Thursday, August 31, 2006

[grumble grumble] horse [grumble] again

After last week's debacle, we decided that Sarah (the horse) would not be let out of her pen without a lead rope.

So on Tuesday, Mary took her out and let her graze. The dog annoyed her (the horse, not Mary), so we went to the middle pasture. Mary hurried to keep up with her. Then, much encouraged, Sarah started trotting. Mary had to let go of the lead. She watch Sarah trot across the 'North 40' (1/4 mile square property used as hunting property) and back into the corner, where she disappeared.

The boundary between the North 40 and a some private property behind it (a hay field with some trees and brush at the back) is half way between Raymond and Hawkins roads -- 1/4 mile from each.

So, we all piled into the van and headed down Hawkins road. Then, we checked around up and down Eight Mile road. Then, I replaced the batteries in the FRS radios (walkie-talkies), grabbed my super-duper Luxeon LED flashlight, and a pair of cheap 10X50 binoculars. Mary got the other radio. She went along the front of the property, and I headed straight back to where she disappeared. I saw a couple deer on my trek (where do they go during hunting season?), managed to get scratched by some brush, and almost got tripped by a strand of barb wire stretched between the properties.

Mary didn't find Sarah, so we went back and gathered the kids back together. I kept walking through and we agreed to meet on Hawkins road. It was getting dark, and it was kind of tough going. Next time I end up on a trek like that, I'm putting on some long pants. The Cold War vintage Army boots work fine, but they can't keep my shins from getting barked and scratched.

It was fully dark by the time I got to the nice easy-going hay field on the other side. As soon as I was in the open, I used the flashlight to check around the field. Then, I went straight north so that I could skirt the edge of the National Forest. I don't think the owners of the field (if they are around) would object to me looking for our horse, but they might like it better if I politely skirt the edge rather than trampling straight through. I saw the van when I was about half way across the field. I called Mary on the radio and asked her to stop at a little tree near the north edge of the field, then I used the flashlight to let her know where I was.

This is a real worrisome situation. A horse can go for miles, and we are right at the edge of the National Forest. If she went a couple miles, then got her lead rope stuck somewhere, someone might end up finding a pile of bones and a halter in several years. Not good. Not good at all.

Meanwhile, Mary was wondering out loud if we should just give this horse to a family that would really like to have her. Actually, she said "sell", and I'm sure that this family would do us justice.

But this brings us to some spiritual considerations. When you really seek to follow God, you have to ask yourself if you're doing the right thing -- or just pleasing ourselves and rationalizing about it. We have received quite a few blessings in the past few years, and I think that Sarah is one of them.

All too many people become 'Christian Fatalists'. Whenever they hit the hard times, they think that it is God trying to dissuade them from some dream or desire that they may have. More often, I think, it is Satan's attempt to derail us the track that God wants us to take. We try not to fall for that.

If we sell Sarah, Paul will miss out on a wonderful opportunity for growth through the 4H group that we found out about the last time this big critter got away. See how this can all fit together sometimes?

But anyhow, after praying for Sarah's safe return, we went to bed. I had already written some text for this blog, but I didn't get around to posting it until yesterday. Distractions, distractions...

That same day (Tuesday), I had taken the big Jeep in to have the O2 sensor replaced (thoroughly rusted in). That's why it wasn't there for our possible use in chasing that horse across the fields. It's also why it wasn't there yesterday when someone called us and told us that our horse was in their pasture.

The gentleman was going to pick me up in the county plow truck, I think, but his wife came here with her two daughters instead. We all went to their house, but the horse wasn't in the pasture. The pasture had been empty, so most of the gates were left open. When they saw the horse, they closed all but one gate. She felt bad about that.

She started to drive me over to the Reagan's place (everyone seems to know everyone else around here) when her husband blasted that big county truck horn. He had just gotten a call that she's up the road at another place. We went there, and there she was standing complacently as an older lady who is obviously familiar with horses was holding her lead.

I thanked her for taking care of Sarah, and led the horse out to the road. From there, we did the same trick we did last time. Sarah trotted nicely next to the van, except she stopped one time (maybe the van was going just a bit too fast). I yelled at her and hopped out. She just stood there complacently as I picked up the lead and got back in. Meanwhile, I noted that the pain on the middle finger of my left hand (not to mention the blood) was due to the fact that a nice chunk of the nail got ripped off. But hey, if that's the worst injury I get from these adventures, I'm doing OK.

We got Sarah home, and the kids got a chance to see the goats. I thanked that family by sending her home with a dozen and a half fresh free-range eggs, and a pint of apple/choke cherry jelly.

