Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eggs

I am enjoying another lovely day off today.  Although I had intended to work on my patio, it snowed again today.  It's kind of getting old already.  If I remember correctly, it has not stopped snowing since early November.  I recall the days of yore when the sun warmed the earth and we had this stuff called grass actually growing from the ground like a carpet.  It was amazing.  Just something else to tell your grandchildren about.

Since I was sort of stuck inside, I decided to make myself useful.  As background, all of the hens are laying and we generally get 3-4 eggs a day.  That is a lot of eggs and although I am a big man, I don't typically eat 3-4 eggs a day.  Thus, I have been giving eggs to anyone who will talk to me.  Unfortunately, I'm not all that "likeable," so I have a refrigerator filled with eggs.  Whereas I don't see myself changing (that would take work and a real desire to be liked), I can at least make the eggs a bit more appealing.  To this end, my wife ordered some "cute," plastic egg cartons.  I liked them because they can be reused and they are entirely made from recycled soda bottles.  Most importantly, she also purchased some round labels to go on the cartons.

I decided to spend the morning putting together a fun design for the egg cartons.  I am a failed artist... but for a total lack of motivation and talent, I could have made it in the art world.  (I had a professor in college who, upon finding out that I had a student exhibit on campus, noted, "You know who else was a failed artist and a vegetarian?  Hitler."  So I guess I've got that going for me?)  Here is the end result:





Now, I did not come up with the crest all by myself.  I found a logo for a game called Chaos that took the German National seal and added the bomb and dagger.  Since I have raised my birds on punk rock music, I liked the idea of a very dangerous chicken as a logo.  I added waddles and a comb to the eagle and then added the touches of color.  I actually had an anarchy symbol on the rooster's chest, but I thought it was getting a bit busy.  I could have been a bit more creative, but as I have noted before, I am rather lazy.  Here is a clear image of the crest:



I hope everyone has a very safe and enjoyable New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Well, it is that time of year again.  To thank all of you for reading my self-indulgent drivel, I got you this card:


(click to enlarge)

It was, quite frankly, the very least I could do... and I really do mean that.  Just print it out (go for the photo paper so I don't look cheap), fill in your name, and put it on your mantle, or wherever it is you put your holiday cards.  Make sure to put this one in front, because it is really quite special.

Best wishes to you and yours over the holiday season.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 2

Things were looking better on the morning of Day 2.  The sky was blue and everything looked beautiful and peaceful.






Mrs. BFP had made cookies so Petunia was safe for the time being.  Of course, I was informed that the cookies were for the Mrs. to bring to work, so Petunia's fate again became very questionable.  Then, I just decided to eat the cookies anyway.  Things got a little less peaceful after that, but I needed strength to move around in the snow... I'm a big man.


Petunia and HT finally got the nerve up to come into the yard and play.  They had a pretty good time exploring their suddenly unfamiliar evironment.






Surprisingly,  Petunia has been the pioneer in snow adventuring.  She even figured out that the snow was not as deep under the pine trees.  She decided that these were ideal places to poop.



Snow seemed to watch with interest...



but then I realized she was probably just hungry.



Thus, I went about the rest of my chores.  After all of the animals were fed, I set forth to dig the cars out.  Thankfully, one of the local farmers came through and plowed our driveway during the snowstorm.  Apparently, he just does this every snowfall.



All I had to do was dig out my parking area, but admittedly, that was easier said than done since it is quite a large area and we have multiple cars.  After a few minutes of shoveling, I was ready to give up and go inside and eat Petunia.  Then suddenly, like an angel riding down from heaven on a '59 John Deere tractor, the farmer came back.  Generally, when I imagine angels, I don't think of them chewing tobacco and spitting everywhere, but whatever... he came through and plowed my parking area.  What would have taken me hours of work, he accomplished in two passes with his magical tractor.  I did not know how else to thank this angel in overalls, so I offered him a beer.  He graciously nodded and I ran inside and yelled for the Mrs. to grab a beer.  Although she noted that it was not yet 10 a.m., I didn't think it mattered.  In heaven there are no such rules about drinking before noon.

The farmer and I had a nice chat.  He noted that he has a farm on the other side of the Bumpases' owners.  He likes to make sure that his neighbors are safe, and he quickly recognized that the Mrs. and I were "Yuppies" that likely had no clue what they were doing.  Thank goodness Brett Favre and Mike Rowe were not around.  That would have been really deflating.

