Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hector's leaving
     These notes aren't really for you.  They're for us.
     He had a good dinner last night, then began to fade.  Last night he couldn't move any more, but he was breathing quietly.
     This morning, his heart rate is going up and down.  When I tried to re-adjust his head, he told me to stop it, that he was doing this himself.  He has begun to take the final deep gasps.
     19 years, doing whatever he wanted to do, and the last few being Top Cat with all the purr-ogatives.  He'll be buried in the back yard with Lina and Treat, lying together just as in this 1989 photo (Hector's the black guy, Treat the calico kitten, Lina the striped).  A fruit tree will be planted in the middle of their circle.
     We should all go so well. 
     He just left.  I've bathed him and the fancy funeral is later on, as soon as I dig the hole.  I'm the daughter and granddaughter of grave-diggers.  Explains my shoveling skills....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Hector Report
    Hector's still here!  We think we've found the secret for turning around the don't-eat, don't-drink phenomenon at the end of a cat's life:  bathing.
     We'd given him meds, hydrated him, worked on his bad stomach.  Nothing really seemed to make him feel better.  Then I began, morning and evening, to scrub him rather briskly all over with a washcloth.  This was originally because it's becoming hard for him to walk and he's had some toilet accidents.  He's easily exhausted.  After the first head-to-tail scrub, he seemed better.  I remembered how I'd scrubbed our cat Lina as a tiny kitten when she'd gotten crusty from her food bowl.  So I started regular baths and bed changes for Hector.
      It seemed to turn him completely around.  He's purring, alert, and eating readily, even hungrily. No, he's not getting better, but he's enjoying himself, or at least sleeping, watching us and his food.  As long as Grampa can do that, he's not going anywhere.  It's not hard to keep up, either.  His brain and his heart are still good, so the rest can be supported a bit.
     Oh, and if a cat won't drink water, heat it up.  They come from desert areas and what little water they drank was probably from the hot edges of the oasis. When they weren't just getting it from the meat they ate (Don't feed your cats dry catfood if you can afford it -- they'll die of kidney failure for sure. Well, don't they?).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hoko River Shake Mill
     Ever seen a sawmill saw sharpened by machine? 
     Tim van Ripper runs the cedar shake mill at the Hoko River sawmill.  Even when he doesn't run into the rare rock, he has to regularly pull the big saw out of his shake cutter and sharpen the massive teeth (in the film, you can see the swoop of the metal rim that contains the saw as the camera swings back into the sawmill after showing the Hoko River and the old sawdust burner).

     Sharpening is a three-step process. The first two steps, which usually take from five to fifteen minutes each, true the teeth.  The final process (shown) normally takes about three complete revolutions of the saw in the sharpener.  If the cedar chunk contains a rock grown into its wood, it can chip a sliver out of a tooth and then re-grinding the teeth and final sharpening can take as long as three hours.

     This is van Ripper's newest saw.  He has two others; the oldest is marked 1899. These big circular saws have been sharpened by machine since they were invented, by devices orginally powered by steam and then by electricity. They required machine-grinding to keep them true, or lined up absolutely flat to their cutting surface. The sharpeners take surprisingly little power.  All that's required is a 1-horsepower motor to turn the saw and lift and apply the grindstone.  The grindstones are replaced every couple of years.
     Note to art welders:  Tim's got some old saws over ten feet in diameter and piles of massive old gears and parts. Think of those in your next installation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Braised Rabbit

     This is the rabbit after marinating in brown sugar and salt, slow-roasting in a woodstove-top oven, then slow-braised with a homemade Chinese-style sauce base and a 1/2 can of cranberry sauce in a dutch oven on the same woodstove. 

     A French braise would have included wine and Herbs de Province.  
     These intense flavors will allow us to use the rabbit for over a dozen different rice dishes for at least a week.  Pen-raised rabbit is costly, but a gourmet treat, and needs to be extended to be enjoyed as long as possible.  Especially these prime bunnies, purchased on the farm where they were raised.  

     What would we do without Wikipedia?  We'd have to be typing in all these descriptions of common, basic methods over and over again.  This is like providing a dictionary, right in the article. And don't tell me you've been reading a traditional book and NEVER almost raised your hand to Search or hit a Link.

