Crate training and Night time wailing

 

I don’t think of myself as a naturally hard-hearted person, but I do believe in the importance of crate training a dog. So I brace my mushy heart and prepare for the agony of listening to a tiny, lonely pup losing her mind as I try to sleep.

Izzie came home on Saturday. Saturday night she cried for about half an hour when I put her in the crate – loud, heartbreaking cries. And she woke up and cried a couple times in the night but they were short in duration so I didn’t get up. At 6.30 on Sunday morning, she frantic so I got up, took her out, fed her, played with her. And then went back to bed for a bit (more wailing from the crate).

Sunday night wasn’t much better. She cried for only 20 minutes when I crated her, but there was an urgent 3.30 am plea so I took her out- and she had to go bad. In my tired haze, I just didn’t want more crying. I curled up on the couch with her hoping she’d snuggle and I could sleep. Nope. She wanted to play so she starts chewing my face, my hair… no rest for the weary. I got up and played with her (toys and all) to wear her out for 10 minutes before crating her, ignoring the wails, and stumbling back to bed.

Monday I came home at lunch to let her out and play and put her back in to blood-curdling wails. Oh Izzie. It isn’t that bad.

So far, Izzie has not had accidents in the crate – which is miraculous.  She’s very responsive when I take her outside, put her in the grass and say “Go potty” — she squats to pee immediately every time. Hooray!! (I mean she can also piddle on the floor seconds after doing that outside- so it isn’t a perfect system).

Monday evening I had some pears to can and after letting the dogs play and running them around the yard a lot, I decided to crate Izzie. I just cannot trust her yet. Bracing for the wailing, I crated her. She looked up at me with those darling puppy eyes and then curled up on her blanket and went to sleep. WHAT??? I canned my pears in peace, marveling at the silence.

I wore her out really well again before bed- and after one yip, she went to sleep and slept ALL NIGHT without a peep. The last few evenings, we’re developing a pattern. From about 10 – 11 pm, Daisy and Izzie go wildly crazy in the living room. Running, pouncing, biting, tug of war, all out puppy insanity. And then at the end of it, we go outside and eveyrone goes potty and then sleeps peacefully all night. This is living!!

She’s my favorite puppy in the whole world!!

The Dog Pack

When you’re a two-dog household, there’s this delicate balance to maintain. Long, long ago, when I first had Maggie, my roommate Lisa went out and got a rescue dog, Rita. Those two became best friends, spending all day together while Lisa and I worked. When Lisa and Rita moved out of state, Maggie cried for two months straight. All day, all night. I started sleeping on the couch just so she had company through the night. It was horribly sad. And thus started my search for a puppy — it was time.

Suzie came on the scene shortly after, an 8 week old darling little pup, full of energy and love. Maggie and Suzie were two years apart in age. They grew old together and were best of friends. Maggie, for all her faults, loved Suzie fiercely. She turned into a blubbering mess if I left the house with Suzie and she was left behind. I’m pretty sure she needed Suzie more than she needed me.

Two years ago, I sensed Maggie was nearing the end. She was 13 and though there was no specific illness, I just knew it wouldn’t be long before she exited the scene. So I brought home 12-week old Daisy in April, and in August, I had to put Maggie down. For the summer, three dogs was a lot of dog, but the overlap was good. When Maggie died, Suzie was depressed and only got up because there was an energetic puppy jumping on her head and dragging her outside to play.

I’ve realized in the last two years that a 10-year gap between dogs ages is harder than a two-year gap. Daisy is in her prime- full of vim and vigor- and Suzie is fading, more interested in napping than anything else.  She’s approaching 13 now and isn’t doing so well. She could still stick around for awhile, but I don’t think it isn’t going to be terribly long. Time to grow the pack and get the next pup trained up and ready to go before Suzie leaves us. I shudder at the thought of 65 lbs of terribly sad, lonely Daisy on my hands. I also realize exactly how much work a new puppy entails. In fact, having just done this two years ago, I remember too much. And yet…

Meet Izzie.

