Friday, October 30, 2015

The Collard Thief

I looked out of the window the other day, and what do I see, but the sheep on the back lawn.  When we had a few sheep she had a bit more of a name, either the fat ewe or the young ewe.  Well now she is the only ewe, so she is just 'the sheep' or 'the ewe'.  We have a little gate that goes into her field that is on a springy hinge, put in way back when so that when we were carrying an arm load of hay, we didn't have to struggle to open a gate.  Over the years, some of the sheep figured out how to open that gate by getting their top lip behind the edge and pulling it towards them and then barging through.  I think the hinges have got weaker/rustier over the years and don't spring the gate shut as fast or as strong.  Anyway, it is all fine, if the sheep doesn't think there is enough food in her field, she can let herself out, go along the back of the barn and around the corner, and depending which gates are open, has a choice of other spots to eat.  It's pretty darn handy for the most part.  The only negative part is that we MUST REMEMBER to make sure that the gate that would let her onto the back lawn from the alleyway, is closed.  And sometimes, we forget.  

Luna came out with me and virtually slithered down the steps from the deck and across the lawn to get to her.  It's so hard to capture her intensity with the camera, because generally she doesn't get down low, although she sure was going down the stairs.

The sheep came over to me, maybe I had an apple?

No I didn't.  
There is a patch of collards and kale at the top of the driveway near that open gate, that she would always help herself to when she got out.  It had a bit of a fence around it to keep the dogs out, but it certainly wasn't sheep proof.  A while back I finally beefed up the fencing, thinking that if the sheep got out again, at least she couldn't get at the greens, because she's helped herself a few times over the summer.  So I was feeling all smug when I walked over to check on it, and low and behold if the sheep hadn't pushed underneath my netting and got in there and eaten a few bunches of collards, and this time some of  the kale as well. Sorry veggie customers! Then she had crossed the driveway to where I had cleared out the garden where the salad greens had been growing, and there had been one volunteer chard plant that was looking really healthy that I had left.  She had eaten that off too, as well as an unusual looking lettuce growing next to it.  
Frustrating, although, yes, it is our own fault.

Luna, quit looking like a bird dog and give her a nip for me!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Bone Thief

Yesterday afternoon Larry made the drive into Vancouver to the ophthalmologist, for a checkup on his Fuch's Dystrophy cell transplant.  He wasn't back by late afternoon, and the dogs were expecting their walk. Since they had been to the dyke in the morning, I took them through the bush in the afternoon.  Now I think this may be the first time I've walked through there without Larry since the cougar/deer incident.  I had the Bear Bell and the Kougar Konker with me, which really is probably unnecessary, but it made me feel better.  I'm sure a cougar or a bear has been in our area other times, and we have been totally unaware.  I wasn't nervous, and it's easy to see through the underbrush now, so I didn't feel like I could be surprised by something hiding close by. This picture is for you Henny, because your picture of Eli with his bear, so makes me think of Jake with his rabbit.

And I've discovered that Jake is the little stinker that is carrying bits of deer carcass back to the house.  He usually pokes around where the deer was, picks up a bit of something and carries it out to the trail and along on our walk.  Then he may drop it somewhere along the way when something smelly catches his interest, or he may carry it all the way back.  He thought this bit of backbone and ribs really was something extra special.

He didn't even care when I picked up the rabbit and started flinging it around.  For Jake to pass up the chance to fetch something, well that's a rarity.
Luna ended up with the bunny, and she mauled it a bit and flung it around herself.  She will amuse herself with a toy, whereas Jake always needs human intervention.

Larry arrived home just as we got back to the house.  His appointment was quite long as testing was done on his left eye, and he had paperwork to fill out, and he is now on a six month waiting list for cell transplant surgery for that eye.  The one that had surgery at the end of June is still improving, and he now has 20/40 vision in it.  He is looking forward to getting rid of the cloudiness in the left eye as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chiropractor Day

Today was the dog's chiropractor appointment.  Now this probably surprises some of you.  Yes, there are chiropractors for dogs, and cats, and horses too.  The dog's chiropractor also treats people, but she has two special rooms that are just for dogs.   There's even an office dog, their own.  He gets to go to work with his owners! Lucky dog:)  We started using a dog chiropractor when Calli was first injured, over nine years ago. We have a different chiropractor for ourselves; we have been going to him long before there we ever used a dog chiropractor.

