Monday, April 30, 2012

Kitty Porn and Product Placement

A few months back, our gorgeous Leo got very, very ill with lower urinary tract disease. He had to be hospitalized for a day (it would have been more, except that I convinced them that I was sort of a medical professional and could give subcutaneous fluids), get pumped full of drugs, and have his bladder manually expressed. It was a bad week, and I was so afraid I was going to lose him that I was thrilled when he got well enough to fight the treatment.

However, I did learn a lot from that episode. Like, that weight control cat food can be very bad for cats, and that any pennies you pinch on food can be more than made up for by one killer vet bill. Also, that some cats need to be enticed into drinking water, and apparently Leo is one of those. He used to drink lots of water...out of the fish tank. When we moved for the third time in three years, I had decided I was really sick of moving a 55 gallon tank and sold it, and Leo quit drinking water.
Enter the Fluval Chi, which I now believe to be the most perfect drinking fountain ever invented for cats. Between the three of them and evaporation, about a half inch of water is lost a day, but it is easy to top off, and we still have four of the five initial goldfish purchased the first week (our cats don't try to go after them...but your mileage may vary). The cats love it, and between all the water they drink and a much-improved diet, Leo has been doing great. Note: I am not in any way affiliated with this product...just a happy customer who has completely abused but not broken hers.

Dar la Luz

My new chickens and my old chickens are finally starting to get along, after much squabbling. The New Hampshire Reds are pretty, but they seem to be afraid of everything - including but not limited to squirrels and falling leaves. The Freedom Rangers never have gotten into any trouble. They just keep their heads down and eat like they've never seen food before.
Have I mentioned how spoiled they are? Their palatial abode now boasts a front porch (with light) and a chandelier in the grand room.

I think I've managed to talk myself out of getting more chicks this year. This week is the beginning of my new apprenticeship, and the last thing I need is to have a bunch of tiny lives depending on me! Especially since in a month or two it will be the summer of love for the bunnies...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Site plans

I was at a really, really long birth, 3 days long! Holy crap. Births like that really derail everything else for a while, and I'm still tired and groggy. Mama and Babe are fine now, and resting up. This is what I was working on before all that started happening... Making garden plans is so much more fun than actually shoveling dirt...

I had to draw up an accurate site plan for the property for the permitting office so that we can install the spa (that I am so eager to soak my gardening-weary self in). Since our house was originally built in 1923, when apparently all you needed to get a building permit in LA was to scribble your intent on a cocktail napkin (and maybe slip the guy behind the counter some bootleg gin), even the city records people didn't have a site plan. Weird, since the house was heavily modified in the 50s and again in the 80s, with permits but no site drawings. Anyway, I got to crawl around and measure a bunch of stuff. Good times.

The house and driveway take up most of the space, so I have to use the backyard wisely. Most of it is too shady for vegetables, so the chickens and rabbits live there. Our sunniest, most open area is the driveway, so we have a bunch of plants in containers there.

The long-term goal is rooftop gardening - we have a lot of beautiful flat roof, just sitting there doing nothing right now...but some infrastructure work is required before we can make that happen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Even though I have more chickens than I need already, I'm seriously tempted to take a little drive and pick up a couple of cuckoo marans chicks. Those chocolatey eggs are so cool. I need a bale of straw anyway...nevermind, the local shop won't have them until Wednesday. Possibly I will have come to my senses by then.

Over the last couple of weeks, it started to become clear that the area of the yard where I had put the rabbits was not going to work out. That corner used to be shaded all the time, but this winter I cut the ornamental cherry and lemon trees way back (trying to bring the lemons back down to my reach - they were previously banging on the second story window). On the plus side, more sunny space for growing things, at least for a year or two until the lemon tree fills back out.

