Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last week, the local stewardship council planted some trees on our property, mainly along the creek (municipal drain) that was dredged out last fall. Two of the tree planters were lovely young women from the local college.

A couple of days after they'd finished their work, Gordon walked along the drain and discovered this:
One of the girls apparently got creative with the clay around the creek, no doubt thinking no one would ever come across her little creation!

Is is a dinosaur? A monster? A mudster?

Whatever it is, we LIKE it! Thanks girls, wherever you are, for making us smile. I think somebody should be in a sculpting program at art school, not planting trees!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 16...

The de-coning is supposed to take place this Saturday but I'm not convinced Tristan won't immediately start ripping away at his surgery wound.

He's pretty nonchalant about the collar these days, but my thighs have taken a beating! (Ram! Ram! Ram!!!)

Chickpeas and beans and avocado, oh my!

I could not deal with another grilled cheese or tuna sandwich for lunch on Tuesday, so I made this. It was easy and very yummy!

Black Bean, Chickpea and Avocado Salad
By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

This recipe makes 6 servings

• 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 2 green onions, sliced
• 2 tomatoes, chopped
• 1 sweet yellow pepper or red pepper, chopped
• 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
• 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh coriander
• 1 tsp (5 mL) grated lime rind
• 1/4 cup (50 mL) lime juice
• 1/4 cup (50 mL) vegetable oil
• 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
• 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

In large bowl, toss together black beans, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, yellow pepper, avocado and coriander. In small bowl, whisk together lime rind and juice, oil, jalapeno pepper, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over bean mixture; toss to coat

Canadian Living Magazine: April 2002

Love those chickpeas!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Make it stop!

Yesterday it was around 20C. Today it's...


Make it STOP!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

A review of Katie of the Sonoran Desert

In this video, Joanne Manaster, a very cool scientist, reviews science and engineering books for children. At the 7:00-minute mark of the video, she shows and discusses the children's book I illustrated, Katie of the Sonoran Desert/Katie del Desierto Sonorense, which you can find on Amazon or at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum press bookshop.

I was quite excited to see her positive review, and she even mentions my name and compliments the drawings. It made my day, which was going pretty crappily until now!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hubby happenings

Gordon made a very nice supper on Friday: grilled chicken with tomatoes, goat cheese and parsley, steamed broccoli, and mashed potatoes with parsnip and garlic (I grew the potatoes and garlic!)...

Here is the proud chef in the t-shirt I bought him on Etsy!

And here's a typical Saturday-morning scene: a boy, his computer, his coffee, and his loving dogs...
The cone comes off Tristan at the end of this week.

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sad day at the farm...

We let our chickens free-range most days, for a couple of hours, with either us or the dogs (or sometimes both) hanging out in the garden within earshot. After losing two hens last October, we drastically cut back the free-ranging time to those few hours in the afternoon to early evening.

Yesterday before sunset, I went down to put the girls away and found Buffy's lifeless but still-warm body, bitten by either a coyote or a loose dog (you can identify predators by the damage they do to the chickens.) Clearly she had just expired, and I was upset that I hadn't come out just five minutes earlier. Next to her was an explosion of feathers that used to be Buttercup; whatever killed her had run off with her body. I thought we'd lost Chicky the runt, too, but she showed up later as I was sitting in the coop with the rest of the hens, given them bedtime cuddles.

It was all very upsetting, and probably the reason I've had a migraine headache all day. We've found it difficult to stop free-ranging the girls completely. The hens adore their freedom, and we love seeing them in the garden, but of course it puts them at risk of being attacked by predators. The girls do now have a caged run, but it's not the same as them having the run of the garden, where they can find all sorts of places to dig around, snooze and dust-bathe. Still, I think their days of free-ranging are going to be further limited. We have both gotten very attached to our hens and while I know animal deaths are inevitable on farms, it's hard to accept predators attacking our hens.

We'll reconsider our options (chicken tractors, moving electric netted fence, etc.) and if we let them out to free-range, we'll just have to keep an eye on them the whole time. I do love gardening with them; they are great company and love to see what I'm doing with the garden spade.

My neighbour down the road a bit has been free-ranging her girls for years and has yet to lose one; I guess she's been luckier than we have!

We were planning on getting more chicks this year anyway, but I guess now we'll be bumping up the order size a bit.

Buffy and Buttercup, we'll miss you girls. I'm sorry I didn't do a better job of protecting you.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ah, it's spring and love is in the air...

...not to mention lust. I looked out my kitchen window while making dinner tonight and saw this:

"Naomi! We've been caught by the paparazzi again!"