 Heading to the chiropractors is the same route we take to the dyke, only a little farther, we have to continue on past the creek to Fort Langley.  The dogs know the route to the dyke, at least it seems that way, and it's almost as though they seem a little disappointed when they get out of the car, and they are in a paved parking lot, with no creek in sight.  Jake has been showing signs of slight lameness, on and off, in his left front leg.  Dr. Lana said his tail was out of adjustment, as was his left shoulder.  She worked hard to get him adjusted, and Jake was not happy about it, and he told her once that ouch! that was NOT comfortable. As soon as he is done though, it is straight to the cookie jar, with very pointed looks from the jar to the Dr., but he had to wait until all the dogs were adjusted.  Something in Luna's back was out, which is par for the course with her.  She is hard on her body, I could probably take her every week to the chiropractor and there would be something that needed putting back in place.  Calli was pretty good, nothing much was too out of place,  and Dr. Lana was flabbergasted when I told her that she was 15 years and 9 months old.

It was an absolutely beautiful Fall Day, and as promised we stopped at the dyke for a walk on the way home.  Jake and Luna got a bit of a swim, I had nothing to throw for them, and not a stick in sight, but I managed to fake them out a few times by throwing rocks.  Calli had a deep wade, and put her head under a couple of times to find the perfect rock.

Look at the old lady go!  We walked two miles and all at a pretty good clip.  This was on the way back, about half a mile to go, and carrying the rock in her mouth.
Calli the wonder dog @ 15 3/4years.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Walk in the Park

Yesterday afternoon we went down to the Fraser River with the dogs.  A change from our walk around the block that we do most days.  We had hoped that the river level and the tide would cooperate and expose the big sand bank that we sometimes see there, but there was no sand bank to be seen.  We are a long way from the ocean, but the river is still affected by the tides in this area. There is a little park between the river and River Road, right there, so we went to that instead.  It's a parking lot and some picnic tables and a trail that ambles through the cottonwoods heading east, and then just stops and you have to come back the same way.  Our dogs found it wonderfully exciting, somewhere different, and Calli really hustled along, which was nice for us because we felt like we got some half decent exercise too.  Had the dogs off leash, not supposed to, being a park, and just as we got there, someone else was leaving with their off leash dogs.  There was only one other vehicle there, and it was parked further west, maybe a fisherman.  I figured if they were walking down the trail, they would be at the same end as us.  So off we went. Now Luna likes to forge ahead more than I like, so every time she disappeared around a bend in the trail she got called back.  I like walking her in more open areas or on trails with long straight stretches so I can see well ahead, considering she is reactive to other dogs.  Near the east of the trail there was some sort of hot scent, and Luna was more interested in that, and running with it, than interested in me, so she lost her off leash privileges.  Jake was sticking pretty close because if Luna is getting in trouble, well geez I'd better be a good boy.  He is very sensitive and seems to take all harsher tones to heart.  On the way back we did meet a couple walking another dog, on leash and muzzled.  I got Luna off the trail and had to work on Jake to get him to come back, as he seems to think that he should greet all other dogs, and seems to be developing that senior dog selective hearing.  I had to concentrate hard to keep him in place, and then didn't really have chance to work Luna through the other dog passing, so there were a couple of snarky moments from her. 

It was a beautiful day though, and the river was moving very slowly, maybe the tide was still rising there.  Lots of leaves were floating downstream.

After the walk we went down the little gravel boat launch and the two collies had a swim.  I'm not used to them swimming in such murky water, I like the clear water better, I like to see what is in there where they are running in.

And a shake

And to help dry them off I played games of sending them out and around this tree.

Some dogs like to roll a lot, which was good, as she ended up as the driest.

