Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kewanna Snow Days!

We had SNOW the other day! In November!
It was terrible and disgusting, but we did survive the mild blizzard of November '13. In the spirit of not-moving-to-the-South, me and the dogs played Snow Frisbee!
This is Harley and Milo playing fetch-NOT and Jamie playing with the soft frisbee nobody likes but her.
This is a proper dog playing proper fetch.
Alone in the yard Milo can play some really good Frisbee, but he doesn't share well and ends up destroying the nice retrieves of others. He is 10 lbs. of Frisbee fury in a sporty little coat.
Until he gets his way and the Frisbee is his!
He then kills it violently, parades through the yard with his prize, and eventually returns it to me for another toss to begin the madness again.
But look at this face! I don't even hold it against him the fiend! Tiny Minksliciousness is the epitome of adorable, even though he is a horrible little fink on his best days. 
Possum watches the drama with interest if there are a lack of birds to chase. He doesn't believe in Frisbee at all, only birds. His biggest contribution to the games are latching on to Harley and hump-skiing through the yard while Harley chases the Frisbee and tries to wrestle it from Milo. It's hilarious and unfortunately has yet to be caught on camera. So instead here he is looking casual and debonair in his own stylish coat.
Happy dogs come from Kewanna! Jamie is on trial in a foster home! Happy happy girl she will hopefully have a family to call her own soon!
This is my favorite of the day, Zak and Harley in unison.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

New Chickens

     I have 11 chickens (9 hens and 2 roosters) and 5 duck hens. Most of them are between 8-11 years old, and while I still get a steady stream of eggs, it's nothing to write home about.

     Except the ducks, in the spring I get 1 egg a day from EACH duck (who are 8-11 YEARS old!). They slow to 1-3 duck eggs a day most the summer and fall, then totally quit from late fall to the next spring. But still my 11 year old Pekin duck lays an egg a day in the spring, and that just floors me.

     Anyways, here are some of my girls.
The larger black hen on the right is my Opus chicken, and she was one of my very first chickens, 11 years ago. She is a sweetie and is happy to eat grain from your hand. The smaller black hen next to her is "Opus's Stalker" and she was a feather-less bloody little hen that I brought home from an over-crowded little chicken coop I ran across. She decided Opus was her bestest friend ever from day one, and has followed her everywhere since. Where Opus goes her stalker follows.
So David has been wanting a more steady stream of eggs and has been dying to get a Maran chicken, which lays a very dark chocolate egg. We saw one for sale on Facebook from Rockin' C Chicks and drove over that evening to pick her up, along with 4 of her friends.
David's Black Copper Maran. This is his new baby, he is so excited and can't wait for his first dark egg. She's very friendly and is quite the super-model chicken.
These are his other two, a Silver Laced Wyandotte and a Columbian Wyandotte.
This is my girl, a Blue Orpington. Orpingtons are my favorite breed, they've always been such calm friendly birds. Rockin' C Chicks will have lavender Orpingtons in the future, and I'm really hoping I can get one of those next year too!
This is my other chicken, she's much prettier then the picture shows, but she was scared of the camera. She's a Polish mix, and just a beautiful, shimmering golden little girl.
Just for fun, this is my loony-tune little rooster. He was hatched here by one of my banty hens, and he's a bit of a nut. He will be calmly scratching with the other chickens, then suddenly squalk, jump, flap, and run like crazy into the chicken coop. This leads the other chickens to also think he's insane. 
And my pigeons couldn't be left out. Lovey is the bigger fellow, and I raised him from a tiny hatchling. He was lonely and this spring one of my clients sold me the little white pigeon, who is now Lovey's Girlfriend. He adores her, and spends all his time singing and preening for his love. She ignores him mostly, but she's still a boost for his moral, keeps him from thinking he's a chicken, and he's teaching her to fly.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fall News from Kewanna

First off, the major news of the fall, is that me and David got engaged!

David had a friend of ours who does blacksmith art make the ring, which is just awesome.
He did it on horseback, in Brown county in a river. It was beautiful, even though it was raining and butt-cold and I had been completely against the idea of going out riding. I'd honestly thought he'd gone completely crackers, and it turned out he had.
It's definitely fall here. It's getting down right cold some days, and I'd turned on the small infrared heater, which sits next to one of my cat trees.
The top of the tree sprouts cats like mad in cold weather-
and Jack Russell Minkey Dogs at the bottom-
Daisy is still hard at work, building her fiber collection
and I'm still busy trying to dye yarn and fiber for upcoming festivals we have booths at.
Plus David, yes DAVID, brought home a foster puppy. She's a 6 month old black lab he found abandoned after a woman moved away and left her.
Her name is now Jamie, and she's a total doll. Much easier then most of my crazy dogs! So if you know of anyone looking for a love of a dog, I have one that dearly wants someone to call her own!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Extracting Weekend

     We spent this weekend removing honey supers from beehives and extracting. We currently have 16 hives, most of which were started this year from packages.