Not too long after I got her fed and back in the pen, Mary called. She was very happy to hear the good news.

After she got home, we went to eat at a local church dinner, then picked the Jeep up from the shop. It purrs like a kitten now.

Today, Sarah got seen by the vet. He says that she isn't pregnant. We are half disappointed and half relieved by that. He gave Sarah her fall shots. I took pictures because Mary wanted me to watch and find out where the injection sites are. She knows how to give shots to humans, but has never done a horse. In the spring, we'll just get some vaccine from the local feed mill and Mary will do the job. She also got a dose of wormer, so she should be in fine shape.

The vet says that she looks good, and that she's just fat enough to be healthy -- not overweight. He also said that she can carry me for a short distance, so I'm going to collect some information about riding and give it a shot. If nobody else around here has the confidence to ride her, I guess the task falls upon me. She wants to do some trotting, obviously. In fact, when I started to take her to the back yard, she started to trot. I didn't give her any rope or try to catch up, though. If I did that, she would probably do the same thing to me that she did to Mary.

With a horse, you have to maintain your dominance by using your brain. Trying to use your brawn is simply pitting your weakness against the horse's strength.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cute chicks and other fluffy things

With a genuine zoom lens and a real camera that snaps the picture when you push the button, it's a whole lot easier to get pictures of timid and moving animals. The chicks pictured here have gotten older since the pictures were taken (check the 8/21 entry), but the better pictures are worth showing.

The other puffy thing of the day is a dandelion puff (seed head) that I forgot to put into my last update.

That's it for now. Yes, I'm being lazy. If I get suitably inspired, I'll make another entry later.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Useless Posie Picture Tour

I suppose I should ration these pictures out to two or three a day. Then, I can get lazy and not have to dig up more.

Anyhow, since I just got three rolls of film back, and copied some of the better ones to my blog directory, I might as well send the posies.

By the way, one was taken with the digital camera. I'll let you guess.

Every time I get some good shots with the digi cam, I'm surprised with how good they turn out. The camera is generally less than wonderful with exposure, it doesn't zoom, it doesn't focus, and it doesn't do close-ups at all. Still, within its limited range, it does OK.

Of course, whenever I get a roll of genuine 35mm film back, I am really pleased with the richness of the color and the clarity. I really need to get a high-quality digital SLR so that I can have the best of both worlds. I don't know if any digital camera will faithfully record the range of dark and light that a good color print film will, but I'm willing to give it a shot!

I'll start with a rather ordinary and weedy-looking picture. This stuff is boneset, a wild medicinal herb that is supposed to help heal broken bones.

The next two are of a pretty invasive weed. They are all over the hay fields and meadows here, but not particularly invasive. I understand that they are well-hated in other places, though. They are supposed to make good honey. I'll find out when we get around to keeping bees.

You might notice that they have a 'soft focus' effect. They make a special filter that does that. People use it for portraits and other pictures where a 'dreamy' effect is wanted.

Of course, I got it for free from the close-up diopters that I use. If I try to really get close, they combination of the +4 diopter and the vintage 135mm lens set to close focus really doesn't work as well as I had hoped. I think I need to get a genuine macro lens with some close-up extension tubes.

These may apple 'umbrella' plants are a common sight in most temperate deciduous forests. They like low, rich soil. Alas, they don't seem to like our new home. I guess we have to take the bad with the good. Poison Ivy doesn't like our place, either. If there's one plant that I despise, it's poison ivy.

By the way, there is plenty of poison ivy in other parts of the state. There is even some on the Pine River. I guess we just lucked out.

May Apples are perennial herbs. That is, they have a perennial root, and get new top parts every year. The single umbrellas just feed the roots, while the double umbrellas are the fruiting plants. Each double plant produces a rather exotic-scented (though plain-looking) waxy white flower. That flower grows into a small lemon-yellow fruit that's about the size, shape, and color of a small lemon. It tastes somewhat like grapes when raw, but has an exotic tropical flavor when cooked. I really want to find some locally so that I can harvest them.

Here is a close-up of the flower.

These pretty little things grow in the north-east corner of our front yard. I might transplant some later -- when I get time to do purely ornamental plantings.

I really considered this image to be a waste, but Mary thinks that it would make a good card. I suppose a sufficiently sappy message of inspiration would look good on this picture.

A fuzzy yellow flower. Yippee. It looks like a small dandelion. They grow with hawkweed, so maybe it's a yellow hawkweed.

This one actually came out quite nicely. I don't know what it is, but it's kind of blue-purple, and it kind of looks like a snapdragon. I took the picture because there is a bee taking advantage of the nectar.