     
She’s a rescue dog so it hard to say what kind of dog she is exactly. Mom looks like a Pharoh Hound mix and is a petite 40 lbs (similar to Suzie’s size). I suspect Izzie will end up in the 40-45 lb range which is awesome. Clearly, this pup fits the mold for the Little House. Eeeeeeekkkkk she’s cute!
Introducing Izzie means I’m going to be home for lunches for a while, cutting back on outside commitments, and cleaning up a lot of puppy messes. I will re-learn how to put away my shoes and keep everything out of the puppy range to limit the damage from little puppy teeth. And I should probably plan on getting nothing done for the next couple months…
I brought her home Saturday and over the weekend we got lots of visitors. My people love me well and have been so generous in celebrating the new puppy with me- even if it isn’t their thing. I’m the luckiest.
Everyone loved Izzie — of course — because how could you not?!?!? Daisy wanted to make sure no one forgot that she is also quite lovable, and Suzie came around for all the scratches. It was a busy weekend in which I basically accomplished nothing. And it felt just right. Sometimes we all need that. Not to mention needing an excuse to be outside for the gorgeous 80-degree sunny day in mid-September. Mmmm. Yeah, just about perfect!
 
Daisy is a bit confused but loves having a pal. She doesn’t realize just how big she is though and those first couple days she sometimes scared Izzie a little with her rambunctious affection. Suzie is taking it in stride- between giving me long, hard judgemental looks, she’s put up with most of Izzie’s shenanigans. She does not appreciate being woken from a nap (stay off her cushion) and she actually nipped when Izzie stuck her face into Suzie’s bowl while she was eating – fair enough.
Prepare yourself for a lot of puppy spam in the weeks and months to come.  

The hens have names

Operation Chicken Round 3 is going well so far. Not dissimilar from Round 2 at this point. The chickens are getting bigger — making me think they need a larger covered pen and a better coop. I want to build this coop.  But in the interest of having some kind of standards, the chickens can’t get a nicer coop until my house is more livable.

These chickens, more than the last batch, seem interested in upward mobility. Maybe it is because they have a full view of the pigeons next door who are always flying overhead and doing upwardly mobile things. Mmm hmm. That must be it. Anyway, these chickens cannot be trusted without a cover on their pen if they want to survive.

It seems that pet chickens must have names. I don’t necessarily consider them my pets but all my young friends do, so naming them was necessary. One came with a name: Streamers. My friend Kitty, who is looking forward to chickens of her own next year, informed me that she is saving “Queenie” for her favorite chicken when she gets them, but would help name mine in the meantime. She came up with Mrs. Eggs, Goldie, Syrup, and Alpha. My niece Jane named the remaining white hen Pearl.  There you have it. I’m putting these into a blog post because I am unlikely to remember them otherwise. Don’t tell my young farming friends.

Black Raspberry Goodness

It’s that time of year again… the black raspberries are ripe. This spring I was busy tearing apart the house so I didn’t get out there to cut down the invasive species surrounding the raspberry jungle. It is bad out there right now. Nettles. Poison ivy. Buckthorn. Russian olive. Lots of other weeds. (Does anyone else hear how necessary goats are out here??) But… those little black juicy morsels make it worth braving the jungle for. They started ripening last week. I’ve only done a bit of peripheral picking and introduced a couple cute nephews to the magic of black raspberries. The Hobbit couldn’t cram them into his mouth fast enough.

Monday night was my first time to go out prepared to take on the jungle. Long pants, shoes, socks, bug spray, long sleeves. I got half a German Park bucket full before it started raining. Black raspberry picking is slow. The very definition of slow food really. They are tiny. They are covered with pickers. They are in a jungle. And they are completely delicious. Sometimes we all need to slow down a bit and savor the goodness of summer.

I used the last of the rum in the cupboard to start some of them infusing. (Note to self: buy more rum).

Then I made cobbler which my cousin and I had for breakfast. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this before but it bears repeating if you have any fresh berries of any kind sitting around. It is incredibly easy, not too sweet (because I’ve cut a lot of sugar from the original recipe) and buttery goodness in every bite. Believe me, you want some.

Fresh Berry Cobbler

  • 2 1/2 cups berries (I used mostly black raspberries with a few mulberries– but whatever you have will work)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I cut the sugar from the original recipe a lot! If you are using more tart berries, add more in)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Mix berries and sugar together and let them sit while you put the rest of it together. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add milk and stir. Add melted butter and mix together.