      A 3-lb package of bees we started with this spring.
A beautiful frame of honey.
My grandpa teaching David how to de-cap frames.
De-capping reveals the honey underneath ready to be spun.
The frame is loaded into the extractor, which is the size of a large trash can that holds 4 frames at a time. Then you turn the crank and the honey spins out and hits the wall of the extractor, then slowly runs down to the bottom and out a valve into a waiting strainer and bucket.
From there the honey is run through 3 more filters to remove any impurities, then poured into 5 gallon buckets with valves for bottling.
In the end we have bottles of fresh, raw honey for sale.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Before and After Pottery Firing

     Pottery is a LOOONG process. Long. It's not "I want this" and you make it that week. It's "I want this for two months from now". If I was not employed or taking care of my farm it would be admittedly a much shorter process, but finding a whole day to do little but baby-sit the kiln is a challenge.

     I'm in the process of making custom pet bowls for my crew. Every few months I add 2-3 more bowls. It's a process. Some may say it's a sign of excessive cats, but that seems a ridiculous thought so I don't entertain it.

     The fun of pottery (besides the mud everywhere) is the "Christmas on Demand" aspect of glaze firing. Bisque firing is putting in large, very fragile pieces of dry clay, and 24 hours later getting out much smaller tougher pieces of dried clay. It's admittedly underwhelming to say the least.   

     But glaze firing is different. Glaze firing is putting in ugly, dull, dirty pieces of dried clay and getting out pottery. The clay undergoes a chemical change because of the extreme heat and becomes ceramic; and the dull, dirty glaze becomes glass.

     This is the top level of the kiln before firing.

24 hours later
Bottom level before
Bottom level after
Sitting on the shelf before firing
The kiln-load on the shelf after firing
I think glaze firing exemplifies the quote-
"Magic is just science we don't understand yet." - Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making the Case for Intellectual Empathy

             One week when I was little, we ran out of food. My mom was a single mom working two to three jobs, and she was broke. We went to church and she prayed for a miracle so we could eat for the week.

When we got home, there were grocery sacks full of food on our front porch. This re-affirmed her faith in God for years to come, and she still talks about that miracle to this day.
           My mom reads like a book when she’s upset, the problem was likely obvious to our friends at church and they helped us out with no expectations of return, or even a note on the bag to claim credit. This event re-affirmed my faith in humanity and taught me what it is like to be the recipient of someone’s empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of someone else. It’s stepping away from me, myself, and I for a moment to try and connect with someone else.

Compassion and Empathy are two emotions often looked at as weaknesses, but in fact they are most likely the emotions our society evolved on. Empathy is a necessity in a social environment. Big brains burn up big calories, and we are fairly poor physical specimens for hunting. Getting into groups to take down prey required a community effort, and without the ability to empathize with your neighbor, a community founders.

 Compassionate hunters took their food home to share, providing their families and friends with food rather than eating it all themselves. Compassion passed on more genes then greed, and group effort hunting allowed us to develop and feed these big energy sucking brains that have turned our society into what it is today.

If we had been dog-eat-dog from the beginning, unwilling to hunt in group or co-operate with others, society never would have started, and we’d of forever remained small-brained cave monkeys. The empathy to share with our neighbors was a big deal and founded our modern society and mental development.

But empathy is just as important to society today as it was then. Being a good leader is all about empathizing with your co-workers. Everybody has had the horrible boss who just doesn’t get it, and if you’re lucky you’ve had one of the really great bosses who is there for you every step of the way. It’s been shown people would rather work at a harder, more time intensive job with a boss who listens and cares, then at a cake walk job with an uncaring boss.
 You can also improve your boss’s attitude by being empathetic, discussing things they care about, remembering things that are important to them. It’s hard to yell at the cheery employee who always asks about your kid’s grades, or your dog’s illness. The one who meets problems with a smile, the one you can count on to get things done. You get what you give in social relationships.
              Empathy helps me daily in my job, and has built my business. Empathy with animals is almost a taboo in the horse world; and I get told how crazy I am on a regular basis. But I also get amazing results that people can’t believe. It’s not magic, nor psychic powers. I ask their horse questions and I listen when he answers. Sometimes, empathy is as simple as that.

