Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another Lovely Day

After a week of cool rainy weather, today is warm and mostly sunny. It's another beautiful cloud day in the Northwest.

Hay is in short supply this time of year. It's harder to get each year as more houses pop up in former grass fields. Every chance I get I let the sheep out to browse on the grass, weeds and berries along my lane. First thing this morning - still in my pajamas - I went down to check on my chicks and let the sheep out. Charlie darted out with the sheep. He doesn't like his sheep being outside of his patrol area. Jesse scrambled under the fence after him while I was heading back to the house to get dressed.

By the time I got back out the lane was totally quiet. No dogs, no sheep, no goats, no donkey. Knowing the sheep, I walked down to the road. My small flock of sheep and goats, guarded by the donkey, were providing free lawn service to the log house across the street. It's for sale, and the lawn definitely is due for a trimming. Fortunately my sheep are better at coming when called than my dogs are, and they happily followed me back across the street and headed up the 1/4 mile of lane home. They turned left towards the houses and pastures, and I went up the hill to the power lines, finding lots of footprints but no dogs. One of my hens seems to have taken up residence in the old railroad cut. She looked a bit offended that I intruded in her territory.

By the time I got back to the developed section of my farm, Charlie was next to the pasture fence looking like he wanted in. He joined me and we went to the gate and inserted ourselves. The sheep flock were browsing happily nearby, eating the plentiful grass and brush here at home. Ursa came up to give Charlie the once over (where HAVE you BEEN?) as I started up the hill to the house. Half way up Jesse lay next to the fence, looking mournful that he couldn't get back in. Why is it that animals can readily get OUT of somewhere, but are at a loss to get back IN?

So we are all now inside and fed, or outside and feeding. I had breakfast, and am working on a second cup of coffee. Once again I am grateful I chose to locate my farm well off the seldom-travelled road. Just another peaceful morning on the farm. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Inside Beauties

My Night Blooming Jasmine is blooming. I am so in love with this plant. It's large leaves and delicate blooms, its voracious appetite for water and striving to be a tree all appeal to me. I have one plant I've let grow without pruning that is tall and leggy, and another that has been sheep-pruned a couple times when I've put it outside, so has a much more compact growth pattern. 

Cestrum nocturnum - Night Blooming Jasmine, Queen of the Night. Blossoms during the day.

Blossoms at night. The scent is pervasive, unmistakable, intoxicating.

Two cactus branches that were knocked off parent plants by a wagging Border Collie tail. I stuck them in a small pot, and the small pot in this lovely planter my mother made and painted. I didn't know the colors of the cactus when I planted them. I love the way they match their container.

All of my "Christmas" cacti are blooming right now. They love this house, and I love them. This one is another piece that the dogs broke off, and I dutifully stuck in a new pot. This is my reward.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

News From China

My nephew and his wife live in Suzhou, over 700 miles from the epicenter of China's huge quake. Here's his report of the long-range effects of the unstable earth.

Aftershocks from a recent 7.8 earthquake rocked our office on the 19th floor like a boat out at sea! We had to race down the emergency staircase while the lights flickered on and off until finally shutting down completely. Emergency lights kicked in as the crowded staircase still rocked and people screamed in panic. I felt like we were in the Twin Towers during 9/11; racing down the 19 floors of staircases for our lives!  Each time we descended a floor, more screaming people pushed their way in; slowing headway to a standstill.  Everyone was screaming in Chinese: "Hurry, Hurry! We're all gonna get crushed!" 
After a 5-minute race down the emergency exit staircase, masses of people flooded the lobby and ran across the streets toward an expanse of green grass just outside of the buildings fallout range.  There is nothing quite so shocking as running behind others while their necks are strained backwards watching the building as if it were to fall when you haven't yet completely escaped. 
The epicenter was actually located in China's Sichuan (Szechuan) province in a city called Wen Chuan, 1200 km (appx.720 miles) away from our office in Suzhou. In this picture, an ancient pagoda in my wife's hometown (Anna May Deng from Langzhong) collapsed to the ground along with numerous apartment highrises that you can see along the river; behind my brother Dan and Anna.  Her family is okay; they were luckily all outside on ground level when it happened; although many poor families in the countryside had their brick houses collapse.  I attached pictures of what homes looked like two weeks ago when we last visited.
Aftershocks are still riveting through the province from eyewitness accounts via telephone and mobile phones.  Anna was on the phone 10 minutes ago, when her Grandma suddenly said; "Another one is hitting, I got to run!"  She also spoke to an Aunt who had just poured a cup of hot tea on the table when the first shock hit and bounced it through the air onto the ground. 
Both China's CCTV local news station and CNN have limited knowledge of the true extent of the earthquake.  Both have reported it as breaking news, but we have yet to see images from the epicenter, or the nearest metropolitan city; Chengdu.

-Mike Grigg

Smallest of the Small

Roosters are wonderful beings. They protect their hens, share food with them, and look after chicks after the hens abandon them to burgeoning adulthood. The problem with free range chickens when roosters are involved is that you end up with more chickens, and more roosters. And while roosters are wonderful, they don't play well in groups.

Small roosters, however, are easier to deal with. And I am totally enthralled with my Seabright bantams. So every hen that's gone broody this year has had Seabright eggs substituted for those they start with, and I now have 10 chicks growing up under those hens. The fact that the chicks are a variety of colors probably means the hens haven't been solely getting the attentions of the Seabright cocks. 

My young Golden Seabright hen with one of her chicks. The other one is black.

Aren't these the cutest chicks? Foster mom is one of my best mother hens. She's also taking care of the 4 chicks I bought (all females) as future egg layers. These bantams lay tiny eggs - great if you want to make a partial recipe, and need 1/4 egg.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Old Barn

After years of neglect this pasture is now home to some lovely young llamas. Even the old barn seems to have taken on new life now that it is being used again. I love old barns, crouching in their fields, like mother hens protecting their chicks from the cold.