Put the batter into an ungreased 8×8 pan (ish). Glop the berry/sugar mixture over the top (or just mix it together- I’ve done it both ways). Bake the big pan for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Top with ice cream if you like. Eat it for breakfast (it is practically a health food, right?? Something about antioxidants and organic, locally sourced berries). There’s no wrong way to eat it. Ready go.

Update: I bought more rum. Who wants to come over for black raspberry cocktails? 

Bittersweet

Sometimes I am particularly struck by how bittersweet this life is. The same day a friend delivered her baby several weeks prematurely, I heard my friend’s mother is at the end of her battle with cancer. She hasn’t left us yet, but the news isn’t good and her time here is short. Little P is beginning his fragile journey here with us as Mrs. M is wrapping hers up. Joy and sorrow bundled together.

On the one year anniversary of a young mother’s death from our community, I was struck again by how intertwined joy and sorrow are. I wasn’t close but her family is constantly in my prayers as they move forward without their mother and wife. That same day I found out my cousin and his wife are expecting their first baby. What a gift!! A new baby cousin to love on for years to come! Joy and sorrow bundled together.

My grandpa is 94 and living with my parents. His dementia continues to progress and it takes it’s toll on everybody sometimes. A few weeks ago my mom was out of town and my dad was helping at my house, so I took Grandpa out for a spin. As we drove through town, stopping for errands, he reaches over to squeeze my hand. He tells me what a good driver I am and I tell him that I enjoy driving with him. He can’t comprehend a lot of what I tell him, but I repeat it in short cheery snippets I think he can grasp and answer the same question 12 gazillion times. His days here are numbered. The days where he can communicate how much he appreciates my driving are numbered. It gives me pause to realize that I am driving around with Jesus– sometimes in his most distressing disguise (as Mother Teresa put it) as the endless question loop. If Jesus asked me that same question over and over again, what would I do? Squeeze his hand and explain again that we’re heading to the dump where I’ll empty the trailer. Smile and tell him what good company he is, put on that 1968 baseball game for the 500th time, and cover him with a blanket. Joy and sorrow bundled together.

Living in community, I see examples of this over and over again. As much as I wish it was all joy, there’s something incredibly raw and beautiful and important about sharing our sorrow with one another. It strikes me that we are all part of this continuum, in and out of each other’s lives and stories and joys and sorrows. It’s a beautiful and intricate and confusing braid of lives intertwined. It isn’t MY story, it is OUR story. I’m just a small but important thread in the tapestry being woven into something beautiful with the people around me. And ultimately, we are made for heaven. It isn’t just about our story here, but our story for eternity. Home.

I can’t help but think this is the good stuff and also the hardest stuff there is. Loving other people means we hurt with them, mourn with them, and rejoice with them. We can’t and shouldn’t try to separate it. If I didn’t invest in people and relationships, my life would have a lot less suffering in it — and it would be missing the joy that comes with loving people. Joy and sorrow bundled together. Recognizing that we need each other so very much.

So today, my heart is heavy for the loss and the suffering around me and at the same moment filled with joy for the gift of new life and the gift of so many dear people to share this road with. Joy and sorrow bundled together. Intricate. Complicated. Raw. Breathtakingly beautiful.

 

Floor Tile at last!

Last week the progress finally felt like it was moving forward at more than a snail’s pace. I had scheduled a lot of time to be home (woooooo) which helps in the progress department.

Monday night I picked up tools and made sure I had all the supplies– and then spent the evening with my second family (one of the many) playing games and catching up.  And then I set some tiles on the subfloor to pretend I accomplished something (#honestproject).

I picked this tile from Lowes. I loved the large tiles, the color, the variation in the tile, but the shimmer in it nearly scared me off. I got over it, purchased the tile, and don’t even notice the shimmer on the floor. Whew. Crisis averted.

 

Tuesday night I installed the backer board for the tile. It was, of course, more complicated than I hoped and the pros say to put it down with mortar and screws (I wasn’t initially anticipating the mortar part). So getting the last wonky spots by the tub leveled with shims and floor leveling compound and then getting the whole thing covered in backer board took the evening.