Don't get stung! (drat the soft-focus effect... I mean, I did that soft-focus effect on purpose. Really. I wouldn't kid you. much...)

I thought these were Indian Pipes (an actual flowering plant that's lost its ability to produce chlorophyll), but my mother identified them as dwarf pipes.

Ah, yes... the good 'ol Jack in the Pulpit. It's almost the same picture as the old one that I took twenty years ago, but modern films do a better job.

Thank you for indulging me and taking the 'pretty posie' tour. I'll come up with something interesting to write later.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Photographs and Memories

OK, so I stole the title from A Jim Croce song. If he doesn't like it, I'll change it.

A number of years ago (like just after 2001), we were so short on cash that I didn't want to spend the funds on film development. I had lots of those freebie rolls of film that certain mail-order processors give out, though. So, I started using them and putting the exposed rolls in the freezer. The freezer does a pretty good job of preserving the latent image.

After that, I started buying film again. After all, the pictures that I take now will be family treasures in the future. It doesn't make sense to just let my camera sit around while the kids have experiences and move on. So, more film got stored.

Now is the time to start getting that film processed. We have maybe twenty rolls left. What we do now is take two old rolls in every time we finish off a new roll. Sometimes, we take old rolls in, anyhow.

It's an adventure because we never know what we're going to get back. We always look forward to picking up processed film from Wal-Mart.

It's a challenge to number the rolls when we get them back. We need to figure out what year they were taken, and give them an appropriate number.

Yesterday, I picked up 2003-03, 2003-04, and 2006-07. There will be gaps in the other years, but I have processed seven rolls of film so far this year. They are all sitting here in my office somewhere. Also, since I get the digital album service CDs, they are all on my computer. I wasn't going to spend money having them scanned when I have my own scanner, but it takes such a long time to properly scan a whole roll that it's worth the trouble. They don't scan them to the resolution that I can, and they give me compressed .JPG files instead of the high-quality .BMP files that I can get from the scanner. Still, if I want to print them or goof with them in photo shop, I can always scan in the appropriate negative.

So this time, I got some chick pictures (with the mother hens, of course), some from our trip to the beach on Lake Michigan, and some from Proud Equestrians. I have some real cute ones of a girl with her horse, and more of her with a foal that she's raising. I'll post them later.

I got another roll full of flowers and the like. I think I was testing those closeup lenses that I bought a while back.

Roll # 2003-04 contains some good memories.

Remember, we moved to the Cadillac area in August 2003. These pictures were from the spring of that year, when we were really trying to figure out how we could possibly move to a place with at least a little land. Actually, Mary just wanted to move. She looked at some houses on a postage stamp in Warren. We could have gotten a bit more house than we had, but we would still be living on a tiny piece of land in a crowded suburb. I flat-out rejected the idea. It was all too much like exchanging one jail for another.

Around the Detroit area, there is a system of parks called the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Parks. I grew up on the border of Lower Huron Metropark. When we lived in Ferndale, we liked to go to Kensington Metropark.

Since we like to go to Kensington, and because there are three Metroparks (Lower Huron, Willow, and Oakwoods) near my family of origin, we bought a sticker for our van. Armed with that sticker, we went to some of the other parks.

Up near the north end of Lake Saint Claire (that's a relatively small lake between lakes Huron and Michigan) are some Metroparks that we had never explored, so we went there. We walked through some trails in the woods and through pastures.

We visited a farm on one of the parks.

When we saw one of the workers gathering eggs, we asked if we could buy some. He grabbed some right out of the nest and sold them to us. Surprise! Some were blue. We thought that it was kind of yucky that some downy feathers were stuck to some. Now, it's just par for the course to get them like that. We wash the stuff off of them before giving them out, but we don't worry too much about it now.

Anyhow, that one dozen eggs made it up to the cottage with us the next weekend. At that time, Mary was looking at the real estate ads. I thought she was silly for doing that, since there was no way we could afford to move and escape from Detroit.

Little did I know that we would be looking at a house near Manistee, Michigan in just a few short weeks. Little did I know (or have faith) that Mary would be interviewing, accepting a job, and dragging all of us up here.

And life has never been the same. (For which we thank God every time we think about it.)

So let this be encouragement for anyone who is hurting now. God moves in His own time, but when he does, he does so decisively. When he dies, hang on and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lost and Found Horse

Last night, after dark, Mary led the horse from our fenced (but mostly unused) garden out to the barn. She didn't even have a lead on her because this horse has never given us any trouble. She heard something in the middle pasture and went to investigate. When she came back, the horse took off. She went down the driveway, down Raymond road, across Eight Mile Road, and kept going. She wouldn't heed any of Mary's calls, so she went back to get the van (and me and the kids that are too young to be left alone).