Gourmet Cat Food
Finally -- something Hector will eat in chunks:  marinated and slow-roasted, slow-simmered Chinese rabbit.  He didn't want it marinated, or raw, or roast.  He wanted it falling-off-the bone, saucy COMPLEX (No, he didn't get the whole rabbit -- rabbit's expensive.  His stomach is pretty touchy, too, so a few nice nibbles did it).

Did the rabbit with my complex home-made version of a Chinese sauce base and -- my whammo ingredient -- canned cranberry sauce, It adds a sharp, slightly bitter sweetness that resembles -- but doesn't replicate -- plum sauce.  Mix it with apple-cider vinegar and sesame oil, and forget the ketchup dipping sauce.
Or add some hot chili sauce and garlic.  NOM!
I was going to smoke the bunny after marinating it, but decided to try a roast-and-stew treatment.  I've done it with goat, and it's luscious.  Takes a while, but it's worth it.  Makes the rabbit go a long way, because the flavor is so intense.  That tasty gaminess still comes through, but richer and more developed.

Dan was refusing to touch the rabbit until it came out all saucy and oriental.  He had some on rice.  He can't eat a lot of complex things, due to a very touchy digestive system -- his rice was eaten with tomatoes, tofu and a little cheese -- but he had to have a taste of the rabbit.
Me?  Bad weird health and all, I have a great blessing -- a stomach like a leaf-grinder.  I get to eat anything I want.
Hector's still here!

He can barely walk, now, but his spirit is still there.  Cats hang onto their spirit until the bitter end.  He still purrs and staggers off to drink water and rest where he wants during the day.  He just went into the back bathrooms to drink his helping of hot water, and then sat down to suck up a load of cold.  He is doing better today.

A less beloved animal would have been gone by now. You know how it is.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Basement Cat 
Hector is a LOL again.

Friend who left bag of smoked rabbit should know Hector just about stretched his eyeballs and neck out sniffing after the bag as I carried past.

He did NOT want little bits he could swallow (predators don't chew). He wanted a WHOLE BIG HUNK he could attack and shear with his back teeth.  He managed to scissor that big chunk in half and lick it all over.  Then he sat back, full of smoked rabbit grease and juices and looked happy.  Happy Basement Cat. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unwatered Wine

The Greeks said not to drink unwatered wine, for it would lead to madness. I'm snorking down the Gallo Paisano with no care for Homeric safety regulations.

Mostly it's because we're still on death-watch for Hector. I have a million things to do, and can only circle uselessly around them. Or watch Hector to see if he will even eat a smidgen of food. Or to see if he wants me to put on his green leash and let him all rickety pull me around the yard.  The other night he did it in the dark, three times through the working wood-pile.  No doubt to lose me so he could go die under the house.  I'm sorry, but it's the only thing I'm not letting him do.  Mr. Weird is now Mr. Flat-ass Stubborn. Anyway, after two and a half months, all the grief of my life -- humans as well as animal, including a terrible loss and a missed opportunity recently -- is circling my head and turning me into a vegetable (this is drunk writing, so I'm not taking responsibility for any of it).

Ran into a very dear friend on the beach today, who said that their household fell apart as their old dog died.  So I don't feel so lost and stupid about it now.

She had smoked rabbit.  We swapped for our smoked salmon.  Then we spent the evening blathering and laughing. She's one of the few people up here on my intellectual level, and her daughter is a living spark.  I, of course, did not recognize the kid.  How am I supposed to recognize someone I could once pick up and carry and who can now look me in the eye?  Some kid is going to figure out that adults -- especially we old farts -- cannot recognize them before and after the growth spurt and scam us to dead.

Next step, if I can just get anything done:  build the basis for the bee-hives.  I love honey.  The 3 hens are laying what comes to an egg a day.  The seeds just came in the mail.  With honey, eggs and veggies and the occasional fish, we'll have more than enough to eat and swap.

I may have talked myself into milking the old farmer's cows for him.  As he said, his 80 + years hands can't do it any more, and he's had to let the cows dry up.  If I do, it's half the milk, and I don't care how that makes me sound.  CHEESE.  And yogurt.  Which I'll share with him, too.  Fuck, I'm becoming a farmer.

