Monday, April 26, 2010

Too Close and Not Close Enough

Out in the garden, bent over plucking some greens, I heard a winnowing sound that I'd barely identified as wings  -- in that split second wondering if it were angry bees and then a crow -- before I had to duck out from under two hurtling bald eagles. They zipped over the fence and flew off along Bear Kill Ridge on a courtship flight.

(Nobody knows who was killed -- the bear or whoever was hunting it)
About six eagles are hanging out in the area; three adults, three immatures (nothing yet from this year).  We call one of the youngsters "Bird-Killer" because she zeroes in on and takes ducks out of the water.  We think it's a female; she's big. A month ago she rose from the reef and flew toward where we stood on the beach, rising over sea-ducks feeding near the shore. 

She hovered, then suddenly dropped and powered along the waves, targeting a buffel-head drake.  The drake took off and flew for his life, Bird-Killer like a big dark jet behind him, her great wings scything through the air, closing the gap by the moment. There was a sudden explosion of spray as the drake dived underwater in full flight.  Bird-Killer overshot, then swung around.  She wafted up, watching for where he would resurface.  He came up, but no sooner than she'd dropped through the air, he dropped back under the surface. of the water.

You could almost see her shrug, before she headed off down toward the mouth of the Clallam Bay River.  She's evidently learned what she can take or not, and doesn't waste action. She's going to be a serious competitor once she gets her white head feathers.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April Is The Cruelest Month

Rats.  Our white chicken died.  No weird foaming, green droppings, nothing.  Just laid down and died.  The poultry site says, "Sometimes chickens just drop dead."

Her eggs had been getting smaller -- I thought she was just ramping down for summer.  She SEEMED completely energetic.  Her eyes are clear and bright.  Who knows? The site recommended some Baytril, which we keep on hand.  But they also said cut grass is bad for chickens -- and I'd been giving them grass (I thought chickens ate grass!).  Maybe they meant oily lawnmower grass, not hand-pulled or hand-cut grass?

We've been keeping cats for 30 years and nearly lost one to a whole WTF? episode with asthma.

And my bees aren't looking so good today.  I SHOULD have kept them warm in the house and put them in today.  I hate saying "live and learn" when other things die.

We were also calling the hen "Steve" (McQueen, in The Great Escape) because she'd got out once by burrowing under the fence.  NEVER NAME A GOLDFISH OR A CHICKEN.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Amateur Bee Rodeo

Drove two pounds of Carnolian package bees home from Sunny Farms in Sequim today.  But of course, it was cold and wet -- it always is when I have to travel or carry something fragile, like art or insects -- with occasional spring-time flashes of sun.  By the time I got home, the bees in the box were chilled, but I couldn't bring them in the house because there were stragglers clinging to the outside of the wire box.  

At the next short sun-break, I whipped open the hives and poured 'em into the hive.  That I forgot and left two of the wax frames out and had to open the whole thing again was just first-timer jitters.  Oh, I didn't tell you I was working these bees without veil or gloves?  That's how I was taught, over 30 years ago, at Ohio State University. I won't work veil-free once the bees are established, but I needed to be able to see and manipulate everything without confusion during this ticklish operation.

The bees were so cold they were balling up and wouldn't pour out of the box.  It took several tries, and by then some of them were beginning to warm up and defend their new home.  They got me in the left wrist and elbow -- but it hardly hurt.  I guess all that working with nettles for soup and greens the last couple of years has made me more immune to stings.  

They're finally hived up humming for the evening; I hope the queen is all right.  I lost about 30-40 bees, but out of 10,000 that ain't bad. When I re-queen with the more aggressive and hardy Olympic Grey this summer, I will burqa up for those babes. And if I ever have to package again, and it's cold, I'll have to make the hard decision to brush off the stragglers in a spare wooden box and take the rest of the girls into the house to stay warm until the weather clears.  They're like the cells of a brain, not individuals.  But if you've ever let a small cold bee crawl up on your finger and carried her to safety, it's hard to think of her that way.

I must get this from mom.  When camping, she paid no attention to yellow-jackets, except to give them their own little pile of food and lids of soda away from the cooking area, or to dip them out of the stew.  She called them "Mountain Kittens."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

ALMOST LOST KIKI -- file under stupid accidents

Our cats had been coughing lately, especially Kiki.  She's the cute calico we rescued up here a few years ago. After a treatment of hairball medicine, the only one still coughing was Kiki. We thought it might be worms; one of our other cats once had worms and the cough sounded like that.

In palpating her belly, our vet commented that she was tensing her lower body muscles.  He thought it might be connected to her breathing. I began to remember that she seemed to cough more when she was excited, or purring.  Could it be asthma?

We thought about what do do next.  He said we should try some cortisone for possible asthma, and it wouldn't hurt to worm a cat in a multiple-cat household.  We could x-ray.  I said we should start slow and go from there.  Our vet is funny.  He said, "Well, I can run the bill up as high as you want today."  We both laughed.

The cortisone shot caused no trouble.  She began to gag on the worm pill and then to slobber and finally to retch.  We petted her, waiting for her to keep the pill or cat it up.  Then the coughing started.  "That's it, that's the cough," I said.  Suddenly, she keeled over.  The vet's face went flat; nobody had expected that.