We went at least a mile in all four directions (along Eight Mile, and Raymond roads). There was no trace of Sorrel Sarah.

So, Mary called the sheriff's office, then animal control. Before we could get to bed, we got a call that someone almost ran into her. We checked again, but couldn't find her. We came home and called again, and they gave us the number of the lady that had called them. She met us, and showed us where she turned down seven mile road and disappeared (even though she had tried to catch Sarah for us).

When she led us to the place, she stopped and had her lights shining on a horse in a fenced pasture. This horse had a reddish-brown body, but a black mane and tail (Sarah has a reddish-brown body and a reddish-blond mane and tail). After more fruitless searching, we finally got to bed at 2:00 AM.

(I always knew that this animal was going to cost us some sleep.)

I really couldn't believe this. She has always behaved herself, but she decides to get a wild hair and run off at night. How stupid is that? I swear that more animals are killed by their own stupidity than by any other thing.

No word from anyone the next day (Wednesday). But, Mary went to the Bristol store and mentioned the horse. The owner commented that the horse had left a present in her front yard. As Mary was cleaning that up, she found out that someone had found the horse, and gave the number to Mary.

It turned out that the horse had gone the other way on Seven Mile road, gone around a few curves, and over two miles. Sarah appeared in some 4H girl's pasture with her horses. Interestingly enough, we were at the same 4H picnic and awards ceremony, and she remembered the funky-colored eggs that we brought.

They declined our offer to pay them for room and board, but they accepted a couple dozen eggs and some of the apple/choke cherry jelly that I had made last fall.

On the good side, we got the number of the leader of this 4H horse group. Paul will probably attend that group. Hopefully, we can all learn more about horses. There is really a lot to learn about the proper care and use of these animals. People literally make a life-time project out of horsemanship.

Anyhow, this is not the end of the story.

We were about three miles from home with a horse, a mini van, and no trailer. Remember, none of us know how to ride this girl, and she's probably too pregnant to be ridden, anyhow.

The thing is, she went there herself. The lady that almost ran into her said that she was trotting down the middle of the road just as happy as you please.

So, I led her out to the (dirt) road, and Mary came by with the van. We had the right-hand sliding door open, so I hopped in. It was tricky for Mary to keep the speed right because Sarah wanted to alternate between trotting and walking, though she mostly trotted. She generally kept a good 15 MPH speed going. I see the Amish horses doing that while pulling those black buggies, so I wasn't too concerned about wearing her out. She probably isn't in the best of shape, but she did fine. There was no trace of sweating when she got home. When I gave her some water, she drank maybe a gallon.

So now she's home with her buddies the goats. She had her drink and plenty of grass, not to mention the bucket of horse feed that we gave her just before we came home. She has hay in the barn yard, so she can pig out all she wants.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pictures! (as promised)

Today's interview was a very brief affair. I didn't get any real feedback about what they thought. There were four people there, including my future boss (should I get selected).

They didn't ask as many questions as I thought they would. One of them asked about my math skills, and I told him that I got straight Bs in calculus. That seemed to shut down any further questioning along that line. They wanted to know about my proficiency with the Microsoft Office suite, but they seemed to be satisfied before I went through each application. I think that the real litmus test question was how I would react if an angry and agitated student came to me and was upset about an assignment that a professor had given to him. That's one of those out-of-the-blue things that will catch you off guard. They need a technically proficient person for the job, but this person also has to be able to work with the students.

It actually is an interesting question. What do you do when you're in a position of... not authority, exactly, but one of respect? You're there to help the students, so you can't just tell him to shut up and suck it down.

The thing to do, of course, it to remain calm. Ask him about the assignment and find out what is bugging him (or her). Don't tell him that he's being a wimp, that he shouldn't be upset, that he's full of beans, or whatever. On the other hand, don't buy into the issue. Don't agree that the professor is out of line. Of course, I would also have to discuss it briefly with my boss, and maybe the professor. Actually fixing the problem may or may not be possible, but we can always try.

But today's blog entry isn't about my interview. I'll let you all know when I find out more. Meanwhile, I have a few pictures to post. Nothing like eating bandwidth!

It's hard to get decent shots of the chicks because they like to run away or hide behind their mothers. At least now they're stuck in the cage because they're too big to get out through the holes.

So here they are. They're definitely getting bigger. One of them looks like he is the son of one of the banties.

Mary tells me that Sarah is pregnant. Does this look like a pregnant horse to you? Haflingers are supposed to be barrel-shaped.