And another shot of the young whale on the beach the other day. Note how close to the shore. It shelves off very abruptly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Young Gray Whale feeding on the Clallam Bay Beach.
Smokin' Dem Salmons
Ah, smoked salmon.  The neighbor gave us a big frozen Silver salmon. Because they don't like Silvers.  Yes, we live where people get to have preferences for salmon.  I, for instance, prefer to smoke pinks.  I find them less greasy once smoked.  Most people don't prefer them.  I don't smoke the big White Salmon: extremely fat Kings.  Once smoked, they only taste like smoked pork.  Delicious, yes, but why pay salmon prices for the same taste?  White Salmon is best just barely grilled. I don't much care for trout or steelhead except for the crispy fried skin; the meat is actually rather thin and sour. Oh, have I gotten spoiled.

Here's the salmon itself.  I tried a Gravlax recipe, but found it too sweet and rather insipid.  I'm sticking to simple salt brine, the meat then well-rinsed and dried, from now on.  Or no salt, Indian Style.  Are we getting gourmet up here or what?

Here's the smoker.  These folks have asked for a photo of it.  It's just some cedar shakes from the Hoko River sawmill and some old grills and broken concrete bricks. That thing in the background is the greenhouse, another scrap building project.  Not pretty, but works great!  Especially now the arctic winds for the melting cap ice are turning our summers into cold, windy horrors for gardening. Guess I just have to wait for all the cap ice to melt and then enjoy hot weather gardening for a little while before we all choke on the carbon dioxide.  Trade-off.

I've made the text larger for this blog. As much for my eyesight -- near all my life, now wandering farther out -- as for yours.  Odd that we get far-sighted but the focus remains as clear.  Are the elder apes supposed to sit on the home hill and watch for lions?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Home-made blackberry wine,  with oranges from the neighbor's niece's orange tree (she lives in California). 

Home-grown oranges taste like drinking very fresh Nee-Hi soda.

The wine has a fresh, fruity flavor -- but it's got the kick of a crowded mule.

Gonna make a LOT more of it next year.  Not a commodity... but a gift.
Finally got the new chicken cage pretty much done. It's made of junk lumber, so it's not necessarily so pretty.

That's Red, White And Black enjoying the new place.

No, I'm not naming anything we may have to eat someday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hector's still here, and has stabilized. He's slipped into a weak, thin, but interested old age. So far, his water bag IV is set at two units (about an inch) of water per day, he gets Diazepam (Valium) twice a day, and while he usually eats a dry kidney-support diet, we let him have anything he wants. What can it hurt, now? Knowing he has purr-ogatives lets him know he's still top cat. Or, officially, Top Cat Emeritus. Leo is Top Cat, now, sort of. Living with Leo is like living with Denny Crane, but without the penis comments.

Chicken emergency resolved. As the hard rains of the El Nino came in, the chicken cage became unbearable. It was originally built for security, but this made it almost impossible to clean. So for about a week, I threw myself into building an actual mobile cage -- a bit too heavy to be an actual chicken tractor -- to get them out of the filthy, muddy, ammonia-reeking trap their home had become. Red, the hen as tall half-way up my thigh, and the boss chicken, was yelling for help.

Yesterday I ignored the lashing rain, each hammer-blow splashing water as though it were coming down in a puddle, and slammed through the project until the cage was at least sturdy and completely enclosed. The neighbor was so upset at seeing me soaking wet in the rain she brought me a nice red rain jacket. I tried to tell her I had spent much of my childhood in the cold rain. My father was injured and in pain much of my early life, and mom just threw us out in the rain to fend for ourselves. We didn't know we were abandoned; we had woods and beach and fields to play with, ponies and peacocks, seagulls and wandering hounds. But we did spend most of our time soaking wet, sometimes just stringing our tennis shoes (we got one pair a year) around our necks on our shoelaces and running barefoot.

But, back to the present. I ran in the house and changed my sloppy sweatshirt so I wouldn't get the nice red jacket wet on the inside and dashed back outside before I warmed up; it's running in and out of heat and cold that makes a weatherproof person sick. By the time I got the cage finished, it was the hen's bedtime, and no time to move them. Red did lay her first egg, however. A PINK one. White's are yellowish, Black's are light green. Easter eggs!

This morning Dan helped me move the hens. Red was squawling to us to come rescue them, and came to my hands to be handed out of the hutch. While Dan ran with her to the new cage, Black came in to be caught, too. My God, is that a fat hen! She's rather gorgeous -- in the sun, shimmering black/green with black edges on each feather. White was an idiot -- white chickens usually are -- and had to be cornered and caught in the muck.