A mostly nice hour spent by the water and in the sunshine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On Holiday

Last week we were on holiday.  I did not make a single batch of jam.  I could get used to that!  Of course we went to Oliver.  When we are at Oliver, we spend a lot of time on the dykes.  Mostly walking the dogs there, because they can be off leash once we are out of the town boundaries, and it's easy for Calli to get around because it's flat.  I really love the views when we walk to the south of town.  
A taste of Tuscany don't you think? (not that I've ever been to Tuscany, but it's the Lombardy Poplars....)

See the two hills directly behind the orchards and vineyards.  They were burned by the Testalinden Fire this summer.  That patch of trees in the center in the little valley between the two hills is where Testalinden Creek flows down into the valley.  In 2010,  the dam on a small lake that served as a reservoir many years ago up in the mountains, failed.  Most of the lake emptied in a hurry, and water and mud roared down the creek.

You can see the debris fan in this picture from Google Maps.  When we first started hanging out in Oliver in 2012, it was really obvious when we drove through that area on the highway, but now you would hardly notice.   Nature is well on her way to restoring life back to the land. Testalinden Creek is just a mere trickle.

Nature will also gradually restore life to these burnt hills.  They were mostly grass and shrubs.  Some of the trees will survive, and some will not. Come Spring, I'm betting there will be a blush of green once again over most of the hillside.

When we go out for these walks, I'm always on the lookout for 'stuff'.  Mostly edible 'stuff'.  I might not be a hunter, but I certainly am a gatherer.  I found this massive grape vine a few years ago.  Grapes gone wild, growing all over a fence line between an orchard and the dyke.  This year I thought someone else had beaten me to the grapes.  In September we walked down there and I couldn't see a thing.  What I didn't realize was that the grapes were all hidden under the mass of leaves, although surely I must have looked?, but obviously not well enough.   Anyway, thought I was S.O.O.L. this year.  Imagine my surprise last week to walk down there and see grapes, because all the leaves had died and dropped off.  Now the birds had beat me to a lot of them, but I still managed to pick a enough to stretch my arms an inch or two on the long walk back. 

Calli had her own burden, she carried a rock most of the way.

Late one afternoon, we headed off on a bike ride, sans dogs, down that same dyke.  The dyke on one side of the river is paved for quite a few miles north and south of town.  The other side is mostly gravel, but they did pave this stretch this Spring.  I wasn't happy about that, I like it au naturel better, but it does now make a paved loop, what with the two easy access pedestrian crossings of the river, for those that wouldn't be able to travel on the dyke otherwise.

We were on the East side, and before long we were off the pavement.  We walk the dogs on this stretch a lot. 

Further south, the dyke becomes a gravel road for a bit, so we ride on bench between the actual top of the dyke, and the river.  It's quite shaded along this stretch, and we'll walk the dogs here in the summer because it's cooler.  There is a good swimming spot for them along here too.

It was very pretty through there as the sun was about to drop behind the mountain.

Then we crossed the river at No. 9 Rd and headed back north on the paved side, toward town.  It's at this point we start to think that we should have made the ride shorter, and how sore our butts are, and how it is getting quite cool now and don't I wish I had brought some extra clothes.

I hope you were truly impressed by my mad bike riding skillz, riding with one hand, managing to focus the camera and take pictures, and not fall off!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Squashing and Jamming

This WAS going to be part of yesterday's post, but I did remember saying that I was trying to do more, shorter posts, so why not save the next part for another post, which is what this is.  
Well I'm proud to say that I did get all the pumpkins cooked and into the freezer.  The easiest way to do that was to cut the pumpkins in half, and after the first one or two I started cutting them horizontally instead of vertically.  I think the seeds and fibrousy stuff in the middle were easier to get out that way.  I didn't worry about getting all those loose fibres out, after all they are pumpkin, and I was going to puree it all anyway, so it didn't matter.  Then I just put them straight onto the oven racks cut side up, so any juices stayed in the pumpkin, and I cooked them until they were done, an hour or so at 350 degrees.  

