Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today is Also Luna's Birthday

A small thing on this particular date in history but small things are good to remember, too.

She is seven now though for some reason I've been thinking she was 7 for the last year. So she gets to be 7 for another year. She had a hairy time about 3 weeks ago while running through the woods out of my sight she ripped a 4 inch wound on her right hip and belly. Probably caugt herself on a broken limb while jumping over a fallen dead cedar tree. Nasty and expensive to fix. Stitches came out last week and she seems to be doing fine now. Here are a few recent photos of my best girl.

Rolling on the ground after a swim.

Boxer shorts to keep her from licking her stitches.

Her second favorite pastime - digging!

Luna and the Zigster resting during a tiring walk.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My New Camera - Panasonic ZS15

This camera was actually not my first choice. That was the very popular 2011 Panasonic FZ150, a bridge camera (more than a point and shoot less than a dSLR, no removable lenses). But my budget was limited and being honest with myself about how much I've used a camera over the last few years, I couldn't justify spending over $400 for it. Last year's point and shoot the ZS8 didn't meet my requirements but this year's replacement for it, the ZS15, has been getting fairly good reviews and fixed a couple of the problems I had with the ZS8. Plus the price was right, only $165. So I bought it to replace my Panasonic LZ8 which I've had since December 2008.

My LZ8 camera served me well enough but after the first couple of years my biggest complaints about it were the limited zoom, poor low light capability and the slow recovery after using the flash.  The ZS15 is faster both in powering up, in focusing and recovering from flash photography. Plus the zoom is 16x versus 5x. I've had it not quite 2 weeks and even with some rainy days that curtailed my outdoor excursions, I've had it out and about the swamp taking photos of everything from wild flowers to spiders, chickens, my dogs and numerous landscapes. Yesterday I even got out on Hubbard Lake a snapped a few photos though taking pictures of gulls floating on the water from a floating platform doesn't generally result in decent pictures.

And the photos have really impressed me. It's possible that it's because I'm becoming a better photographer, I'm really getting into using the manual settings which I mostly ignored though the LZ8 had them. (after it nearly died on me) so I haven't many photos to compare. But within the automatic settings, especially the indoor ones the ZS15 is performing much better. That too, is probably due to the improved focal length.

Oddly, the aperture only runs between 3.3f and 6.3f and I don't know why as I have not found a good explanation.Is it something to do with the lens optics? I have no idea. So far it hasn't bothered me but if it does I eventually may need to go to one of those bridge cameras.

But enough of my pitiful attempt at a review, there are plenty of them on line on numerous photography sites. Here's a few photos.

Luna on the sofa.

Ziggy in the morning mist.

Closeup of weird growth on the forest floor.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Photos

I've been pretty busy, or perhaps just pretty lazy, but rather than waiting to think of something to say I'll just post a few photos I've taken in July.


This is the first time I got decent photos of fireworks. I used the burst mode rather than the camera's fireworks setting which was too slow. These were taken over Jewell Lake in Barton City, MI.

The next photos of the dogs were taken at Negwegon State Park on Lake Huron. My dogs Luna and Ziggy and a friend's 7 month old puppy, Princess.

Ziggy and Princess racing in the waves.

Luna enjoying a roll in the weeds.

All 3 dogs wrestled a lot that afternoon.

More playing in the water.

Hal created a new vegetable garden across the driveway from the house. It's small yet but in a much better location than the one on the hunting property which relies on rain water of which there has been very little this summer. This garden has cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, 1 watermelon and scallions on the inside and pie pumpkins on the outside. I don't know if it's the excessive heat or simply poor soil or a combination but I have only 1 pumpkin out of 9 hills, the watermelon plant hardly grew, only half the zucchini have fruit and the tomatoes also have few fruit. It probably didn't help that I selected varieties for northern climes this year. Of course, the one hot wather variety I got, Big Rainbow, hardly has anything either.

