Friday, September 24, 2010

Cross that off the list

It's done! Finally! A picture of every single animal that lives with me here on the Unfarm. Getting the pictures added to this site has been on my to do list for a few months now - I needed to add pictures of Minna and Maggie (now that they are full grown and sporting their adult plumage), as well as Maia, Jojo, Clover, and Mynxy cat. But getting the pictures was - as is customary on the Unfarm - easier said than done.

Minna and Maggie were relatively simple as they tend not to run around as much as the other animals. Not that they can't run - don't ever think that just because they have large feet designed more for swimming than mobility on land that they aren't fast - it is at times hard to outrun Maggie when she (I mean he, but it has become habit to refer to Maggie as a "she") is determined to catch up to me.

As for Mynx, I happened to catch her during a rare moment when she was not sleeping. She did, however, decide to investigate the camera and I was eventually able to get a shot of her whole face, rather than just her nose.

When it came time to get a picture of Miss Maia it took considerably longer than I had originally thought that it would as Maia was convinced I was about to deliver some cruel treatment of some kind. As a result, although she did as I asked and sat on the couch, she spent the entire time trying to avoid looking at me while trembling throughout her entire body. It may have had something to do with the fact that I often corner her on the couch or chair when it is time to clip her nails - something she (well, all the dogs actually) abhor. To be fair, I try to be as careful as possible when clipping their nails, but both Kita and Maia have black nails and sometimes accidents happen and I nick the quick.

The most difficult photos to get were the pictures of Clover and Jojo. The rabbits, while they do many, many cute things and strike numerous adorable poses, only hold those poses for approximately 2.3 seconds - not quite enough time to get the camera in position and focused. After about 10 minutes or so of taking pictures of Jojo and Clover, I had 5 decent photos to choose from, and 63 photos depicting only a blur of bunny moving across the screen.

But they're here, they're done - uploaded and titled and off of my to-do list - now all I have to do is tackle the other 374 things on my list.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Unfarm updates, for lack of the writing mood

I have been trying, on and off for the last couple of hours, to come up with some kind of amusing, fascinating, witty couple of paragraphs to post but so far I've come up empty. I've managed to come up with a few sentences on one or two different topics, but I can't seem to complete my thoughts, so rather than wait for perfection and post nothing - yet again - I will instead admit defeat and post a couple random thoughts and observations tied together under the rather vague title of "Unfarm updates, " so here goes.

Updates from the Unfarm:

It's raining. I'll allow you a moment to recover from your shock. All better? Good. As I said, it's raining. And while our garden produced, over the course of the past few months, several very large zucchinis, thirty-one pounds of beans - a mixture of both wax and green beans, a number of delicious ears of white corn (my favorite), dozens and dozens of huge scarlet runner beans (which we didn't eat as they were planted mostly for the flowers to provide food for hummingbirds and bees), a few cucumbers, many delicious basil leaves, and countless flowers; it has not, unfortunately, managed to produce the bumper crop of tomatoes that we were hoping for. I should clarify. We planted several tomato plants - a mix of romas, cherries, and heirlooms - that produced tons of tomatoes, all of which are now... green. We neither eat nor particularly like green tomatoes but it appears that we are going to be stuck with pounds and pounds of them. The rather slow start to the summer and the less than hot temperatures have resulted in a glut of green tomatoes all over the northwest and put a damper on our plans for making bruschetta and margherita pizza using tomatoes from our garden. We may try out a few recipes using the green tomatoes, or we may try to ripen the tomatoes using the technique my great-grandmother used to use: place the tomatoes into boxes in a single layer and store them under our beds. I'm not entirely sure on the reasoning behind storing them under beds, but I think it had something to do with finding a cool, dark place to ripen the tomatoes combined with the lack of storage options that occurs when two families (six people total) live in a small house with only three bedrooms. Our house is considerably larger, but even so, with the amount of tomatoes we have on our plants I suspect that we'll have boxes of tomatoes under all of the beds as well as the living room couch, the computer desk, our grandmother's armchair and anything and everything that we can stuff tomatoes under.

