Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spermophilus doesn’t love us!

(OK, what sort of google hits will I get with a title like that!?)

So. We have a little issue with some spermophilus franklinii. Now, now, don’t get all embarrassed: this is still a clean blog. (I love scientific names!) I’m talking about the Franklin’s Ground Squirrel, who has risen again for a summer of destruction.

I’m actually quite tired of hearing this:
A squirrel ate your lettuce? Are you sure it wasn’t a deer?

Yes, I’m sure. The gardens are all intensively fenced to 6 feet, but the holes are fairly big, allowing the “spermophilus” (translation from greek/latin: seed-loving, genus name for ground squirrels) to sneak in and chow down. I know we need to get out the chicken wire (about ¼ mile of it, likely) and do a second layer, but sheesh. That’s a lot of work.

What’s weird is that these little critters (warning; study skins at that link) are not REALLY supposed to be that common around here, but we know we have a bumper crop. A few years ago, we spotted a pregnant female, then later, 5 adorable babies popping their heads out of the burrow. Sure, cute until the wholesale destruction of peas and squash and lettuce begins!

And I’m not crazy; it IS indeed a squirrel (with effective sper...oh, never mind) eating our produce.

We need to get tough. Any non-lethal control ideas out there?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Crop of Cats

So the gardens are doing OK, but it’s really the crop of cuddly cats around here that’s requesting a bit of attention.

See how this one shows superior flat coverage: perhaps potential for a cover crop?

Hey, they even look good in bouquets!

This is a special variety, requiring custom food and fluids. Doesn’t require fertilizer, though: makes enough of that on his own (applied to awkward places, ahem).

We’ve even started “watering” him in a new way. Yep, we’ve crossed a line and started doing subcutaneous fluids for this old dude. He didn’t seem to mind them at first; we’re struggling a bit right now. I know it seems a bit over the top (needles, etc), but he still seems to be having a good time with life, and I’m not quite ready to let go.

At the risk of looking like a complete crazy cat lady (and just plain old looking silly), I offer this (sideways, sorry) video from last week. Does this look like a cat one should give up on just yet? Didn’t think so…(so there!). We’ll see how this journey goes.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Goat Show!

(No, not a BOAT show, a GOAT show!)

On the way home from the Energy Fair, we stopped off in Marshfield, WI to see some goats at the goat show! Some relatives of mine are very into raising goats, mostly for show and milk. If we ever decide to get into the goat world, we have a supplier all lined up. They specialize in Nubians, the cute floppy-eared variety.

AF wasn’t quite sure what to think of those critters, but it was a fun stop-over. She eventually warmed up to the goats.

I used to spend summers with these relatives on their “hobby” farm (it sure seemed real to me at the time!). Oh, how I yearned to be a true farm kid; I was always the silly, sentimental suburban kid who didn’t understand the concept of unnamed barn cats, etc. But I tried to toughen up and be cool, even helping to dehorn baby goats; eww.

Today, even though we have chickens and live rurally, I still feel a bit like an interloper in true, rural, animal-raising worlds. But I’ll always be grateful for the time spent as a 4-H kid farmer wannabee; it stuck at least a little! I even have an appreciation of the potential value in a dumpster full of manure... mmm!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Energy Fair: 6-yr-old Approved!

MREA Energy Fair: 6-yr-old Approved!

Whew. We ARE back, been back since late Sunday. It’s been a whirlwind week, with the culmination of a HUGE work project (the board approved of the results) and plenty of other odds and ends. Not sure where the time all goes.

We did have a good time last weekend at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair down in Custer, WI. I suppose it’s ironic that we used 10 hours worth of gas to go learn about energy conservation (ahem) but it’s always a good way to learn a few new things and see some good, like minded people. I even ran into a couple of guys I used to know in my Kansas days- they drove much farther to be there!

We shared the car ride with our friend JF and her daughter AF, who is 6. There was a great kid’s tent with scheduled activities and a parade: we all rotated kid time, and it was fun. AF didn’t want to leave!

Here she is waiting patiently for some yummy breakfast from Organic Valley. It’s a huge event, and very well organized overall. I attended sessions on herbs, electromagnetic fields, eating organic on a dime and raising/teaching environmentally conscious kids. There are plenty of more technical sessions on solar or wind technology, but since we already have our system and it’s mostly maintained by WF or others, I choose the “wife” track- ha! There were lots of exhibitors selling everything from spindles to shirts to books to solar ovens: we didn’t buy a solar oven yet, but we’re considering it.