And here's our remaining dog. I think he's too ugly to die. He wants love, though. Can't you just see him there begging for love? Ugly dogs nee love, too!

Paul and Gabe are lounging at our home sweet home. Note the excellent ventilation.

The roof needs fixin', though. One of them kids climbed on it.

Actually, what you see there is a hastily-erected shed that keeps the lawn tractor, snow blower, and a bunch of garden tools and lawn toys out of the weather. It'll be repaired and packed tight before winter. Hopefully, I can build a hay barn and a pole barn some time next year. Then, I can get the hay bales and a bunch of other stuff out of our garage.

When we first moved in, we left the mercury light off at night. We still like it better that way, but we need to leave it on to discourage the coyotes.

When I put that first batch of chickens in a brooder in the barn, i was disappointed to learn that the light was connected straight to the same breaker that controls the outlets in the barn. If I wanted the light to be off, I had to also turn off the outlets. I couldn't do that without freezing our poor little peeps.

So, I bought a weather-proof electrical box, and an outlet and switch that are weather-proof. Now, we switch the light on and off at the pole, and also have a supply of power right there. It's very handy to start the snow blower right where it's parked. (Not that I want to even think about snow yet.)

This is my hunny out surveying her domain. And if you don't like it, well...

Mary go git yer gun!

Hey, I always wanted a bride that can ride and shoot. We just have to get the riding part down.

Of course, Paul likes to ride and shoot, too. But before he can shoot, he has to pump.

Bang! (OK, so it's more like a pop.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What a weekend!

I haven't even had the time to get on line, which is unusual for me.

There is a new farmer's market in LeRoy, which is a little town somewhat to the south of us. The kids went to school there the first year we were here (when we were living at my parents' cottage), and we go to church there. So, we kind of have roots in that village.

After chores and the usual nonsense that goes with trying to get the kids into the van with all chothing and shoes necessary, we went to the feed mill for corn, laying mash (chicken feed), and horse chow. Then, we proceeded to drop a bunch of money at the market. Of course, I have no objection to supporting our local farmers. About half of the merchants there are Amish. They are good people who definitely have their feet on the ground.

Then, it was home for lunch. We were invited to a 4H picnic because the kids are in the Proud Equestrians program. Paul even won a trophy for "Most Reliable Rider".

It was a pot luck, so I boiled up some light brown, dark brown, blue, green, olive, and white eggs. I also made an apple cake with one of the jars of apple pie filling I had canned last year. The cake went OK, but the eggs were pretty much ignored. I later realized that blue and green eggs aren't as much of a novelty to the 4H types. Everyone concentrated on all the other goodies -- and there were plenty.

Interestingly enough, the Cadillac fair was actually smaller than the Evart fair (which had no entry fee). Still, I enjoyed looking at the animals. One family had four Alpine does (goats). Another family brought an African Pygmy goat. Those cute little things look like barrels on legs. There was also a young nubian wether (castrated male). There were sheep, but I don't know much about sheep (except that they are reputed to be extremely stupid). They had a barn with pigs and beef cattle, and I dutifully looked at them. Some of those pigs looked like they would produce some mighty fine bacon and ham. There was a barn with small animals (mostly rabbits, but also some guinea pigs and hampsters), and chickens. I really enjoyed the chickens. I wish they would put the breeds on the tags, instead of "clean legged bantams" or "feather legged bantams". They didn't have any full-sized birds, except for the market cornish cross (meat) chickens. For once, they actually looked happy and comfortable. Generally, it's so hot at the fairs that the meat birds lay down and pant. These birds were walking around happily (as much walking as a bird can do in one of those cages, that it).

The horses seemed to be the big point of the fair. They had two barns full of them. They were nice animals, too. Some were a little grumpy, but this is normal for the last day of the fair. Those animals get tired of being cooped up in those little barns.

I took a few pictures with the digital camera, but I wish I would have taken more. I tend to be more conservative when I only have 24 exposures. Ironically, I didn't end up using them up. By the time I decided to start using them up, it was too dark in the barns. For some reason, the flash on this camera overexposes badly. That's the last time I buy a camera manufactured by an electronics company. They get the electronics right, but the lens and the programming (exposure. in this case) leaves much to be desired. The next digital camera will be from a real camera company like Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sigma, or whatever.

After the picnic was done, the kids had their rides, and I was done looking at the animals, we went to Wal-Mart. I bought a 512 MB SD card for the camera. Now, I can take over 1000 exposures. Also, I don't have to worry about losing my pictures if I run out of battery (I think -- I ought to test that).