In addition to preventing the tomatoes from ripening, the rainy weather also means that the rabbits are stuck indoors again all day. Last winter, this was hardly worth concerning myself over but the addition of a new rabbit has, predictably, complicated matters. The old routine was for the rabbits to get time out of their cages every evening: TJ would get the first hour and a half out, then he would go back in and Suki and Jojo would be given their 90 minutes of free time. TJ and Jojo remain on less than friendly terms but have at least become accustomed to one another and, for the most part, tend to ignore each other when one or the other of them are hopping around the room. The novelty with Clover, however, has yet to wear off and rather than spend their free time doing binkies they tend to spend it fighting and scrabbling at each other through the cage bars. This is problematic for two reasons: first, it reduces the chance that the rabbits will eventually bond with each other, and secondly, this territorial behavior is often accompanied by territory marking (read peeing or leaving bunny berries on the carpet.) So the addition of one new rabbit has created a huge logistical problem if I am to keep all the rabbits apart from each other while still giving them the much needed chance to stretch their legs. At the moment I have a wire gate separating TJ from Suki and Jojo, while still giving Suki and Jo access to their cage (and, more importantly, their litter box.) TJ, who is the best behaved of all my bunnies, is allowed free access to the room, including under my art table – a privilege not usually given to the rabbits as they have too much opportunity to get into trouble under there – but, because the ducks have their bedtime set-up in front of TJ's cage, he cannot get into his cage, so his litter box has been brought out into the room. Suki and Jojo, meanwhile, are hopping up and down the hall to get their exercise, but they are not allowed into the living room (too many cords attached to expensive objects to give the bunnies free range, especially as they have already demonstrated their willingness to chew through any and every electrical cord they can get their teeth on) so I have put up an old mirror at the end of the hall to block them from accessing the living room. The reason I am using a mirror and not, say, a gate, is because the gate also succumbs to bunny teeth – I have set up the gate a couple of times only to come back five minutes later and discover the bunny where he shouldn't be, and a suspiciously bunny-sized hole in the gate that wasn't there five minutes ago.

Speaking of Clover, after having lived here for over a month now he is proving to clean up quite nicely. He has put on weight and his coat is 100% better than it was when I first found him struggling to survive starvation and coyotes in the small patch of woods at the end of the street. He is becoming quite a handsome rabbit, sleek and healthy. I will have to try to get a good picture of him to add to the blog now that he has become a permanent resident of the Unfarm.

Life has not been as smooth for another Unfarm resident. My brother has come down with a case of digestive upset. It could be giardia from drinking stream water while backpacking, but on the other hand, it could also be a particularly nasty case of Karma. The same brother that is recovering from a bout of explosive ---------- (illness specifics will be withheld to protect some of my brother's dignity, not that he ever actually reads this blog – supportive fellow that he is) promised me that we would go camping this summer but never seemed to be able to find the time to actually go. It is now mid September, mere days away from the official start of Autumn, and I have given up on us going camping this year. The karmic retribution comes in because just last week my brother was able to find the time to go off backpacking with some friends of his. He was to leave on Wednesday and return four days later on Sunday. “But,” he said, “maybe we could go camping next Tuesday and Wednesday, if I don't have too much work to do.” Come Sunday evening I received a text from him stating that he was going to stay out longer with his friends and that he would be home on Wednesday. While my brother never can seem to find time to go camping with me, as soon as his friends want to do something his schedule miraculously clears up. Amazing how that works. Needless to say, I do not feel the least bit sorry for him.

I can, however, sympathize with our chicken, Penny. It rained all day today and the sun never could manage to break through the heavy cloud bank that blanketed the sky from one horizon to the other. And while the ducks can't understand why anyone would ever want any weather than this – I mean, water actually falling from the sky, and it's everywhere! – the chickens are miserable. They spent a large part of their day standing around under the redwood trying to stay dry, hoping that perhaps, if they were lucky and Maggie wasn't around, the squirrels would drop some of their food down on the ground for them to break up the monotony of the day with. But by 6:30 Penny was already settled into the coop for the night, a good hour before dark. I don't blame her. She probably decided that it had been terrible weather all day and it wasn't going to change any time soon so she might as well go to sleep until morning... or May... whenever the weather improves. I'm tempted to follow suit and head off to bed to hibernate until spring. Unfortunately, school begins – for yet another year – for me on Tuesday. Microbiology and Deciduous Plant Materials, so hibernation isn't really an option at this point. Although, with five hours of Deciduous Plant Materials, from 8am to 1pm every Wednesday, it is a very good possibility that there will yet be some napping in my future.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