There were WAY more people there than in past years I’ve attended, but it seemed like more very beginner people (asking “What’s a tincture?” in the herbal class, etc) who were perhaps just becoming intrigued by this environmental stuff. The more the merrier, I suppose. I think the whole event is moving a bit more toward general sustainable living than technical sessions, anyway. Not sure we’ll drive down again for a few years, but it was worth the drive this year; a little adventure. More in the next post!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Garden Raid

So, the new little raised bed has been doing nicely. We got these perfect little radishes and bits of cress the other day (WF said: They look like they should be in a catalog!") and some of the lettuces heads are/were (like that foreshadowing, there?) really doing well. The peas have their own fence already, and it generally made us feel more caught up and productive in our gardening plans and tasks.

We should not be so hasty. Today, something got in a mowed down a big portion of what's in there! GRRRrrrrr. I got home after dark and haven't gone out to view the damage, but it sounds like the dreaded ground squirrels may be waking up from their long hibernation. Darn those critters! We'll need to fence the garden MORE (It's already got 6 ft deer fencing) because the holes are big enough for nibbling critters to get through.) Not sure if it will happen tomorrow before we head out on a rare road trip, but we'll try.

We're headed to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair, which has been a fun event in past years that we've attended. Lots of classes, speakers and even good food and music. WF's not inclined toward TOO much recreation, but if it's for a good cause... More when we're back!

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Summer’s here- the bloodsuckers are near! Very, very near; think “inside your clothes and ears” near. Aieeeee!

Today was FINALLY a sunny weekend day. Finally no work or outside obligations. I was feeling energized to be OUT in the garden, getting things done. WF’s spent some good amounts of time, but I really hadn’t yet. Now that it really felt like summer, it was time to dive in.

But not before I donned my battle gear. Yes, indeed, it is BLACK FLY SEASON. One should not take that statement lightly. I figured, I’ve done this before, I’ll take proper precautions. No problem. Behold my fashionable, festive summer garden gear:

Stylish, no? Note the subtle hints of blue throughout, really pulling the ensemble together. The highlight is the lovely neck scarf, rakishly tucked into just one side of the collar. Yes, this outfit will really wow the neighborhood deer and chickens, and those pesky flies will NEVER be able to get through my defenses.


Never underestimate a blackfly. They are evil emissaries from the underworld. They’re sneaky (you never feel them biting), they’re smart and they’re hungry. Ravenous for as much of your blood as they can possibly suck. And, oh, how they suck. They inject a potent anti-coagulant to make sure you bleed even after they fly away. Then, some delicate humans (like me) react to bites with giant welts, intense itching for a week and even scars. WF lets them bite until he looks like he has the measles, but doesn’t get much of the itching.

Yes, I knew all this. But even I’m a little stunned with the aftermath of the Great Summer Bloodsucking Bug Battle. They simply bit me where they could reach me, and I was too garden-absorbed to notice. Eeeeeek!

14 bites on face and neck. Plus an extra bonus tick on my elbow. Shee-it. It’s gonna be an itchy week.) Anyone know of a good, safe facial repellant out there? Or a favorite bug net brand? I’m in the market…)

Friday, June 08, 2007


So, really, we’re tough, realistic homesteaders. We can butcher chickens, trap mice and generally let nature take it’s course. Right? Right.


If you are a cute, abandoned baby squirrel and you try to cling desperately to my pant leg after being discovered by some concerned, clucking chickens, you get a free ride into town to the kind, enthusiastic wildlife rehabilitator.

C’mon, we’re not THAT hard-nosed. And even though I know we’re probably interfering with “nature’s plan,” it felt really good this evening to NOT have to grit my teeth and look the other way. I got to hand off this little being to a competent woman who thanked me profusely and assured me she’d take good care of it (as it tried to nurse on her finger). I know it was a somehat frivolous drive into town, but phooey.

After the week I’ve had, it’s such a relief to have someone say “Thank you, you did the right thing, we’ll take it from here, everything will be fine.” Even if it IS just a cute little red squirrel. Ahh....(plus, there’s got to be some positive karma points in this somewhere, right?)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Yes, indeed, there is still some life over here!

And some lovely new greens sprouting in the lovely new raised bed WF built from salvaged douglas fir (through a friend's "urban logging" company). We've had a LOT of rain, which is good for the overall drought, but has become a wee bit tedious for outdoor time. This was a brief window this evening; more storms are predicted tomorrow.

But trying to stay postive in the face of some stress. One FUN accomplishment last week was hitting the 200 mile mark in my record of miles run and walked since January 1st! I don't usually have enough online time to check in, but the original idea for tracking and having set 100-mile goals was from Rachel at yarnagogo and runagogo. I actually met a new local running partner through her San Francisco based site... fun.

With that, I need to get to sleep so as to be somewhat awake for the standard early Wednesday morning run tomorrow. Peace!