The moment they were all together in their new hutch and cage, they happily started scratching the grass. This is growing over a concrete-tile path that is nearly covered over. Let THEM clean the damn' weeds off the path. Then we'll roll the cage to the next patch on the path and sow the edges with white Dutch clover. Ha! They can replace the nasty thin grass with nice rich clover while they're at it -- and they lay just enough eggs for us to have scrambled eggs twice a week.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Surfing Deer

There's no photo for this, but today we watched a blacktail deer doe swim steadily across from Kaydaka Point in Sekiu to Slip Point in Clallam Bay.

When she got to the breakers over the reef she-- well - pretty much surfed in on the waves, walked out of the foam, and trotted along the pebble beach before hopping up into the underbrush on Bear Kill Ridge and out of sight.

Didn't have my camera with me, but it doesn't have a telephoto lens, so it wouldn't have shown much anyway.

A lot of the deer swim from island to island and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in Puget Sounds. Give 'em a few million years and the earth might see a sea-going mammal descended from our local deer.

Why not? Whales come from the family that spawned hippos and seals from the dog clan. I wonder what a deer-based whale would look like....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dan on the Clallam Bay beach yesterday with Echo, the neighbor's malamute, and the other neighbor's lab, Willy. With film.

It is Clallam Bay Unincorporated Law that before you walk on the beach, you must be issued with a large, friendly beach dog. Take your pick between Greyhound/labs, pit bulls who eat fish heads and then try to kiss you, etc.
Hector's still nibbling food, but he's getting water injections, Kaopectate before every meal, and Valium twice a day. He's very thin. He still likes his back rubbed, and even erects his tail a little.

He is constantly reminded he is still Top Cat, with a special place on the couch (it's actually my work place, but since it's Mommy's place, he considers it a Purr-ogative). He doesn't sleep on the pillow with me any more, and gets snotty about it if I try.

Mr. Weird still gets indignant at medicating. He's always done just as he pleases, and retains his stubbornness, which is amusing. It's HARD to see the black ones -- I have to study shadows to see if Hector is really there or not.

He was carried to the beach yesterday. He couldn't walk back, but he wanted down to sniff wet grass a little. As long as he can show any interest -- and glare at the dog -- he's staying.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Those of you who have been following Hector's story at the Desert Peach site, the old guy is still here! He's lying on the sofa beside me, munching his kidney diet bits.

Hector's Christmas video.

This is a shot at the beach the day after Christmas, 2009. Still pretty handsome, huh?

After he got down from my lap and walked on the log.

Hector walking back from the beach.

Today he can't walk back from the beach any more, but he appreciates being carried down and allowed to smell the bunches of grass down on the trail.

The neighbor's malamute, Echo, was begging to be taken to the beach today and stuck his head in the door. Hector gave him such a look: "If I could get up, you would get such a zetz!"

Friday, January 08, 2010

Rebuilding the chicken tractor, or building a new one. The old one turned out to be too heavy to move!

I'd had the new one partially built, for light weight and security, but it didn't pass the waterproof test. So I had to tear it apart and start again.

Part of the problem is building with junk materials; this is actually much harder than starting fresh with a plan. You have to play jigsaw, and the stresses and balances are much more difficult.

I'm glad I'm stubborn.

Two more eggs since the last one -- one pale brown, the other more yellow. So all the girls have had their first period. If these are the pullet eggs, then the adult eggs should be a very nice size.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

I haven't posted on this blog in a long time, but I'm going to start using it again for actual posts about our non-art life. The farm stuff, sort of.

Here's the first egg, laid by White (the other two are Red and Black; I don't name anything we may have to eat). This egg -- with a tinted shell reflecting White's ArAmerican blood -- was micro-poached, served on homemade bread. The shell was quite strong, from all the crab shells I pick up on the beach and crumble. The yolk was orange, not yellow, and sticky-rich.

Am building a new cage, one I can actually MOVE. I figure it will be better to have an actual chicken tractor, to clean the garden at end of season, get the weeds out of the walk, and not get nasty. It’s made of junk lumber and nails, so it’s not at pretty as the ones at the Chicken Tractor site. I have a terrible time visualizing where boards will end up, so of course it will be a bit crooked and ugly. But the hens will be happier. Happy hens = more and better eggs.