The buns were over here:
Now they are over here, under the eternal shade of the huge-ass avocado tree.
I'm not that happy with how they look, being all mismatched. That might seem a little fussy given the general state of funkiness around the property, but I'm trying to make things prettier. Next time I have some spare money I'd like to build a proper row of hutches, mounted against the back wall up higher, then sell all three of these on Craigslist. Come to think of it, that project might pay for itself. Where the rabbits used to be, I'm going to build up a raised bed with some of the wood that I have lying around, and fill it up with all that compost I had to move to make room for the rabbits...that way I clear up a junk pile, save something from the landfill, and improve the garden all at once! Super-win! Now I just need to decide what sort of part-sun nitrogen-fixing crop would be happy in that spot, any suggestions?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Home Ec

The sky is dim and drizzly today, so the gloriously sunlit stained glass type photo I had envisioned of the excellent marmalade we made yesterday ended up looking like this...
So sad. Trust me that it is both gorgeous and delicious. Cinnamon loquat jam was made as well. Did you know that peeling/coring loquats for a couple of hours will stain your fingertips brown and leave a weird lacquer on your fingernails?

Musical interlude:

 My husband's great-aunt had a bachelor's degree, way back in the day, in Canning Technology from the University of Washington. I always think of her when I'm sweating over the canner.

 On friday I put up my first batch of beer! Another excitingly dim photo!
And nine bottles of limoncello. This is one of the chief exports of our household economy, along with hugs and bruises from well-placed kicks and punches.
Limoncello is best drunk very cold on a hot summer afternoon in the company of good friends, though sometimes it is a good idea to break it open on a chilly winter night and inhale the scent of summer.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Rabbit Report

Seriously, rabbits are the easiest animal ever. I had thought that honor belonged to the chickens, but the bunnies are making them look bad. So quiet, so cute, never squawking or fighting or waking me up too early in the morning.

I had always planned to have a core group of three - two does and one buck, but it took a while to get my third girl. I might add a third doe at some point if I can find an unrelated Californian doe (it would be nice to have some pure breeds to sell), but that's down the road a ways.

Boyfriend is looking good - he has gotten so big!
He is pure Californian, with dashing black tips to his ears, nose, paws, and tail. He's a shy guy who likes to rearrange all the items in his cage when no one is looking.
Guera is my New Zealand girl, and I have to say I'm just not that excited about her. Maybe it's because she's all white with pink eyes and seems like a lab animal, maybe it's that she's super skittish and unfriendly...but her breed is supposed to be one of the best. We'll see.
She's still pretty small, and not growing nearly as fast as the others, but those fine bones are supposed to be a good thing.
The new girl on the scene is Marta, a Flemish Giant/New Zealand cross. She is enormous - she's younger than Guera and probably twice as big already.
I really like the brown color and dark eyes - I think she and Boyfriend are going to make some beautiful babies together.

So far, the rabbit project has been pretty cheap - I have spent $40 on the rabbits themselves (probably could have been cheaper, but I wanted to start with good stock from good people), $30 on hutches (two were free, one used from Craigslist) and about another $30 on water bottles and feeders. They're still less than halfway through the first 50# sack of pellets, so between the three of them they've eaten about $6 worth of feed. The main chore is refilling water bottles, so when I can I'd like to set up a drip system, and I have to get the grow-out pen (currently in use by the half-grown chickens) in shape before the breeding group is of age.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Resume writing and e-book reading

I normally hate writing these things, but I've been working on mine all morning and decided to relax a bit and have some fun with it. You see, this time I'm writing a resume mostly for people who I've met at least in passing, and need to remind them who I am and why they want to work with me. Most resumes are so dry and formal...I had a job for a while where I had to do the first-pass screening on all the resumes that came in for job openings, and it really makes your eyes glaze over after a while.

What I've been reading that's a lot more fun is all kinds of cheap or free e-book content from Smashwords. Good times! Some of it is great writing and some is horrible, but that's the beauty of self-publishing, right?

Around the house, we're working on rebuilding the deck, and I finally got the tub of jello moved out of the playroom so that the pole dancing can begin again. It's a rough life we have around here. The chickens and rabbits are well - in fact, I added a third rabbit to the herd a while ago, but she's a little camera shy still.