Wednesday night I started on the tile. This is my first time tiling (which kind of surprises me) but I suppose you have to start somewhere. They make it look so simple on HGTV. And it isn’t rocket science, but as I spend the entire long evening getting so few tiles in place, mostly learning to use the tile saw, and figuring out some complicated cuts. It makes me appreciate the pros and that I am far from being a pro!

My sister recently tiled at her house, so they loaned me their tile saw and tools and I am so grateful to not have to buy my own! My brother in law warned me that since they had bought the $90 saw, the blade guard is trash and doesn’t work so the saw sprays water at you while it cuts. Okay, that sounds harmless. And it was harmless but not without its own particular charm. Mind you, it isn’t just spraying water at you – it is spraying tile dust water at you. So by the end of the evening, your hair has the same texture as straw, sort of cemented together in tile dust. Your entire front is soaked, and you have to clean your safety glasses off after every cut. Fancy.

And still, I’m so grateful for the loan of the saw so I didn’t have to rent or buy one (and believe me, I would have bought this same saw because of the price).

The trickiest spot is that heating vent, that would have been mid-tile which wasn’t working (ask me how many tiles I broke trying to make that work).  And of course, it was the first line of tiles while I was getting used to the saw and its nuances. So I did a thin row of tiles along the edge and incorporated the vent as the second row (on the edge) so as to make the cuts around it. Live and learn.

At 9.30 pm, I realized my mortar was setting up fast and I might need more — and of course, the Blue Store closes at 10. Sigh. So I drop everything, run to the store for more mortar, meant to pee there and forgot, and was home by 10 to continue. I think it was around 11 pm as I stood on my deck, a torchiere lamp lighting the tile operation, being sprayed in the face with tile water and dust, moths fluttering around my head, mortar goop all over my whole body, cringing as I used that loud saw, hoping the neighbors had fans in their windows to muffle the racket. I just had to laugh at myself and the whole situation. Yup, this is the definition of insanity or tenacity. You decide.  I finished up around midnight– and by finished, I mean I put things away because I was half done with the bathroom and it was past time to go to bed. Of course, I couldn’t shower because there was freshly installed tile that I couldn’t walk on… so I slept filthy and showered in the morning when the mortar was dry.

 

Thursday evening I finished up the tile. It felt like I was getting the hang of it and I made more complicated cuts with less trouble and less broken tiles. I finished up shortly after 10 pm. Wooooo! It really looks great. I’m not saying there aren’t imperfections and I guarantee this won’t be my best ever tiling job, but I am saying I like the tile a lot. And I like the idea of one day having all the things we love about bathrooms like floors and walls and sinks and toilets. It is going to be so great.

I was planning to go with a lighter gray grout that would contrast with the darker charcoal tile but in the end (with some coaching from a friend) I went with the matching charcoal grout which was merciful with my newbie tiling job.

I started Saturday with a trip to buy a new toilet. There are a lot of toilet options out there ya’ll. I wanted a dual flush toilet (less water for pee, more for poo) because I’m on a septic and it just seems like the thing to do. There were so many options when it comes to buying a new toilet. So I compared some prices and features, read some reviews, and ultimately got this one.  The only thing I didn’t do on purpose was the elongated bowl — I’m not opposed to it, I just didn’t pick that on purpose. They really should let you test drive toilets in the home improvement stores. I’m sure they have them up on a high shelf for a reason, but it would have been nice (and the most awkward thing ever) to sit on them and see how the height / seat / bowl feels (I mean if I had no shame).

 

So I bought the toilet and then grouted the tile around the toilet in case my dad would be able to come help me install the toilet. I wanted everything as ready as it could possibly be since I’m now going on Day 4 without an indoor working toilet and I’m getting a little desperate.

 

Blessedly my dad and Grandpa came over in the afternoon for a couple hours and we had to modify the flange assembly to the proper height now that the floor was in. And in this case when I say “we” I mean my dad for the most part. He’d done all of the previous flange fitting stuff and was into the details and I was not. I’m so grateful for his help! I want this toilet on right so I never have to think about it again or find it is rotting out the subfloor with a bad connection. Grandpa watched baseball for the most part and was the first to inaugurate the new toilet moments after it was installed.