Then I scraped the halves out into my biggest measuring cup,  used a 'stick' or immersion blender and pureed it all, and then put porridge recipe portions into glass and plastic containers and popped them into the freezer. 

 At some point I'll take them out, turn them upside down and run some warm water over the container, pop the frozen lump out and fill up some bags with them.  And if you don't want to go to all that trouble for the sake of saving a few dollars, and to get some organic pumpkin, various grocery stores have had the canned pumpkin on sale just lately for $2.50 a can:)  I've bought lots of those too, we have pumpkin porridge several times a week.  It's made with pumpkin, water, nut butter, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.  That is what we take for breakfast when we are at the farmers market.  It's nice cold too.  We never have time to eat before we go, and usually don't get chance when we are there, to eat the porridge until 11am or later.

So this week has been, and still is, a heavy jam making week.  This is what my jam display looked like towards the end of the market last Sunday.  

We usually start out the day with this relatively full.  It would have had nearly 80 jars on it, and 30-36 different flavours.  In the utility trailer behind there would be another 10-12 boxes of jam, each holding a dozen jars.  At this point there were only three boxes of jam left in the trailer.  After the market I was able to restock about 3 or 4 boxes worth of jam from inventory I had at home, but the rest of it had to be made this week. Yep, I am just sooo done with jam making at this point.  Anyway, I'm trying to go into the last big weekend of the market season well stocked.  At least I will be for the Saturday market, they will get first pick.  But the weather is supposed to be rain, and maybe wind on Saturday, so we know what happens to some of the customers on those kind of days.  Both markets continue on until just before Christmas.  I'm down for going to every White Rock one on Sundays.  I'm not sure yet how often I'll be at Abbotsford.

The hens have had a feast of squash innards this week, and the leftover pulp and seeds after juicing blackberries, raspberries and crabapples for jelly.  I saved most of the pumpkin seeds because I have great plans for roasting them.  We'll see how that goes. 

And as for our local wildlife, the cougar was chased off a property a couple of miles east of us a few days ago.  Last week we found bear sign on our trail.  The next day Larry stepped in that 'sign'.  While he was cleaning off his boot, and I was further ahead on the trail,  he decided to make a 'cougar pile'.  By the next day, he had forgotten about it, but I spotted it and called him over to look.
 He confessed that he was the cougar:)

A Squash Parade

  Remember those two big squash (squashes?) that I showed you?  The ones whose seeds I'd saved and I figured were from hybrid plants because they didn't look anything like the parent squash?  Well in our other garden, the one farther away from the house, I had some more of them.  This one was about half the size of those other ones I showed you.  This is the side that was sitting against the soil, so it wasn't as orange as the rest of the squash.

When I cut it open, it wasn't quite ripe inside.

But too late, so I cooked it up anyway

And it made a nice curried squash soup.  Of course the ham on top made it really delish!

I was really disappointed that my attempts to grow enough squash to last us the winter kind of failed.   I may have grown about a dozen squash.  I think a lot of it had to do with the dry summer and where I had planted them and the fact that they had to be hand watered and I just didn't do it enough. 
So I was pretty pleased to see that the place I buy most of my rhubarb from in the Spring (150 lbs or so for jam) had a sign saying they had squash for sale.  Last week I stopped in there and bought about 90 lbs.  I maybe got a bit carried away, but they were only 35 cents a pound, and you know how I can't resist a bargain.....  And they are grown with just horse manure....

Aren't they beautiful?  A Fall display in four boxes.

We so enjoyed the Delicata squash for lunch one day.  That is the long striped one in that top left box.  And I cooked one of the sugar pumpkins up and tried it in our porridge recipe and it turned out just fine.  So on Saturday we stopped in there again, and bought about 9 more sugar pumpkins and a box full of delicata.  Another 50 lbs of squash!  The Delicata are great to have each for lunch. My plan is to cook much of the other squash up and put it in the freezer, so it is all ready to go when I feel like making soup.  I'm really good at having great ideas like that, and not following through on it, so we'll see how that goes.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Things I Do For Those Dogs!