Thus, crisis averted.  With a little extra work and ample help from my neighbor, we all survived the great blizzard of aught-nine with nary a problem.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 1... still

It is just getting crazy out there.  I went out around 3 and dropped a measuring tape in the snow.  We had about 17.5 inches and we have a few drifts that might be closer to two feet deep.  It's still snowing now and I think we might be close to the 20 inch prediction.



When I let the dogs out this afternoon, HT looked at me as if I was crazy and then relieved herself on the front porch.  (It is a covered porch, but we have a couple of inches that blew up there).



Petunia made a go at it, but backed back up on the porch and took her sister's lead. 



They only mustered up the courage after I walked off the porch.



HT, however, thought better of it as soon as she got down the steps.  She quickly ran back to the safety of the porch.



Pea similarly realized that she was in a bit over her head (almost literally) and decided to join her sister for more quality couch time.



Kane, enjoying her newfound freedom, had a much better time.



She was racing all over the back yard, but as I mentioned, there are a few deep snow drifts.  I was lucky enough to catch this photo just as she found one of them.



Yes, that is a tail in the top left corner.  It didn't stop her though... she just kept running.



The horses have been getting around a bit easier, but the snow still comes up to their knees.



Snow can just make things difficult.


Day 1

It is day 1 of the blizzard of aught-nine. We are stranded on Bully Hill farm and provisions are running low.  I woke up at 5 this morning, had my morning coffee and ate the last bit of leftover tiramisu from my office holiday party. Without tiramisu, things are looking grim. If rations run low, I'm thinking I might eat Pea first... sure there are the chickens, but that would mean I would have to put on pants and boots and walk 50 yards to the coop.  I'm pretty lazy and Pealeaux has always looked sort of tasty.  Shhhh, I think she's on to me.



Still, she's never exactly pulled her weight around the house.  Pea's on notice.

This is what things looked like at 8 a.m.






I'm guessing we have between 6 and 8 inches out there, and we are expected to get around 20 inches.  In anticipation, I went up to the barn this morning and put blankets on the horses.  They were hanging out in their schluffin' barn (the one on the far left in the photo above), but once they were clothed, they decided it was OK to just hang out in the snow.



Hopefully they have enough sense to go into the barn if they get cold, but I'm not sure.



Heckel and Jeckel enjoyed a quick romp through the snow, but decided it was much nicer on the couch.



It was a little too dark when I had Kane out this morning (and she is mostly white) so those pictures did not really come out well.  She, however, was enjoying her first taste of freedom since she was spayed.  I have had walk her on leash for the past two weeks to make sure that she was not stretching her incision.  She was not a fan, but it has probably been a good thing, because it has forced me to work on her heeling when she is on leash.  She is doing very well.

I'm going to curl up with some dogs and a book and enjoy the day off.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A very manly day

It is a lovely day on Bully Hill Farm.  We are experiencing the first snowfall of the season.




While it is rather picturesque, as you can tell from the pictures, it has created some problems for me.  I finished my first week at my new job (it is great and I really like my co-workers) and I was going to go out clothes shopping for some business casual attire.  As you can tell from my photo, I tend to where suits and top hats, so I was a bit over-dressed this week.  Unfortunately, the nearest "big and tall" men's shoppe is quite a distance and driving might become an issue.

Thus, as I debated going out into the world this afternoon, I tended to my morning farm chores.  When I went up to deal with the horses, I found that someone had up-ended both of the outside hay racks.  It was quite obviously Snow.  One of the hay racks had been beaten to a pulp and was incapable of standing up straight.  (Sadly, I think that brave little hay rack has seen its last days.)  Since it has been raining/snowing every day for the past two months, we have been putting most of the hay in the wall-mounted racks in their schluffin' barn.  Apparently, Snow wanted a bit more hay and took it out on the empty hay racks in the pasture.  (That will teach them to withhold food from her.)  This could be an issue.  Thus, I decided I would take a hay rack from a vacant stall and put it up in the schluffin' barn to hold additional food... and prevent future outbursts.

I'm going to try to paint a picture of just how amazingly all-American and completely manly this was.  The hay rack is bolted into the wall and I was going to need my ratchet set to remove it.  I was also going to need my cordless drill to pre-drill the holes for the bolts when I re-mounted it in the barn.  Thus, I walked down to the garage and grabbed my Black and Decker drill and a large drill bit.  I also grabbed my ratchet wrench and both metric and SAE sockets... because I didn't know the size of the bolts and I was not about to be unprepared.  Being unprepared is not manly. 