I finished grouting the rest of the floor on Sunday and man oh man am I loving the new floor and the new toilet. The toilet does feel almost dangerously tall after my last short toilet was installed under the tile and at an angle. This one is tall and level and doesn’t rock at all. Amazing. First world upgrades my friends. This is living.

There are lots of youtube videos and lots of tutorials online if you’re thinking about trying to install tile yourself. As with everything, it is work — but on the other hand, it isn’t rocket science and it is a whole lot easier than floor leveling and plumbing. I will also say that it hearkens back to dreaming within my means. I can’t afford to hire a professional right now but I can afford to learn a few things. Not such a bad thing, notwithstanding the midnight tile sawing and being sprayed in the face.

 

A few tips I didn’t see other places, if you’re thinking about tiling:
  • If you use a cheap saw that sprays tile water at your face, go ahead and start the project wearing a hat. It makes the clean up afterward about 100 times easier. Obviously, as with any power tools, you should already be wearing safety glasses.
  • Clip your nails before you start. Maybe you’re like me and can’t find your nail clippers because your whole bathroom is scattered around your kitchen, but if you have shorter nails, there’s less room to get them jammed full of mortar and you’ll spend less time trying to pick them clean and cringing at how bad they look at work the next day.
  • Be prepared to be very messy. If you are tiling your only bathroom, you basically tile yourself out the door and then have to wait for the mortar to set — meaning you should either dash over to a friend’s house for a shower or sleep gross (I chose the latter because it was the middle of the night).
  • Rags. Get out lots of rags. I found it super helpful to have a couple wet wash clothes for wiping mortar and rinsed them regularly throughout the evening. It goes without saying your clothes will get messy.

The Glamour of Country Living

The other night when I got home from work it was raining lightly but I knew it was going to continue all night and I had to feed the chickens. These are exactly the moments you question having chickens, but since it doesn’t rain every day, somehow they get through.

I’m out there in the rain refilling their food when Daisy dashes over to one of the many woodpiles and out comes a woodchuck. When I moved into the house, there was a lot of woodchuck evidence and I’d see them occasionally that first year before the fence. Once the fence was finished, Maggie and Suzie did a good job of clearing them out and I haven’t seen one since. Until last night.

Since it was happening right in front of me, I pulled out my phone and got a video. Lucky you. No seriously, watch it. Just be sure to watch to the end.
https://youtu.be/CuyZJxJNgxU

My favorite part is how scared my 60 lbs of solid muscle is of this little woodchuck. On the one hand, Daisy doesn’t kill things so my chickens have a better chance at survival. On the other hand, I don’t want woodchucks and rabbits and squirrels infesting my yard. And it’s not my job to deal with them (I have enough on my plate).

As you can see, for as old as Suzie is, her hunting skills haven’t waned. She learned from the best (Maggie) and it is amazing to see it kick in.

After the video above, Daisy took the woodchuck over to a tree and set it down. The rain picked up so Suzie and I ran inside. Daisy didn’t come back and wouldn’t come when I called. I finally went out to check on the situation and found that the woodchuck was still alive and Daisy wouldn’t leave it. It was crying like a baby and it was horrible. I was trying to decide if it was time for me to clunk it with a shovel and put it out of its misery when Suzie came tearing back and gave it a few more violent shakes. She went back inside to get out of the rain and Daisy stood by, licking the woodchuck’s trembling face while it breathed its last. I’m not actually sure a woodchuck finds that comforting, but it was very sweet on Daisy’s part. She acted as though she was losing her best friend.

I went back in out of the rain and since the rain just got more intense, decided to clean up the following day. When I got home from work, it was my first order of business. Except when I went to where it had been, it was gone. What?? Please tell me there wasn’t some kind of resurrection!!! Weird. I looked all over the area and couldn’t find it. Hmm. Maybe some varmint carried it away. I moved on with my evening and was tasking around the house, door partially open as the dogs tooled around doing their thing. And then there was Daisy, at the patio door with a woodchuck carcass (fully intact, thank God!). Oooohhhh. Yeah, cleaned that thing up quickly as I am not interested in seeing it again.