Today (Sunday), we went to church. Then, we had a few things to do here. We had gotten a bb gun last night, and the kids were all excited about that. Paul didn't even want to wait for me to sight in the scope (for six and a half bucks, a scope is nice). I spent a lot of time teaching him how to use it and making sure that he didn't do something stupid. He's getting more confident with it, but it'll be a while before he'll be allowed to shoot without adult supervision.

We had a black australorp and a leghorn go broody (want to hatch eggs). I can't find the australorp, but the leghorn was sitting tight. We put eggs in the broody house (former dog house) and placed her feathered tail upon them.

By the way, leghorns aren't supposed to go broody. They are an egg-producing breed, and the urge to go broody has been bred out of them. Nobody bothered to tell her that, though.

But I don't know what happened to the australorp. I hope we find her soon. She's probaly hidden a nest somewhere.

But that isn't the most fun of the day. No, indeed. You see, Mary is sure that Sarah (her horse) is pregnant. I doubt it, but she's the nurse, not me.

But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story.

Gabe and Paul (the two youngest) have been having arguments with some yellow jackets lately. They lost, of course. I'm getting pretty adept at grabbing a pinch of baking soda, wetting it, and putting it on the sting.

So today, Gabe started screaming and hollering. It turns out that there is a nest about half way down the hill, and he managed to get into it. He got about ten stings or so. One of the hornets even followed him into the house.

Anyhow, she is kind of round and bulgy (the horse, not Mary), but she doesn't look pregnant to me. Mary is sure that she is going to pop any minute, and is in a fuss about what to do if the foal isn't presented properly, and stuff like that. My theory is that horses have been doing this for thousands of years.

But anyhow, Mary asked me to come look at her. She tried expressing a little milk, and got a couple drops. She looked at the horse's butt. (Just what I always wanted to do, oh boy, oh boy. I wonder what's going on with those people who keep sending spam about um... action in the barnyard. I don't think I'll be visiting any of those sites.)

So, we approached Sarah, and she shied away. Generally, all I have to do is walk over and grab her halter, but she shied away and went down the hill and into the front woods. I got some of her favorite feed and Mary went after her. Mary caught her easily enough, and led her to the back yard. I let her stick her nose into the grain bucket, then took it away and jogged to the front yard where she was supposed to be grazing. She trotted after me and ate her food.

But then, Mary had to go to a friend's place for some supplies and information. I agreed to watch the horse and let her graze because she needs to get lots of energy for the impending delivery.

So Mary left, and I tied three lines together and tied it high in a tree. She grazed around happily. I only had to untangle her a couple times. It was getting dark, and she was starting to get jumpy. Just about when I decided that it would be prudent to put her into her pen, she decided to go down the hill, turn around a couple times, and get tangled in her lunge line. She was getting upset, so I ended up removing the line from the tree and releasing it. A horse that panics and gets caught in its lines can get seriously injured. A panicked horse is a force to be reckened with.

She was jumping around like something was really geting to her. I suspect that she got stung a few times. She went running around the back of the barnyard pen, and up the other side. As I was getting ready to go after her, I got stung in the left bicep.

To treat it properly, you need to put the baking soda on the sting within about a minute of being stung. I didn't have time for that. I had to chase her down as she went across the driveway, behind the garden, and into the middle forest. I finally caught up with her and managed to calm her down when she got to the north end of the garden. I led her back and put her in, but one of the goats snuck out. I was about ready to shoot her right there, but I lured her over with some branches of her favorite forage (I don't know what it is, but they sure go for it). I tossed her fuzzy butt back into the pen and went into the house and plastered my sting. The pain is pretty much gone now, but it took a while.

Mary got home and looked at Gabe. He is swollen, but otherwise fine. I know from experience that lots of stings can do that. When I got about 50 honey bee stings a number of years ago, I was alone at my parents' house. I called poison control and they said that if I could talk now, that I would be OK. I still called my grandparents to come and get me just in case. Besides, even when you're a cold war veteran in college, grandma and grandpa can always make you feel better.

So that was our weekend... ho hum. Now, I'm downloading a pile of emal and trying to catch up on the web comics. I have an interview tomorrow (Monday). Maybe I'll have time to upload some pictures to go with this entry.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My, how they grow!

Remember those babies that we had here not too long ago? Well, the chicks are almost too big to squeeze through the fence. They have to search around for a big enough hole, then push hard. Pretty soon, they'll be stuck in the pen (until they learn to fly out).