It is raining out. Scratch that, it's pouring. This is the first time in a few weeks, possibly even a couple of months, that we've had such heavy rains. Normally rain at the very beginning of September would distress me, reminding me that fall, with it's near constant rain and clouds, is just around the corner. Today, however, the rain and gray skies match my mood and so it seems only natural that everything should be getting soaked. I am in a funk. A depression. All I want to do is sleep and sleep and sleep. I tried doing some artwork earlier but in this kind of a mood everything I try to do seems inferior to all the other artist's work out there, and I eventually abandoned my efforts. I know what it is I should do: I should take a shower, I should do my workout, I should ride my bike to work - for that matter I should go to work. And I will - eventually - but for now I'm too busy wallowing in my depression. Unfortunately, a funk also makes for lousy writing - for me anyway - so I don't feel up to posting stories from the Unfarm at the moment, but hopefully I will be able to shake this depression shortly and life will soon return to normal. Well, what passes for normal around here anyway.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Of cats and haircuts

Disclaimer: we would never, ever intentionally hurt any of our animals.

We are torturing our cat. We are drugging him and holding him down and threatening him with sharp implements. And yet, with all of that, we are still no match for an angry cat with flexibility, teeth, and claws on his side.

What we are actually doing is trying to cut the mats out of Aspen's hair, hence the sharp implements (although the razor we are using is actually a pet grooming tool and there is no danger of cutting Aspen with it.) The drugging is a veterinarian prescribed sedative designed to calm him down, and the holding him down is largely ineffectual. We were attempting to save Aspen the stress of traveling in the car and going to the vet's office to be groomed – and us the $150 (minimum) expense – by grooming him ourselves at home. When our vet gave us the sedative, we were told to give Aspen half of a pill and then wait for thirty minutes or so for the drug to take effect. If he was not drowsy enough after that time, we could give him the other half of the pill, but no more than that in one day. After both halves of the pill and one hour, there was no noticeable effect on Aspen. It was only once we called the vet for advice that we learned that the medication does not always have the desired effect on every cat. In fact, some cats actually have the opposite reaction and become more hyper with the medication. Just our luck, Aspen seems to fall into the second category. We tried two different medications and several different times to get rid of Aspen's mats but were eventually forced to give up and take him in to be groomed. (His belly area, where many of the mats were located, was thoroughly protected by eighteen razor sharp claws which he had no qualms about using against the hands that feed him.) We knew that he would not be happy about being groomed but we hoped that he would come to see the necessity of it and at least accept it. Knowing Aspen, we should have known better. The first thing Aspen did when I looked in his carrier at him and told him how cute he looked with his new haircut was to let out a loud noise that was some combination of a growl/hiss/high pitched yowl. Once home he promptly ran downstairs and hid under my brothers bed, refusing to come out for the next five hours. It did not help, I suspect, that when my mom saw him as he slunk out of his carrier she burst out laughing and exclaimed, “he looks so scrawny!” Granted, he did look much smaller than his usual self which is bulked up considerably by his thick coat, but I wouldn't say he looked scrawny, exactly. He was given a lion cut, which means that his body was shaved down but the hair was left on his head, tail, and arms from the elbow down.

He has had a few weeks now to recover from his ordeal and I think that, while he would prefer to have his normal hair, he has gotten used to his new look and it doesn't bother him much anymore. This change in attitude is due partly, I think, to the fact that we have been telling him over and over again how much he looks like a lion. A “big, fearsome, gorgeous lion,” and “aren't we lucky to get to live with such a handsome lion?” The copious amounts of half & half and tuna we gave him didn't hurt either. All the same, I think that everyone involved - humans and cats alike - would rather not have to go through this again any time soon.