So there I was, dressed in dirty Carhartt work pants with a ratchet wrench sticking out of my back pocket, a heavy hooded Carhartt jacket with hay bits flecked all over it, a knit winter hat, Muck Boots with mud all over them, and carrying a drill.  As I walked past my big, honkin' Ford F-150, Cowboy and Sarah, two dirty and very American, yellow labs came up on either side of me to watch my very manly endeavor.  Then out of nowhere, Brett Favre drove up in a rusty old pick-up truck, which he obviously doesn't own.  He jumped out wearing Wrangler jeans, that he obviously doesn't wear, and threw a football to me in a perfect spiral.  I dove to make a great catch and slid through the mud.  Brett and I both laughed at the good wholesome fun we were having.  Then Mike Rowe, from Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs drove up, pointed to my truck and noted that it is a good time to own a Ford truck.  (Note: I still think of him as Mike from the Sunday Showcase of Homes, which was a local Baltimore program, but that is not quite as manly).  Mike and Brett asked if they could help, but I, being as manly as I am, declined.  They both hung their heads and walked away sulking, as I climbed over the fence into my top pasture and started heading towards my barn with the giant, metal, patriotic, American flag-themed, Amish-made barn star.  I walk through the barn and both Ellie and Snow turned and took note of their confident, hard-working owner.  They were obviously quite impressed.  I walked over to the schluffin' barn and opened the subject stall which is empty except for an old ladder, some old barn wood, and a few discarded stall doors.  I walked right up to the hay rack, fitted the socket onto the first bolt and started ratcheting. 

Now, it was at this moment that my hand went into a spider web and I screeched and started flailing around, slapping at my hand and arm just in case a brown reclusive spider was about to bite me.  You might think that this was not a particularly manly course of conduct, but it is just good common sense.  The bite of a brown reclusive spider can cause a nasty, painful, ulcer-like wound that turns all purple.  The bite can even cause more serious issues such as a fever, kidney damage, and/or death.  Thus, it just made sense to try to stun it with a high-pitched scream and then use my cat-like reflexes to strike it dead.  Granted, I'm not sure there was a spider, but when you've got manly, ninja-skills, it is hard to turn 'em off.

Anyway, I put the hay rack up in an accessible area so that the horses could make use of it, and I quickly went back to the house to shower.  Also common sense, since I don't know if any creepy spider eggs got on me... eeeeeew. 

It was a very manly day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Snip-snip

As I have previously noted, Kane is being  fostered through the Baltimore Humane Society.  She is currently out of the house preparing to get spayed.  She also got microchipped, another shot, and a heartworm test (negative).  She will be up on their website for adoption shortly, but I still plan on doing a CGC test with her.  Hurray...


Sunday, November 29, 2009

More training

Things continue to go well with Kane.  I am preparing her for her Canine Good Citizen certification test.  One thing I have noticed about Kane is that she does get a bit scared/overstimulated when there is a lot of stuff going on.  As such I have been taking her for walks on a nearby hike/bike trail to expose her to more/different stimuli.  She was terrible the first day we went.  There were so many smells and squirrels and people that she simply would not heel.  It took about an hour or so before she started to figure it all out.  If she went to the end of the leash and the leash became taught, I simply stop walking.  Fancy psychologist types would call this a "negative punishment," because I am punishing her for bad behavior by taking away a benefit, moving forward.

The second walk was better, but she still was not perfect.  She would decide that she wanted to check something out so she would pull, then I would stop and she would return to my side... only to pull again as soon as we resumed walking.  It was quite a little dance that we had going, but she was better by the end of the walk.  The nice thing about Kane is that you get to see some progress at the end of a training session.  I have trained countless dogs in which it took weeks to get the sorts of behaviors down that Kane picks up in a single session.



On the last walk, Cowboy and Sarah came along for the ride.  This was good and bad.  It was good because it taught Kane that she had to walk with me and not the other dogs.  It was nice to see that she can certainly walk and be in close contact with other dogs and still listen (though she was less than perfect).  It was bad because Cowboy would run and bark at everyone we encountered on the trail... everyone.  Kane got freaked out a bit when Cowboy and Sarah were barking and generally behaving badly.  The first time they went into their barking frenzy, Cowboy ran back to us and Kane snapped at him.  Kane was better by the end of the walk, but she was still a bit on edge and had trouble heeling when the other dogs were carrying on.  The interesting thing is that she never participated in the barking, she just got scared and overstimulated and stopped listening.