The ducks look like ducks now. The younger indian runner duck is now quacking, which means that she's a female (male ducks whisper). The rouen duck is still peeping, so we're not sure about that one. Alas, the older indian runner passed away. I noticed that she had a droopy wing and the elbow was a bit bruised. She looked fine, other than that, but Paul found her dead in the shelter the next day. We're having bad luck with ducks this year. Next year, things will be different.

The last batch of pies (meat chickens) are getting bigger. They'll be ready to process in a few weeks. They're already past the single-serving 'cornish hen' size.

The leghorns are definitely getting more mature. They like to roost on the top of the fence six feet up in the air. They still mostly stay in the pen, probably because it's home to them, and that there is food there. When the food runs out, they go wandering. They may well choose to be free range chickens soon.

Bratty animals

A couple weeks ago, Mary's horse managed to remove her own halter. Even though it couldn't have ended up outside the barnyard or shelter, we can't find it.

For a while, it was no big deal. We would let Sarah and the goats out to graze, then put them back when we were done watching them (I won't claim that they were done grazing). It's easy to bribe the goats by rattling a can of corn. Also, we put a dish of sweet feed (oats and corn with molasses and vitamins) in the manger for them. Then, we put some horse feed (looks like rabbit pellets) into her bucket. No matter where she is, we can lead her around by walking with that bucket of feed. When she's almost done, we pick up the bucket and carry it into the shelter. She follows us in and she and the goats maneuver for the rest of the feed.

But after a couple days, she was on to us. Even with a full bucket, she would follow us to the door and no further. Brat!

Actually, she started this trick with Mary. She called me out and told me that her horse wouldn't go into the barn. I grumbled that all you have to do is to carry the bucket of grain into the barn, but it didn't work. I ended up putting the bucket into the barn, then hooking my arm around her neck and leading her in.

Now, please understand that if a horse really doesn't want to go where you want it to go, you're not going to get it there with anything short of a tractor. They are a whole lot bigger and stronger than we are. The only control we have over them is due to a certain respect and authority, assisted by the fact that they are herd animals. They are genetically programmed to follow the herd leader. We, as the keepers of domestic animals, have to be the herd leaders. It sounds simple, but the devil is in the details. You can literally spend a life time learning how to handle horses properly.

But anyhow, we went to Mustang Sally's and bought a halter for her. She wasn't thrilled about letting us put it on, but she didn't give us too much trouble. There's a trick to displaying the kind of confidence and authority, as well as kindness, that an animal will respect.

With the halter attached, we now have a handle. Lead the head, and the body will follow.

Sure, she could still do what she wants despite our best efforts. She doesn't, though. She's a very easy-going horse, and we have never led her anywhere that has hurt her.

[grumble] computer [grumble] modem [grumble, grumble]

I'm sure that my mail box is filling. The computer and the modem are conspiring to keep me isolated and off line. I pulled some parts from the computer, fixed up the head-conductive goop between the CPU and the heat sink, got rid of dust, and reinstalled. Then I scanned for viruses (virii?) and spyware (didn't find anything significent), and tried to get back on line. The modem has never worked right. It's slow, too -- 21,600 (none of my modems have reached 28,800, let alone 56,000). This thing is going back to Wal-Mart as soon as possible.

I have two entries and some pictures to add. I have a third entry that should be uplifting, but every time I try to write something uplifting, my computer gives me guff. You figure it out.

On the good side, I have an interview with Baker College on Monday. For those who pray, I could use some. It'll be great to get back to an academic atmosphere. Besides, I really enjoyed the time that I worked as a peer tutor when I was at Lawrence Technological University.

Now, if I can get the other entries loaded (and finish the one that you-know-who doesn't want me to finish), I'll be much happier. I might even stop grumbling and threatening this machine with destruction.

But I'm getting at least one off-lease machine once I start that job. I need something reliable. I really ought to get two (they're cheap) so I can hang all of my printers and scanners off of the spare. Then, I can turn this computer into a Linux machine. After all, if I don't start working with Linux, they'll take away my computer geek card.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Trip of the Day

After church today, we decided to make a run to Olga Lake.

We live exactly a quarter of a mile from the southern edge of the Manistee National Forest. Olga Lake is perhaps five miles of forest road (trail) from our house. Since we need to use the big Jeep Grand Wagoneer more in order to get some confidence with the recent repairs (rebuilt engine and transmission, refurbished transfer case), we decided to drive the old beast over there.

We had to run around collecting the fishing gear and getting the worms out of the refrigerator, but we were soon on the trail.

Olga Lake is a shallow lake that collects water from the surrounding swamps... I mean wetlands. (That's the politically correct term, right?) Since swamps are nature's filters, the water that gets into the lake is pretty clean. This helps a lot, since most shallow lakes are rather muddy and murky.