My new vegetable garden across the driveway.
This photo was taken from a pontoon boat captained by one of Hal's younger brothers. His wife and I rounded out the crew. We really enjoy the pontoon rides.
Sunset on Hubbard Lake, MI

Hopefully I'll post some more photos soon. After all I have lots of poultry plus 9 new ducklings just hatched. And next week I should receive the new camera I just bought. Usually that will result in many,many new photos as I learn its ins and outs.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chicks,Chicks and More Chicks

I've got a few chicks now, the ones that arrived in April, still have 22 out of the original 26. Eleven Blue Andalusian and 11 Golden Buff. Of the GB's I'm only keeping the 5 hens for layers. The 6 roosters will be heading to freezer camp once they get a little bigger.

The BAs I think I'll keep one blue rooster and 3 of the hens, all blue. I actually have someone interested in buying 2 of these hens, a blue and a splash (white) and 2 roosters, the black one which is very pretty and a blue since I have 3 blues. The extras will, of course, be dinner.

These little guys are my newest chicks and arrived on a truck from the Saginaw Post Office around 5 pm on Tuesday. That was rather unusual, as I generally have to wait till they arrive the next day on the regular mail truck to my local post office. But this gal from the Saginaw post office drove 2.5 hours to bring me and 4 other people in the area our chicks. I can only assume this happened because there were so many of them and won't necessarily be repeated, but it was good that the chicks only spent one night in transit.

One of the chicks was in distress and died within a few hours, another died in the night. Had another that was acting oddly, disoriented and would drink like mad when I stuck him in front of the water. Figured he was a goner but he's still hanging on. These chicks are Dominiques, the black ones, Buckeyes, Dark Cornish (2 of these died) and Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. And that's all the birds I'm planning on this year.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Have Guinea Keets!

I had placed 35 eggs in the incubator a month ago. Twenty-seven days later, a day early, they started hatching. After 2 days we took out 14 and placed them in a makeshift brooder on the floor of the garage. Looks like a few lavender ones, those are the silver keets and a bunch of pieds, those will be half purple with white wing feathers and bellies. A few of them have developed spraddle leg. Have bandaged 2 of the worst ones, hopefully they'll recover nicely and the others who aren't as bad will recover on their own now that they have a better surface for their claws to grip. Apparently, the paper towels on the bottom of the hatcher didn't provide enough traction.

On the chick front, my 22 chicks are almost 6 weeks old. The Golden Buffs (on the top) are a third larger than the Blue Andalusians so I am going to put them outside in the intermediary coop/run, the old rabbit coop till they are big enough to hold their own against the ducklings and adult guineas.

Ziggy getting a little too interested.
Speaking of ducklings, had one vanish while free ranging last week. No feathers, no sign of struggle. The day before he had developed a bad limp. I'm thinking something, probably an eagle (one had been circling high over head the week before) made a run at him and missed causing him to sprain his leg. Next day, idiot me let them out again and while I walked the dogs in the woods for about an hour, the eagle came back and grabbed him because he couldn't run fast enough. The other possibility is the mother fox up the driveway in her den with 4 kits. I was hoping the electric fence would slow her down, but maybe not.

So now I'm down to 8 ducklings, 4 males and 4 females, now about 12 weeks old. time to sell them or start butchering them though I have no idea where I'll freeze the carcasses unless I keep them at the farm.

In about 15 days I have another batch of chicks coming too. I think I've gone a little overboard, but we'll be eating lots of poultry later this year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Car runs Great, but really, it's Dead Jim

I loved my 1999 Ford Taurus SE. Served me well for many years (bought it used about 2004), took many fun trips, the last major ones in September to Massachusetts (the trip I never did finish posting about) and then the Leelanau Peninsula here in MI in October. Little did I know I was driving about in a death trap.

At the end of March this year my fuel pump failed while driving home from Alpena. Had it towed to the nearest garage we've used before. Was told the filler neck had broken allowing crud into the tank, then into the pump which destroyed it. So $804 later it ran great again, was even told it ought to work great for me for another 2 years. Then I tried to fill the tank with gasoline. I discovered the  pump handle and filler nozzle wouldn't make a good seal, so the pump kept shutting off. I had to squeeze the handle just barely to trickle a few gallons in over a long period of time. Then when I parked it in the garage the smell of gas was so horrible it permeated the house.