 I work on horses of all shapes, sizes, and personalities. I can’t count how many times someone has told me how much they appreciate the way I don’t beat their horse. Most farriers hate working on old horses. The one who is creaky with arthritis, who can’t stand well; the one who threatens to fall over on you, who leans, who pulls away. No smack with a rasp will straighten them out; it’s the degrading of old joints and weak muscles that can’t be helped. It’s common to hear horrible things done to these guys, because they are bad to work on. Beating, twitching, tying legs up, or laying the horse down because he’s gotten too sore to stand well.

But you are talking about the horse that carried someone through every park in Indiana, the one with shelves of ribbons from shows, who taught their kids to ride, then their grandkids. The one who has been with them through divorce and death, who has listened to a lifetime of their problems, fears, and frustrations. The one who has stood politely to have his feet done for 20 plus years. But today he’s bad and we are justified to smack and kick him for his bad hips. 

I believe it’s an absolutely disgusting practice. It breaks my heart; to be cruel to some sweet old soul in pain, simply because he is in pain, is beyond my understanding.

So I massage hips, I contort myself into pretzel shapes; I give a bucket of grain to keep them occupied. I spend maybe an extra 10 minutes working on old guys, so they are comfortable and happy about it. I enjoy their company, and try to make it so they enjoy mine. And my clients love me for it. I get more referrals, more satisfied clients, more praise and more tips because of this practice than any other. I have built my business on compassion for old and lame horses.

You will never convince me that empathy is anything other than a logical strength. It’s like a muscle, the more you work it the better it gets. It’s also teaching people how you want to be treated, when you are compassionate and empathetic, that is what you will get back. You just can’t yell at someone who is calm, kind, and brought you your favorite donut.  

It’s been scientifically studied and proven that people who intentionally focus on the positive things in their lives are happier. Happiness is relative, and usually how happy someone is at any given moment is dictated by their neighbors, co-workers and friends. The best way to take control of your own happiness is to look for positive things in your life. Bad things and experiences are remembered more strongly than the good things, because of the way our brains process and store information. So 10 good things may happen to you today without affecting you; while 1 bad thing will ruin your mood because your brain automatically assigns it more importance and brings it to notice. Your whole week can be poisoned with this one bad thing, while you watch hundreds of good things go by unannounced.

 Training your brain to notice the good things takes conscious effort; you need to run your brain rather than letting it run you. But in the end you will be measurably happier, and will affect happiness into the lives of those around you. You are the neighbor, the co-worker and the friend of someone else; you are affecting their happiness constantly.

Everyone is outfitted with these amazing intricate minds that they can learn to control and program. Every obstacle in your life, every difficult person you meet, every car that breaks down, every pipe that bursts, is either an opportunity to learn and train your mind in a real world setting, or it is a problem. You are the one who chooses which it is.

Try to think of someone you don’t like, or struggle to get along with. Try to think of why they do what they do, what might have led them to be the way they are. “Because they’re a stupid butthead” doesn’t count. That’s never the right answer. Play a game, dust off the brain, and actually think about it. Think about where they are in life, come up with some valid reasons they may do what they do, and think about your behavior in their eyes. Think how you can modify your approach, change your own behavior, and attempt to accept and appreciate who they are as who they need to be. You can’t change people, you can only change your mind set about them. You can always find something to appreciate about someone, even if it is their evil genius or their heroic mental ability to tie their own shoes in the morning.
Follow it up by doing something nice for someone. Look for someone who is doing something good, and appreciate it. Seek it out in your co-workers and families, and especially in people you struggle with. If absolutely nothing else it will build you up as a better, happier person and you will know you did your part in making the world a more enjoyable place by using intellectual empathy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It's True

You don't have a soul;
you are a soul.
You have a body.
C.S. Lewis
     I love this quote, I find myself thinking it often. Not usually about people, but when watching people with their animals. I have come to realize more and more that I see animals differently then most. Not as things, not as pets, not as lesser-thans, not as children, and not even as small people in furry suits. They are souls. Just like me, your neighbor, and the guy who works at the gas station. All just simply souls, different suits.
     Some have beautiful, complex minds. Some don't. Some are best at one thing, others excel at all. Some are funny and wild, some are crabby and quiet. Some are athletic, some are lazy. Some only want to be loved, others want a friend, and still others want an equal.
     Sometimes you will go somewhere and see happy souls, ornery souls, funny souls, brilliant souls, and then down the line somewhere a broken soul. A soul that didn't suit someone's needs, so they broken it into pieces and stole the body. You see it in people as much as animals. Sometimes you go places and don't see it. There is no sliver of pain running through the air, no sorrow, and no brokenness. These places are peaceful, tranquil, light, soft, and these places feed the souls that walk through them.

     I find it's one of my main desires in life to cultivate such a place. To feed souls, furry and otherwise, in the things I do. I desire to never break a soul to suit my needs, to accept the crazed and deranged around me with my own peace and compassion. I will thus be busy forever.