will not fit in my pocket. My copious cards and considerable cash are stuffed into my other pockets while my empty wallet amply fills my right front pocket. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Alternative Transportation

This is not mine. I brashly entered a shop - Boise Vintage Cycle - and asked to borrow a motorcycle. This is the one I left with. I had borrowed it for a photo shoot for Tenspeed Hero. It was intended to be a meer prop. But I wanted to ride it. I think I tried everything, except the right thing, to get it started. The only motorcycles I had ever started before had a key and a start button. This had neither.   My contact at the shop called yesterday and told me that if I ever have another project that requires a motorcycle to call them. They like that sort of thing.
For the record, I did not really enter the shop brashly. Timidly would probably be a more accurate description of the way I entered.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


While visiting my family, I spotted our neighbor putting away his garbage cans. I use the word "spotted" because he is a birder. On a whim, I decided to cross the street and say hello. I was expecting a light-hearted chat about birds, like Chats for instance. But the neighbor played the tough guy card. He offered an unsolicited recommendation of binoculars. He suggested 8, 9 or 10 power. Then he said that he prefers 12 power but most people cannot handle them. “Unless you’re used to holding things steady in your hand like I am.” Then the neighbor made his hand into a gun and held it steady, rock steady. He looked at his hand then looked at me with a look that said," When I say I handle things steady, I am talking about guns buddy."
Suddenly he pointed at what I know as a Scrub jay. He asked, "What's that bird?" "Scrub jay," said I. "You sure?" Then he talked about how the American Birders Association (or some such authority) in their infinite wisdom decided they should be split...etc, etc," the story was decorated with cuss words. He is the foul-mouthed, tough Marine of birding. Then he said, "It's a Scrub jay."
Somehow he transitioned to his property in Montana. He told me that "Indian braves" routinely steal his horses. They have to either steal horses or go to war to become men, so understandably, these kids choose horse theft. 
He went on to say that there is a Marine sniper living on his property so he doesn't worry about it while he is gone. Even when he is there, visitors "will not appreciate the welcome they get," because he  has a tendency to shoot people. Then he amended the statement to "at people," because his neighbor is a deputy sheriff and he frowns upon the shooting of people. 

So forget what you thought you knew about birders. They are tough, braggarts, maybe liars, and they might shoot you. You could probably substitute the word "neighbors" for "birders."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Animals lower your heart rate - probably

Watching animals do normal activities like sleeping is relaxing - I might even say revitalizing or even therapeutic. I just saw Jasmine, our black and white "barn cat," sleeping in a sun-drenched flower bed. It was as beautiful as anything. Diego, a long-haired Chihuahua has a great talent for getting comfortable on couches, chairs and luggage. The luggage sitting is a clear message to us not to leave him behind. Dogs are smart.

I don't think enough has been said about the love and devotion of a dog. Someone quote worthy once said that the dog human relationship is "The best deal man has ever made." Agreed. Better than the Louisiana Purchase. Yet somehow many people still do not know it. If I had a puppy for every time I heard someone describe their first dog as amazing, smart, exceptional and variations there of, I'd have a lot of puppies. Some of them would be dogs by now. You and I know that those adjectives fit most dogs.

What can I say that hasn't already been said about alpacas?

Our goats are of course as smart and heroic as you might expect. The stories you've heard about goats are true - but probably toned down for believability sake.

Besides their famous altruism, Chickens have many admirable traits. Here is an incomplete list:
Grace (needless to say)

I could go on.

Horses are the only animals that it is ok to sit on at our farm.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Living on the Land

At this moment Jenny and I are discussing who should go to our Living on the Land Class. It meets once a week but it seems to sneak up on us. It seemed like a great idea and we looked forward to it - which only confirms my theory that it is the journey, not the destination. Or, put another way, the chase is better than the catch. The class is not bad. The teacher is great. The subjects are relavent to our life on the farm: soil, water, weeds, pest control. But it comes at the end of the day every Monday, even today, President's Day. It also gets in the way of feeding time. We have to either feed too early or too late. Also, there is one fellow who acts like the class is really simply a meeting that convenes once a week to discuss his business plans #yeararoundfruitstand.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Farm and Weather

I was reading a post from Big Picture Farm and it reminded me that I have a farm and a blog. The blog is right here in front of my face, and yours. Like Vermont, Idaho too has been cold, unreasonably cold, this winter. Many zero degree mornings and some five below mornings. The past few days have warmed up a bit. It is amazing how good 20 degrees feels after a few days in the zero to ten range. Some of the roosters have frost-bitten combs. Reuben's is the worst. It has improved with the weather but it is still white on the tips.
The warmer afternoons - and the occasional freezing rain - have made for treacherous walking in the morning. That feeling when I start to slip makes me inexplicably angry, yet I usually laugh at the same time. We have to walk like muppets when the world is coated with a slick layer of ice.

Time to feed. 18 degrees out.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


It has been a cold winter so far. 0 degrees at the moment. Each morning Jenny and I break ice in the stock tanks so the horses and alpacas have water. Then Jenny does it again a couple of hours later.
The weather app on my really super smart phone says it will be 41 next Wednesday. It is nice to have something to look forward to.

At the moment, I am sitting in the kitchen with Danny on my feet. He is a sweet brindle dog currently wearing a blue flees coat. In a few minutes it will be time to feed. It is still dark out and still 0 degrees. It is hard to leave the warmth of the kitchen and Danny in exchange for the bitter cold of the barnyard. Even the chickens have been staying in their coops all day. That sounds nice. Maybe Jenny and I will stay in the coop all day. We wont though. The animals need water.