So back it went to the same garage, 3 weeks after getting it fixed. There I was, with a 'good for another 2 years' vehicle with some sort of leak and was told the gas tank had to be replaced, and probably leaked from dropping it 3 weeks earlier to replace the fuel pump which sits on top. BUT, he wouldn't recommend doing it because the frame holding the engine was rotted from rust and the engine could fall out any time. Just roll right on out of the car

Hal was the one to receive this information over the phone. When he asked why they didn't tell us this 3 weeks earlier before they did the work, the reply was along the lines of "that was only 3 weeks ago?" and "we didn't notice".

Uh huh.

We are a bit put out by these comments to say the least. Had no choice but to call the insurance company who sent out an adjuster and a week later we were told it's not covered. We figured that but it was worth a shot.

Two days ago we drove it home, slowly and left it at Uncle Butch's house since we didn't want to risk driving it down our lumpy driveway. So there it sits while we try to figure out what to do with it now. In the meantime Hal has acquired a 1997 Dodge Ram 1500 from his dad's business. Been sitting at the farm unused for at least a year. He fixed the non-existent brakes and then took it into a different shop to repair the very sloppy, (to the point of not knowing if we can avoid the ditch), steering to the tune of $450. (That included a used tire to replace the undersized one it was sporting.)

Yesterday I noticed a leak. Hal determined the transmission fluid was leaking, it had practically none left. That probably explains the lousy gear shifting the last couple of times we drove it. I have my fingers crossed it's just a leaky pan gasket and filter. Hopefully, by the end of this week the truck will be operational.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Uncle Butch Died

On the night as my last post. Shocked the hell out of everyone. I saw him around 8 pm that night and less than 4 hours later he was gone. Heart attack. Totally unexpected though he'd had heart attacks previously. I think everyone was just numb for the first few days. He was my dogs' best buddy, the goodie man. It seemed Luna and Ziggy, and especially Rocket would rather be there than here at home because you never knew when goodies would magically appear. I considered Uncle Butch a good friend, he and his wife pretty much adopted me into their family. Some part of me still can't believe he won't be laying on his couch when I walk in the door and ask me "Have you come to see my dogs?" as Luna and Ziggy greeted my arrival to bring them home.

He was only 72.

This really sucks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

More Stress of the Chicken Kind

They say bad news comes in threes, I shall take both cars needing major repairs in 3 weeks as number 2, (I'd hate to think there was still something bad coming) and number 3 was a chick found dead on Sunday morning. I figured it was an accident, squashed by the other 25 when her foot got caught in the wire floor, but Monday morning another of the same breed, my Golden Buffs was ill. I Took her out and placed her in a box with her own heat and water. She did drink a lot and ate a bit but she mainly sat on her belly not a sign of a healthy chick which should be standing and running around. Later that day another female GB became ill and joined her. It died a few hours later, then a male GB became ill and died Tuesday morning, leaving that lone female. She finally died Tuesday afternoon.

Their legs became paralyzed, they were lethargic and in the end gasping. Looked like the description for Marek's disease. The whole batch were vaccinated for it so I really don't know if it was a reaction to the vaccine or just a coincidence, I am not a veterinarian so who knows. However it's now 3 days later and no other chicks have become ill so hopefully this crisis has passed.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ziggy was Dog-napped!

Sometime between 11 am and noon on Monday Ziggy disappeared. I had him and Luna and Farfel at my house out in the yard and while I was planting more snow peas he wandered off. I walked all over the woods looking for him, calling his name. I called my friend and he drove around town for a couple hours asking people if they'd seen him. After driving all over as well, I came home, walked back into the woods on the west side of the property. Nothing. Luna didn't react to anything either. At this point I knew he was gone, someone had to have taken him, or hit him with their car. I walked back to the house and I called the sheriff's department and then the local veterinarian around 4:30. No reports of little black dogs alive or dead.

I went back outside to walk the east side, took an old logging trail to the east of the pond, calling his name. I heard barking. I couldn't be sure it was him but it sounded like him. There's a nasty man living on that same street who had threatened to shoot Rocket more than once, waved a machete at me another time. He got a visit from the sheriff's department. I mention him because the barking came from the direction of his house. That was worrisome. I called Ziggy again and again and approached the back of his house from my woods. As I got closer the barking stopped, of course I worried that the creep was muzzling him. I went back to the house, got a leash and took Luna down the street. The barking started again and it turned out not to be the creeps yard but the yard next door. This guy whom I don't really know is a recluse, at least I never see him or his wife. At the end of a long black driveway is a 2 car garage. One of the doors has a cat door, and there is Ziggy inside trying desperately to get out through that tiny door.