We drove up past the National Forest Camp Ground and the boat ramps and drove down a trail along the north edge of the lake. There is a very nice (unofficial) camp area that seems to get a decent amount of use. I had found it a couple years ago, and forgot how nice it was there.

Paul was the first to catch a fish because he was pretty well prepared to go just as soon as he got out of the Jeep. He's the fisherman of the family.

In case you're wondering, what the kids mostly caught were bullhead. I believe they were brown bullhead, but I'm not an expert on the local catfish breeds, and I didn't bring a book to identify them.

The boy is definitely having fun!

Don's latest obsession is putting a survival kit together. He wants to buy a knife with a hollow handle from an advertisement Boys' Life Magazine so that he can make a survival kit. If he manages to rekindle this interest once he gets older, we may let him try to do a real test. He has to get a lot of wilderness camping (using regular gear) under his belt first, though.

Anyhow, in keeping with his interest du jour, he begged some fishing line and a hook from me, and made his own pole. He was successful, of course.

In fact, he seems rather pleased with his success.

Pretty much everyone got in on the action. I didn't get a fishing license this year, so I sat back and enjoyed the view.

The pretty purple flower is the infamous purple loostrife. Many people hate this plant and are doing their level best to eradicate it because it is such an invasive weed.

That is, it's invasive in some areas. There are areas where the conditions suit it so well that it crowds out the native species. That's what I hear, anyhow. I have yet to see it crowd anything out. In fact, good 'ol native cat tails do most of the crowding. In their favor, cat tails provide lots of food and shelter for native animal species (and whatever humans know enough to harvest them).

So, I don't hate purple loostrife. It adds a touch of color, and our tough Michigan weeds do a good job at keeping it in its place.

So anyhow, everyone is enjoying the fishing trip.

I tried to sit back and enjoy the view, but I kept getting roped into the task of removing fish from hooks, or removing hooks from fish, or whatever. I also removed one hook from Don's shirt, while Mary removed one from Gabe's flesh (not sunk past the barb, fortunately).

For those who don't know, there are some hazards to messing with catfish. The dorsal and pectoral fin bones are very sharp. There's a trick to holding the fish without getting jabbed. I tried to teach that trick to the rest of the family, but they were only too happy to let me handle the slimy things. (By the way, one of the reasons I don't fish much is because I don't really like handling the slimy smelly things.) Luckily for me, someone had left a bar of soap by the lake shore. I made use of it a few times.

After a while, it was time to dump the bucket of live fish back into the water. There was some talk of eating the fish, but I implemented the "you catch, you clean" rule, and everyone agreed that we would eat hamburgers tonight.

So, back up to the trusty Jeep...

And back home.

It used to be that a trip like this would be a rarity saved for vacations. Now, heading up there is no big deal. Now that I remember how nice the lake is, we'll be going more often. My previous experience was tainted by the fact that it was hot and buggy at the time. Now, we are at the time of the year when the temperatures are nice and the bugs are generally not bad at all. We didn't get one mosquito or fly bite today.


I guess I should mention that I did, in fact, get to veg in my camp chair and watch the lake. Mary made more use of the binoculars than I did, though. There were some loons out on the lake, and Mary enjoyed checking them out. It looks like one pair of loons still has a baby (loonling?) in tow.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cadillac Lake Front Days

Today, there was a kind of festival on the shores of Lake Cadillac. They had the usual moonwalk types of things, food vendors, a climbing wall, and stuff like that. We went for the free kayaking, though. A local livery was giving free half hour kayak rides.

We signed up for the earliest open spot, but still had to wait for a couple hours. We reserved three solo canoes; one for each boy. Yes, Gabe wanted to try to do it by himself.

He did all right, but soon tired of it. That's OK, I had already removed my boots in anticipation of having to take him around (not that I was complaining).

The other two kayaks in the picture are being piloted by Paul and Don.

After a while, Gabe wanted to go back to shore. He hopped out in the shallow water, but immediately went out and swam in the deeper water. A little later, Paul followed suit. No sense wasting a kayak. Mary hopped on and paddled around the lake.

Finally, Don was in the water and his kayak was beached. When it became clear that he wasn't interested in kayaking anymore, I asked the owner to go ahead and pass his kayak on to the next person on the list (who appreciated the extra time).

When our time was up, Mary was dry, I had a wet seat (from trying an aggressive maneuver in a kayak with little freeboard and Gabe's and my combined weight). The three boys, of course, were totally soaked. They wanted to go to the store afterwards, and wondered why we laughed at that idea.