"Yes, in fact my hand IS on her behind.Would it be too much to ask for some PRIVACY?!"

"Alex, let's just pretend she's not there."

"That camera makes my ass look fat. Can you please GO AWAY?"

Ah, feline lovers! There are two kitty shelves, but Naomi moved off hers to get up close and personal with Alex. I'm not sure if that thing is rated for 21 lbs of cat!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Conehead the Barbarian

Our dogs are NOT allowed on the couch...

I repeat: our dogs are not allowed on the couch.

And for your viewing enjoyment, Conehead the Barbarian in action:

I think I had too much caffeine today.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This week's Hen Superstar...

Chicky is the Hen of the Week for my egg carton cards. Before you start making jokes about her name, I should remind you that it was given to her by a smart, funny, adorable five-year-old girl named Hannah.

Chicky is the runt, waaaaaaay down at the bottom of the pecking order, but she has PLENTY of attitude. She also lost out on a worm this morning when Henrietta stole it from her beak. Actually, she only lost half the worm. Those suckers stretch only so far, then SNAP! and voilà: two worms instead of one!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Littered with pets...

The dogs are not allowed on the couch, but Tristan was looking so pathetic last night that we made an exception. He promptly stretched out on top of me, and Naomi the cat joined him:

I like Naomi's eyes glowing through the cone. And those are my pajama bottoms, not my street clothes. I was halfway ready for bed! I'm not like those teenage girls who run around in public in cutesy pajama pants!

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the cats are perpetually hungry:

(A bit blurry, sorry!) As you can see, Julius has recovered nicely from his own conehead ordeal.

They managed to convince the human to feed them!

Yet Alex still wants more...

Friday, April 16, 2010


So I know I kind of promised a break from coned pets, and chickens, and whatnot, but...

Tristan had his surgery Monday to remove a lump from his knee (that he kept gnawing and licking and would not leave alone!) On Wednesday morning, we found him chewing apart his lovely blue bandage. Gordon whipped him off to the vet, and Tristan came home with a new bandage and the biggest cone they make:

Don't be swayed by that pathetic look; it's all an act. He's actually pretty happy. In fact, the only thing upsetting him is that we won't let him eat his own leg. "Why, Mummy, why can't I gnaw off my own limb?"

So last night we were supposed to take off the bandages, as per the vet's instructions. This I did, managing to cut my hand with scissors in the process. And Tristan immediately began devoting his entire existence to getting at the stitches. As we sat there trying to watch Torchwood on DVD, "Dorkus the Determined Dog" started rubbing his shaved leg raw with the sharpish edge of the plastic cone collar. The leg started to bleed.

So I tied the cone more tightly to his regular (orange) collar, with a lovely purple grosgrain ribbon. That seemed to change the angle of the cone enough that he couldn't get at the wound anymore. Dorkus the Determined Dog finally settled down and went to sleep.

This morning was a different story, a new and exciting story, a story that has given me a throbbing headache. Somewhere between my first cup of tea and my multigrain toast with cashew butter, Tristan managed to contort his body such that he could get his mouth over his stitches, which resulted in a great dripping bloody mess, suitable for inclusion in an issue of Fangoria. (I know about this magazine because one of my classmates back in my design schools days was an avid fan.)

My response was to wrap this bloody mess of a leg with leftover Kotex pads and a tensor bandage. (I had a hysterectomy four years ago... thank God I didn't throw those suckers out, because all we had in the first aid kit was surgical tape and Bandaids! I recently heard on Age of Persuasion that Kotex pads evolved from battlefield wound-dressings.) Here is my bulky, unprofessional wrap job:

Gordon is currently at the vet's with Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive, aka Dorkus the Determined Dog, aka Tristabal Lecter, aka Doofus aka Tristan.

I'm not sure what they'll do with him... manufacture some sort of stapled-together Franken-cone perhaps?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No cones today...

...but I'm afraid I feel compelled to include some chickens! But first, the cool rubber boots my mother-in-law gave me:

And, sigh, we have a new mother in our barn:

Miz Raccoon has given birth in our barn, despite our best efforts to discourage her from moving in. I thought we'd succeeded at sending her off, but this morning Sophie ran to the corner of the hayloft, where she showed me two baby raccoons, eyes still closed, mewling for their mother (who had fled to a beam! So much for protecting the children until death!) Sophie is such a good girl; she didn't hurt the babies and came right back to me when I called her. Tristan probably would have eaten them. Good thing he's in a cone and wasn't in the barn!

When I went back later, she'd moved the babies up to a beam or somewhere in the roof. I couldn't quite see where she'd stuffed them, but they were making cute little baby raccoon noises.