I enlisted the help of the other next door neighbor and called Hal and my friend who also came over. This guy came out of his house and began ranting about my dog and all my "other dogs" and dogs in general pooping all over his yard rather than my yard, ad nauseum. At some point he realized that I do not own these other dogs that run amok nor do I live on his street. It seems he's referring to another neighbor's dogs, in fact the one who owns Farfel. He intentionally trapped Ziggy in his garage and hadn't decided what to do with him. (some of my friends think he was planning on either confronting Farfel's owner with Ziggy, or doing the "shoot, shovel, and shut up" thing after dark.)

Obviously, I do not like this newest creep in my life. He somehow lures my friendly little guy into his garage and left him there for hours without water. There was nothing in that garage to lure Ziggy in otherwise, the man has a cat door but no cats at all. After he sort of wound down from his ranting, he finally opened the other garage door and commented "lets see how much damage he's done" implying, of course, that I would be liable for it all.

Ziggy had destroyed the cat door and some insulation around it but nothing else was touched because Ziggy was more interested in getting out that door than anything else. Not to mention this garage was the cleanest, emptiest garage I had seen in my life. The man is anal in keeping it pristine. I can see why he's a recluse that no one seems to know much about. Being a decent person I offered to buy a new cat door, insulation and install it. I left with the understanding it would be fixed within 2 weeks.

But next morning at 8:30 am he shows up with a sheet of paper showing he had spent $40 on a new cat door and was going to buy the insulation. Hal met him at the door and a final sum of $50 was agreed upon. I haven't seen him since, I also haven't paid him. He can damn well wait those 2 weeks for the check or come get it if he wants it before then.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fuzzy Butts

My chicks have arrived. They left Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio on Monday and got to my post office this morning which is Wednesday. I ordered them 3 weeks ago when it occurred to me that waiting for my order in June seemed an awfully long time away. Normally I wouldn't get them this early in the year because it's usually colder and I don't want to over stress the birds. But with the record heat wave melting the snow, thawing the ground and generally making things a little warmer (though not much) than usual, why not get some now? It means fresh eggs this summer rather than October which is about when the June chicks would began to lay.

Because this was a last minute order I had to take what I could get. Even when I ordered my June chicks back in January I couldn't get the numbers of what I wanted. So while I could not get Buff Orpingtons I did manage to get a hybrid breed called Golden Buffs, also known as Golden Comets, (it all depends on the breeds used to create the chicks), aka red sex-links. This means you can tell the boys from the girls upon hatching, no peering into chickie genitalia by specially trained people required. Since they were moving around I didn't get an accurate count but of the 16 GBs I got at least 8 are girls. The boys will be heading to freezer camp about the time the gals start laying eggs. Since they are hybrids, breeding one to the other will result in a mishmash of chicks, not more GBs.

The other 11 chicks I ordered are Blue Andalusian. Some of these will be a blue/gray bird, others blacker in coloring and others gray/white. Apparently, the "blue" gene is recessive or some such thing so you get 50% of one color and 25% of the other 2 colors in a hatching. As chicks are grabbed randomly and stuffed into boxes for shipping, I have no guarantee as to what colors I have gotten though one on-line person has suggested that I may have a few splashes (the gray/white) and at least one blue. I have no idea what gender they are.

They are cute little devils though and are peeping up a racket. Here is a photo of a few in my little flock.
The reddish one is a female GB, the black one a Blue Andalusian, probably blue or black, and the yellow one either a male GB or a splash BA. The gray one to the right is also a BA, but being new to this breed, I have no idea what color it will be. I guess you'll find out when I do.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Dead, Jim

My cell phone is dead. Last Thursday (today is Monday) afternoon I had sent a couple of text messages and noticed the battery charge indicator had dropped one of its 3 bars. Normally, at least with my previous LG phone, the remaining bars would take hours if not more than a day to discharge before it began panicking and telling me to CHARGE NOW. My current phone, an LG900g, a blackberry-like phone with a wonderful little keyboard (texting is so much easier now!) dies quickly when the first indicator bar vanishes. Unfortunately, I put my phone down on the table and forgot about it for a couple hours. When I finally picked it back up to plug it in, it had shut off. No problem, happened before, plug it in, charge till full and bingo, good for another 3 days. Not this time.