It's a busy jam week this week.  That's because I was a bit of a slacker the week before, and then was at two markets on the weekend and sold about $500 worth, so now I'm playing catch up.  But this post is mostly about the dogs.  I think most of you know that I feed our dogs raw food. 
So this is what I did yesterday morning.  
Cut fish heads in half.  

A friend asked me if I wanted some salmon heads.  I'm always looking for cheap and different protein sources for the dogs, so I jumped on it.  The heads were pretty big, so I cut them down the center so that one head became two halves.  So there I am with my thumb stuck in the eye socket to hang on to the slippery beast while I hacksawed it in half.  Have you seen the teeth on a salmon?  They are like extremely sharp saw blades.  So sharp that I actually worry about them doing damage, so I try to rasp the needle like tips off them.  Yep, there I am, rasping salmon teeth.  Probably going a little overboard with that, but if it makes me feel better, so be it.  So they had salmon for breakfast yesterday morning, and then the rest got put back in the dog freezer for future meals.

Now one of the best things we did when we renovated this house a lot of years ago was replace the dinky kitchen window with a big garden type one, so I get a 180 degree view.  So while I'm stuck in the kitchen I get a good view of the goings on outside.  It was entertaining at one point to watch Jake and Luna.  First Luna rolled on the grass, and then Jake came along and flopped himself down and banged into her and rolled around too. Kind of a 'what you can do, I can do better, hey do ya wanna play?'
Nope, Luna had a bone, which appears to me to be from the deer carcass.   Now when that got carried back to the house, I do not know.  They can't get out there without us opening gates for them, and they sure didn't carry it back on my watch.  Must have been when it was just Larry with them, he doesn't notice things quite the same;-)

  Meanwhile, I was making marmalade. 
Then Larry must have been doing something to get their attention down by the house.  Jake was just hanging around, 'cause you just never know....

And sure enough, she of a short attention span, got distracted by something else, and Jake scored the bone

And then when I looked a little closer, Luna was working on a different bone, a shoulder blade of that same deer, I assume. Same story as to how the heck did that make it back to the house?

And then Luna decided to leave hers, and head Jake's way.  He turned the other way quickly, maybe to protect the bone, or maybe so he couldn't see the evil looks he knew she would be giving him.
What's mine is mine, and what's your's is her motto.

Eventually the marmalade got done, two different kinds, and a batch of jam too.  Then I threw in the towel and headed outside, where I had another lovely job to do.  From the same friend that gave me the fish heads, I had also got a bucket of tripe.  If you didn't already know, tripe is a cow stomach.  It is particularly prized by the raw feeders, because it contains digestive enzymes and probiotics that are great for your dog. If you are interested, here is some info.
Tripe stinks, there is no way around it.  I've found the best way to deal with it is to cut it with scissors.

So I was out at the front of the house with Calli, working away on the tripe.  The scissors are kitchen shears, ones I use to cut up stuff for the dogs, and they were dull.  It was hard work.  I even ended up with a blister on the side of my finger.  Eventually Jake and Luna showed up.  Jake didn't stick around for long, but Luna figured she should position herself in front of Calli, you know, so Calli couldn't get to the tripe before her.

She was snarling at big flies that showed up.  Then I figured Jake must have come into view, although I couldn't see him because he would have been on the other side of the car.

You may or may not notice something funny about her mouth.  She has no canine teeth.  Well actually she still has them, but they are worn down level with her other teeth.  We don't know why, she doesn't play with tennis balls (notoriously hard on a dog's teeth) or chew on rocks.  Yes, she eats raw food, complete with small bones that get crunched up, but that is done with the back teeth, not the front.  Those front canines are for ripping and tearing.

Jake didn't bother coming any closer.  Not that he was even close to start with.

Then Calli moved and she got one of those looks too, and Luna got heck from me for that.
She says but really, I'm such a sweet, sweet dog..

So the tripe all got cut up and onto cookies sheets and cake pans, and went into the freezer.  Once it's frozen it will be bagged up.
I'll bet your day smelled much sweeter than mine!