Yes, yes, I know all about raccoons and the evils of raccoon poop and everything else. A raccoon gave birth in our barn before, and we had a fun time (not) cleaning the mess up afterwards. When the babies are old enough, we'll get them all out again, but we're not going to disturb them right now, or shoot them as my neighbours would probably suggest. The chickens are on a different level of the barn in a well-protected coop, but we're not encouraging the raccoon to stay with her little ones! The babies are so tiny their eyes are still closed and they are quite helpless right now. I think this will be less of a problem when we start spending more time in the upper barn. It's too peaceful in there, too inviting for expectant mothers!

And now for your regular chicken fix:

Chicky, the runt of the litter, speeds past the camera.

"Whatcha got there? Is it good? Can I have some?"

A deliciously fluffy chicken butt! Feathery perfection.

The sun shines down on happy, fluffy chickens.

I'm not sure which chicken this is, but that's Henrietta in the background.

The animals around here have pretty good lives!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why yes, I am feeling a bit of déjà-vu!

I think it's time to rename this blog "Cone-headed Pets' World." But at least we saw this one coming, as the vet visit was scheduled...

Yep, there is another Conehead in the building. Tristan went in to the vets' today to have a fatty lump removed from his back knee joint. It's likely benign but is being sent off for a biopsy just in case. He would not leave the damn thing alone (lick, lick, lick) so we finally arranged to have it removed.

At the same time, the vet froze off the wart on Tristan's muzzle, (which the dog had already sheared off once while running around outside! It grew back) expressed his anal glands and cut his claws. All this and general anaesthesia too! He's a little tired but he's home and snoozing.

The cone has to stay on for TEN DAYS!!! That means TEN DAYS of no off-leash walks around the farm. I am pretty sure Tristan will drive me crazy over that one.

Sophie checks out the patient after his arrival home today.

Such a pretty blue bandage!

I sincerely hope this is the end of vet bills for awhile. My huge mistake was opening my yap last month and saying to the vet's receptionist, just after the cats' annual exam, how we'd gone a whole year without having to see the vet! Talk about tempting fate.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yes, it's him again...

I promise to do a post on something other than Julius tomorrow, like maybe the bathroom wallpaper I am currently stripping.

"Hello, my adoring fans. You will be pleased to know that I am feeling much, much better, despite the loss of three of my four canine teeth Yes, cats have canine teeth. Appalling, isn't it? You'd think they could have come up with a better name, like maybe 'tiger teeth'! Or 'freedom fangs'. Or 'mouse-killing incisors'!"

"Feel free to drink in the glory of my feline splendour!"

"Okay, that's great, now go away now. I vant to be alone!"

Friday, April 09, 2010

Free at last!

Look out ladies, the Conehead the Barbarian is gone and JULIUS is back in town!

Hoo yeah, baby...

...the drain is out, and the cone is coming off today!

"Make sure you get my best side!"

All the best cats are wearing 'em this spring!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The brown, brown farm...

...but it's getting greener every day!

I figured you'd all had enough chicken action this week, so here are some photos from a walk I took around the farm last week.

(Speaking of chicken action, one of the hens raped another hen on the weekend... although given that the "victim" started preening immediately afterwards, perhaps it was more consensual than I initially thought!)

Pileated woodpecker holes at the base of a tree in our woodlot.

Mossy green and a little snow!

And this is very peculiar...

It's in our woodlot, and appears to be over the stump of a long-gone tree, but it's more like some kind of midden that SOMETHING has been living in, judging by the entry holes!

The top is covered in bits of pinecone! Any idea what's living in this thing?

Speaking of which, there are lots of holes like this drilled in the ground:

Meadow voles, perhaps.

And this is our creek, aka the municipal drain:

Approximately every 25 years, they take a backhoe to it and clean it out, totally destroying the wildlife habitat and making it look like a moonscape. There's nothing we can do about it, as the farmers want it cleaned out to improve field drainage, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I hope things grow back quickly!

Here's how it looked last spring, before the clean-out:

To make it worse, just before the township decided to bring in the backhoe, the local stewardship council had planted hundreds of sumac, dogwood and other seedlings along the banks, to stop erosion. The backhoe took out about half of those. None of us were pleased, to say the least. Out of our hands.

Meanwhile, back to reality. Here's the brown, brown farm:

But things have greened up a lot even since I took these photos!

Last week there was still a little snow in the woodlot, but it's all gone now.

The pond is thawed out the and spring peepers are singing their nightly frogging chorus:

And Sophie and Tristan take a bracing dip every day!

Happy spring!