Even plugged in it would not turn on. I did all the usual things they suggest. I took off the back cover, removed the battery, popped it back in. Plugged it back into the wall. Nothing. Did that a couple times. Plugged the phone into a different wall outlet. Nothing. Opened up my never used car charger, went down to my car and plugged it in. Nothing. Well, crap.
LG990g and its cute lavender argyle cover.
I googled the problem and found a couple mentions of similar problems with other people but no real help there. My phone is only 4 months old so I figure it must be under warranty. I then checked Wal-mart's website for warranty information since I bought it from them. Couldn't find anything. So, since my cellular service is with Net10, whom I've been very happy with, I went to their website and tried to report the problem. No can do, you have to have your phone turned on to be able to input these Code Entry numbers they send. Obviously, that wasn't going to work. So in their help menus, I saw a forum. I joined. I then posted 5 messages, the first being the main "It's Dead, Jim" message and 4 more more because it's a requirement for private messages to even work. At this point it was close to midnight so I went to bed.

Next morning, checked the Net10 site, lo and behold, 2 replies from 2 different help staff. Mainly they wanted to know specifics. I was pretty sure "phone is dead, will  not charge" was pretty specific but I went through it all again to make them happy. So though I hadn't any plans to go to town, I got the dogs walked, including my neighbor's (who was working days), dropped his and then mine off at my other neighbor's and went to Alpena with my phone to Wal-mart. Turns out according to the customer service desk, cell phones only have a 15 day return policy with them. I don't want it returned, I want it fixed. So I went to the cell phone desk in the back of the store and hung around 10-15 minutes waiting for the gal who worked it to get back from lunch.

I explained my problem. She took a look at the phone, got a new one, opened the package pulled out a battery and popped it in. Voila, working phone! But they don't sell batteries. They could sell me a new phone, and then I could pop the old battery out and the new one in. She'd even sell it to me for the $29.99 I paid for it rather than the new price of $39.99. She said the Verizon store might have the battery but would probably charge more than the phone cost me. As I thought about it, she took her phone and went on ebay and found the same battery for $3. So I decided I'd go home and check Amazon first.

Since I was at WM I figured I may as well get the gardening supplies I needed. Got a few, plus some mustard, and heard the optometry center announce an opening for an eye exam. I thought what the hell, I was overdue so got my eyes checked, dilated and new glasses selected and ordered. Then I left WM got in my car put on my sunglassed because the glare in my poor dilated eyes was awful even though it was cloudy, and turned the key. Took 3 tries before it caught. Decided it might be a good idea to head back to the farm where I had seen Hal driving his dad's tractor, and where I had borrowed his mom's cell phone. (I was already suspicious about the car because it had trouble accelerating from a stop and up hills, the main reason I borrowed MIL's cell phone, just in case.) On the 17 mile drive I had to pass a slow moving Pepsi truck doing 40 mph. My car barely got to 45. I got around the truck and slowly got up to the 55 mph speed limit but at every stop sign things became worse when I tried to accelerate. As I was turning into the farm road, Hal sent a text that he was on his way home. I flew past the farm house heading toward his camp (as much as one can fly on a slick muddy road with an engine that is sluggish and saw his car turn down another road. So I called him and got him to come back to the farm. I returned my MIL's cell phone and then started home with Hal following. Things got progressively worse.