He picked her up and rushed her into the operation room.  I got out of the way.  I felt my heart turn over when I saw her carry her across a hall wrapped in a towel, but he was only taking her for x-rays. He put her back on oxygen, and then leaving her with a technician, called me in to see her x-rays.  They showed an airway no larger than a straw, and a small pool of vomit in the lungs. She'd inhaled vomit, then the muscles around her lungs had cramped hard, locking her lungs closed.

Each time she was taken off oxygen, the vet said, "She keeps trying to die."  As she lay there, her chest and belly muscles roiling, I put my face down close to hers and spoke to her.  Her wide black pupils shrunk, and her eyes focused on me. Each time the tech touched her, the pupils flared again.  Apologizing to the tech, I asked her if she couldn't take her hands away, in case a stranger was stressing her.  She did so, and Kiki focused on me again.  A cat down the hall began to complain, and her attention flicked toward the sound; there was a cat she was going to have to beat up.  Perhaps the distraction began to allow her muscles to relax. After about a half hour, the vet tried to take her off oxygen. She continued to struggle to breath, but the vet said it was much better.

When he thought she was "critical but stable," we placed her in a kennel, dark and quiet, and I called Dan.  Ever tear somebody's heart out over the phone?  To give her a chance to calm, I went and got the rest of my errands done, with my cell phone on (we live far away from town, and the chickens needed food and the house needed things).  When I came back, she was much better. The vet gave her a shot of antibiotics, to give her lungs a chance against the vomit, and sent her home.

She's much better today, but we're watching her.   She'll probably need cortisone once a month, but from now on everything she gets will be topical; we can't risk another vomiting episode. I told the vet's receptionist they were lucky I'd had a lot of cats and knew this was caused by accident and DNA, or I'd be going ballistic.  "Broken heart, small soul," as my character Lt. Winzig once told me.

Damn dropping oxygen levels on the planet.  Well, you know what they say:  "Cure asthma -- shoot a logger."

Friday, April 16, 2010


After the liquor store was robbed and I sent in the article, the store owner said she was mad at me because the article said the store had a safe and a computer. Wtf? Did she think we all thought she'd been carrying the store funds around in her pocket or recording inventory on a piece of bark? 

She should be mad at the employees who led me around the store, pointing things out and describing what was there and what was missing or not. They made jokes about my reporting in town and watched me writing down quotes and waited while I got 'em right -- which I thank them for, because it was very helpful. 

Now about the security -- even though i didn't have to -- Freedom of the Press -- I stopped writing when the cop requested it, as "an ongoing investigation."  I e-mailed the editor when the local informer asked to to have its name left out, and he did so.  So where was the store owner watching her employees' mouths?  Why did she not make her store security policy clear to them?  I've told these people repeatedly "You're talking to a reporter" and tried to 'splain FotP.

Journalists -- which I'm pretending to be -- have no souls.  We'll send in anything that we can put quote marks around, mostly because editors hassle for it. So watch your mouth around a reporter, especially a freelancer only doing it because nobody else will bother, because it's all meat. WHAT have I said about writers??

Anyway, I just said, "Yeah, you're right, it was an editorial call," and then bought the bottle of wine Dan wanted.  That's another thing a reporter will do -- just nod and agree.  You never know if they'll say something you can use in details for a later article....

Friday, April 09, 2010


Well, it might as well be eating pets, these hogs were so pampered.

Photo in our mini-fridge (left to right): Pulled pork, home-made soymilk, bacon, home-made hummus, rough-cut sausage.

Latest co-op goodie;  fresh home-raised pork.  The woman who owned the pigs was going to keep the shoulder for herself, but sold it to me instead, out of the stack of paper-wrapped meat at Sunsets West Co-op.  $4.00 a pound is NOT pricey for home-grown, boneless, clean pork.  Chopped and cut and spiced it into three dishes (about six meals each): 
  • pulled pork:  end third slow simmered with red wine, apple juice and sausage mix (see below)
  • bacon: center third thin-sliced with an ulu knife while partly frozen, packed in glass jar with kosher salt, brown sugar.  Chunky hard meat cures quickly to tender, flattened bacon.
  • sausage:  rough-chopped with the ulu knife, mixed with kosher salt, fresh chopped oregano-rosemary-alpine mint, dried garlic-black pepper-nettles, packed in glass jar.
Meals so far:  yesterday, one home-laid egg each, one half slice of bacon.  Today, sausage red-eye gravy over home-made whole wheat biscuits.

I got the idea for storing food to be used soon in glass jars in the fridge from the letters column of Mother Earth MagazineWell, where the hell else?

No, we're not filling up a freezer with food.  We raise a few eggs, will soon add honey and fresh veg, to trade with those who DO have freezers full.  Just swapped a dozen eggs for a huge fillet of silver salmon; three days worth of meals and a big chunk just for the cats.  Yes we share -- no sharing, no sense of abundance.  Both sides of the swap thought we made out better over the other guy.  I don't mind cleaning the hen cage once a month, the guy doesn't mind hanging out in the cold water and gutting fish, but both parties got food that was fully cleaned and neat and ready for the pan.  We're having so much fun swapping stuff, we don't care.