The animal kingdom is an interesting and ferocious place. Well — at least parts of it are. Daisy Daze is 60 lbs of pure love with zero hunting skills. At least she looks scary and like she could protect me. Suzie looks like an elderly little love muffin but she can and will kill tiny creatures without a second thought. And all is well with the world.

Chickens… round 3

One of my readers informed me that my friends over here don’t know about the new chickens.  Oops.

I have new chickens! 

The week my old chickens got massacred, some friends had just picked up chicks and offered to raise mine along with theirs until they could go outside (because they are the most generous people alive!!!!)  YES. There was no way I was ready to add indoor chicks into my remodeling disaster so this was a huge blessing. (Yes, I do have the best friends in the world).

So in early April, I went to Tractor Supply and bought 6 chicks to add in with their 8 chicks and dropped them off with some supplies. They were tiny and cute and fluffy. And that was the last I’d see of them until they were feathered out and ready for the coop. Fabulous.

A few weeks ago, the day arrived: The chicks were ready to be outside full time. I showed up at my friend’s and their kids chased and retrieved the proper mix of chicks, two of each:

Isa Brown
White Leghorn
Orpington

Last time I had three of the Leghorns and they were the first to lay and incredibly consistent. One egg per day per leghorn. I definitely wanted some of those in the mix since the whole point here is the eggs (and the fact that they eat my compost and a lot of weeds is just a bonus).

As we stood in the driveway chatting, one of my friend’s daughters held her favorite chicken “Streamers” sobbing. I felt like the meanest person ever and obviously offered if she wanted to trade Streamers for a different one, by all means. But Streamers is one of two possible roosters and we were splitting the possible roosters, so my young friend hugged it and sent it home with me.

If last year’s leghorns are any indication, I should start getting eggs somewhere at the beginning of August. By then I’m hoping to have built a new coop for these biddies. For now, the old coop is fine and they are in the covered run I built with my troop last summer so they are safe from marauding varmints. It is rather cramped space wise once they are full grown, but I’ve got another solution for the run already figured out (and that’s a story for another day).

In the meantime, there are chickens at my house again. The weeds are being eaten. Daisy is being entertained. And we are dreaming of fresh eggs again sometime this summer.

Dreaming within our means (repost)

I posted this a couple years ago and keep revisiting it in my mind lately, while this kitchen – dining – bathroom takes over my life.  I realized it wasn’t posted here from my old blog so I’m sharing it again. I come to the same conclusion: I am so very thankful. My house is an ongoing challenge but I love it. I’m so grateful for the gift of this place in my life. As my sister said the other day, “No one loves their shack as much as you do.” I think she’s on to something.

September 2013 – Buying this new old house and having a zillion projects I want to do all at one time- with limited time and within a limited budget has gotten me thinking a lot about what it means to live within my means. And furthermore, to dream within my means. Sure, it would be awesome to re-side the house instead of this big ole painting the exterior project. But it isn’t in the budget right now. Instead I will bust my behind, scrape paint till I can’t move my hand, spend every spare minute painting, and buy maybe five years with the current siding. And I’m not unhappy with it. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it is work I am capable of and can afford. It will preserve the house and do the job I need done. All within my means. And in that delicious yellow that I love so much.

IMG_2022

Upstairs I would love to gut the whole thing, put in some new windows, new drywall, new flooring, etc.  But that isn’t within my grasp right now. Over time, I have some ideas about things I’d love to do, but for now, I will stalk the clearance paint aisles, paint the bedrooms, put in some better flooring, and be pleased with the progress within my means right now.

I realized recently that it is unreasonable of me to dream within other people’s means. Oh I’m not saying no one helps me or is generous with their time or talent, just that it isn’t fair to require friends to donate copious amounts of their time and talent to make my dream come true. I will certainly accept help and maybe sometimes even ask for it (like that top part of the house I can’t reach from the ladder), but keeping in mind that my friends and family have lives of their own, projects of their own, things to do.

And I have to say, it doesn’t feel like a great suffering. I’m blessed to be in this house that I love, blessed with talent (or at least determination) to tackle a lot of things myself, and dreaming within my means is actually kind of a safety net for myself and helps me be content and grateful with the blessings within reach.

God is good.