There are lots of hills on Hubbard Lake Road and every time I had to climb one the car got slower and slower and sounded like the engine wanted to break apart. I swear I heard clanking. Eventually, my speedometer barely registered. I figured the fuel pump was going. Hal thought it could be that or the fuel filter. He wanted me to get it home so he could check. Never made it. Half way home it finally died. Hal pushed it off to the side while I struggled with the steering wheel and brakes which no longer had power supplied to them, of course. Then we transferred everything from my car to his truck and headed to the repair garage in Lincoln. We got there by 4:30. The owner called another garage to send a wrecker. Sometime today (does anyone in car maintenance work on weekends any more?)  they will looks at the problem and call Hal on his cell since mine is still dead and we have no land line.

But what about the phone? When I got home Friday night I went on Amazon and found OEM LG batteries for $3.36 and free shipping. I bought 2. Apparently buying 2 gave it a shipping cost of $1. That is still damn cheap! In the meantime the Net10 people wanted my address to send me a free battery. So now it's a race to see whose gets here first. So I'll have 1 phone and 3 batteries. If it was the phone killing the battery early because of a faulty wire, etc, then I'll have plenty of spares. If not, maybe I'll need my next phone to use the same batteries. Waste not want not.

So though I am car-less and phone-less, at least I still have the internet where I can rant about my misfortune.

Ah, Hal has come home. My fuel filter and fuel pump are shot. And dropping the fuel tank will destroy the leaky gas tank filler neck that the dealer wanted to replace a couple years ago along with a bunch of other stuff for $2000. We declined and never went back. This is only going to cost $678 and change. Well, it's still cheaper than a new car.

My car may actually be fixed before my phone is. huh.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Still Winter?

It is until tomorrow when the vernal equinox arrives. However, for the past few days we have been enjoying extremely unseasonably warm weather.  Summer, in fact has been upon us for about a week now. I should have kept better track when this heat wave arrived. Yesterday it hit 79, currently it's 75 and rising, and it could be nearly 90 by Wednesday. Average temperature for today is 38. This is very, very weird.

I've been digging in my garden. I planted snow peas yesterday, I'll plant more today when I dig out more weeds. I even took the temperature of the soil and a foot down it's 49.8 degrees Fahrenheit. I should have been hitting frozen ground, but the frost is gone.

I'm not sure how the dogs are liking it, they still haven't shed their winter coats, Ziggy being a black dog seems especially lethargic for a one year old puppy. Right now they're laying next to me in the shade. And where am I? I am stretched out in my deck chair, looking at my still frozen pond, sipping a lemonade while the guineas roam around the yard. The ducklings are also outside with their mom though still inside the pen. Ducklings you say? I have been negligent, they hatched about March 9th. There are 9 of them and they are finally showing some pin feather on their wings. Here is a photo I took yesterday, the first day all 9 have been outside the coop.
I suppose I should get back to digging in the garden, or washing or cleaning out the garage perhaps, but I'm finding it much more enjoyable to be doing this:
 After all, sipping lemonade on the deck in northern Michigan in March, well, that should be enjoyed as long as possible!

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's a Bit Snowy Out There

The forecast was for maybe 3 inches total over 24 hours. Yet by evening there is more than 7 inches of heavy wet snow out there on my deck. Photo looks dull because it's gloomy outside, it's through the window and it's still snowing, a very fine snow.

Tomorrow I'll have to finish shoveling the deck, only made paths to all the steps today. Just when we were all lulled into a false sense of a warmer than normal winter!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rescued a Duckling

My Muscovy duck hatched 9 little ducklings 2 days ago. When checking on things in the coup last evening I found one in the middle of the straw floor on it's back, very cold and listless. I think its the same one momma had ignored earlier in the day. I had managed to get him underneath but then a couple hours later, there he was. So I brought him inside and set him wrapped in a washcloth on top of a heating pad set to low while I set up a box with vitamin water and a light, and fluffy toy for a companion. Then I woke up every 2 hours to check on him. Here he is this morning.

I think he's going to be just fine. He's actually sitting on the stuffed toy. Now I have to figure out if I have to keep him inside till he gets feathers or if momma will take him back. I've raised birds indoors before but not one there was a chance of reuniting with its mother.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ziggy!!

Today you turn one year old, give or take a few days. I'm not sure exactly what day this month but this is close enough. You're a naughty little, fun loving, bundle of energy and a joy to have around. And your big sister really, really likes you. SO have a biscuit, a long drink of water, and here's lookin' at you, kid!