I was told that Kane was owned by a family which was not permitted to have a pit bull dog in their apartment complex.  Thus, she was walked very late at night and very early in the morning when she would not be seen by other people.  This seems consistent with her behavior.  She was not sure how to properly behave on a walk, but she has been wonderful greeting and hanging out with people in my house... something my own dogs have not mastered.  It may take a bit of time to desensitize her to encountering people and things while walking on leash, but I'm confident that we will get there.

She does so much well and she learns so quickly that I'm sure she will be able to adapt to most environments.  She has never had an accident in the house.  She has great focus when learning new stuff and she thinks training is great.  If I ask her to platz (down... it is actually German for "place") she does not just lie down, she throws herself onto the ground.  When she knows what she is supposed to do, man, she does it, and she looks thrilled to be doing it.  The problem will be keeping her from getting bored because she seems to want the mental stimulation.  I started teaching her roll-over (or "rollen" auf Deutsch) last night just to teach her something new.  She almost has it.

So, if you want to be a nutty dog person that competes in fly-ball, agility, or something like that, put Kane on your short list.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Misfortunes in patio construction

Although nobody has seen a bear in this area in quite some time, I do have a Bobcat living in my backyard.



Unfortunately, for me, the Bobcat is not doing anything at the moment, just sitting there.  As you can see from the little weather widget, it is raining and nasty on Bully Hill.  Here is a photo of the backyard early yesterday (the hose is the general area where I am going to build a wall and the shovels indicate where I will put the step into the rest of the backyard):



Although the good news is that we did get a lot of dirt moved yesterday.  The bad news is that it is a nasty mess and I can't get any work done on it today.  This is what is looks like right now:





That's trouble because I was planning on having the area cleared and landcaping fabric put down so I could start adding the aggregate.  The good news is that all of the stone, sand, and aggregate was delivered on time today.  The bad news is that it will be sitting in my driveway for the next day or two.  This all means that I will be dealing with a very annoyed wife.   I've seen my lovely wife take out a charging Labrador and I'm scared.  (Note: I have a lengthy history of starting large projects and not completing them in a manner most people would describe as timely.  This seems to be one of the very few things that frustrates the Mrs.)  Thankfully, the chicken coop has a heating lamp in it so I should be able to stay warm tonight.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Movie time

I realized that I was getting a bit excited about Kane's agility performance and I forgot to show some of the more basic obedience training. Here are a few short videos showing Kane's progress. She's not perfect, but she is doing really well for two weeks of training. I apologize in advance for the shakiness of the video. I might be going through cheese withdrawals. Still, if you get motion sickness, you might want to take something before watching.


Heel:

video

Obviously, she should be in a lot closer to my hip and she should not be jumping up, but she wraps her head around my left leg nicely and she really is committed to staying by my side. So much so that I could not get a video of her recall this morning. She simply would not wander off in order for me to call her back.


Sit/Stay:

video

Kane was performing a sit/stay beautifully. I took out the camera to get a video and then she started messing around. Thus, this was take number four. Maybe we still need a bit more work on this one.


She does a down/stay too, but I didn't think it warranted a separate video.


For something a bit more exciting, I took this video of HT and Pea playing fetch. As I have noted previously, we were getting bored with the same old, same old, so we have been switching stuff up from day to day.

video

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Un-Kaney?

As I have noted in my previous posts, Kane, or should I say, my uncanny X-girl (that is showing a bit of my inner dork), is doing great with her training.  She has advanced from simple recall and heeling to agility work in just a week.  That is pretty remarkable.  I got some good shots when we went out for the morning training session.

She was excited and ready to go this morning.  I think she is getting the idea that is fun stuff.



The tunnel was a bit more difficult for her than the jumps, but tossing a few bits-o-kibble in there got her through it.



Jumps were no problem for Kane.  She was doing them in a perfect heel.  For the sake of photo-taking I was making her do a sit before jumping.  My timing with the digital camera is not very good and it takes about 50 shots to get 10 photos with a dog in it.




Even the taller jumps were not an issue.



She had some concerns about the tire jump at first, but she got the idea after a few sessions.




That A-frame was an easy task mentally, but...



it does get pretty difficult when you've been through the course a few times.  I think I've mentioned that she has issues with her stamina.



Finally, the see-saw.  At first she thought it was another jump.  Thus, I have been keeping it simple and rewarding her for getting up on it.  We have started with the front paws.  We'll make things a bit more difficult next time.



We're gonna keep pluggin' along, but I could not be more pleased with this dog.

UPDATE:  She got the see-saw this evening and is now running through the entire course without stopping.  She's a monster.  Someone is going to be getting a really fantastic dog.