miércoles, 17 de febrero de 2010

Custom Made Dog Castle

Castillo is spanish for castle, so in naming Stella's new home we think Castella captures the essence of our pup's lovingly constructed new abode!Her little castle sports a concrete foundation, providing a cool floor to nap upon during hot afternoons. A corrugated zinc roof deflects the blazing sun of the Dry Season, and later will protect her from the drenching rains of that's right, the Rainy Season.
Everybody, especially Stella, is grateful for the many helping hands that transformed a simple shelter into a doggy castle!
While Stella continues obedience education, we have the option of closing her in la castella when necessary,,though our guard-dog-in-training prefers to be outside, footloose and fancy free.

p.s. The "dog house" is also spacious and comfortable enough to function as a "getaway" for the guys when they get out of line.

Hand-Cranked Laundry

yep, it's true. In addition to my bike water-pumping, I now enjoy daily arm workouts via this inventive contraption:
We borrowed the idea from the folks at Rancho Mastatal in Costa Rica. La Lavadura Manual consists of a simple 25 gallon plastic barrel in a rotating metal cage
filled with fresh water and bio-degradable soap, in which our dirty garments are sloshed and churned with the help of four smooth rocks. that's right, rocks. Things are getting more Flintstone around here by the minute. Would you be surprised to see Wilma cranking something like this, then maybe hanging the clothes with the talons of little prehistoric baby birds? neither would I.
Look out, Maytag. We went with a top loading model with simple settings--Water Temperature: cool; Speed: quick wash; Program: heavy soil.
After the initial spin cycle, the dirty water drains out (collected in a bucket to use in the yard),and the rinse cycle commences. I average about 40 rotations for each cycle.
So far I am thoroughly enjoying the system. awesome arm work-outs and "clean" clothes, not a bad combo. of course it has only been one week.....

While awaiting the official rating by the EU's energy grading system,
I'll rate it myself:
Energy Consumption: A+
Washing Performance: B
Spin drying Performance: C
Capacity Water Consumption: B+
Noise: A
suggested additions to the EU system:
Fun: A
Exercise: B+
Benefit to surrounding Flora & Fauna: A+

lunes, 1 de febrero de 2010

blood & feathers

Home invasion, murder, and mourning: An update from The Coop
The chickens have had a rough start to the year. You may remember the unfortunate but necessary removal of Pimiento, the chicken who was a rooster, and how his absence traumatized the flock, ie. Mama Canela and 3 sisters. It was weeks before Canela was on the nest again; we sighed with relief and all was well. We were back to a regular egg-a-day schedule and the Chicklets (new nickname) seemed amiable. Imagine my surprise when awakened in the middle of the night to frantic squawking and frenzied clucking!
I stumbled out to the garden in my slippers, my fading flashlight beam illuminating inside the coop and the horrific cause of alarm: un zorro!
Neighbors and friends had warned me for weeks of a dreaded "zorro," a carnivorous nocturnal predator known to chomp chickens and who knows what else in the cover of darkness. Since zorro is spanish for FOX, I was only a little nervous and a lot thrilled. Cool, a fox! we have wildlife on the farm! I was confident that the coop was fox-proof.
Silly gringa. In Nicaragua, zorro means many things. Including skunk. and including POSSUM.
Slipping through a tiny gap in the chicken wire, a wimpy but vicious possum invaded, terrified, and grotesquely be-headed one of my Chicklets. Luckily I arrived in time to spare the others, but one of our girls was a goner.
Now they are three.

Don't worry--I won't post any gruesome headless chick pics, or even head-bashed-in possum photos. but you can imagine.
The Chicklets managed their grief by exercising more independence--they refused to come into the coop at night! Mama Canela was re-traumatized and egg production halted, again. The loss of a second chick triggered broodiness, when a hen instinctively stays on the nest to incubate her eggs. Except, there were no eggs. Our favorite chicken mama didn't eat or lay eggs for weeks.
Online research for my chicken troubles advised hands-on intervention. After daily prodding and shoving the poor girl off her nest, Canela finally began interacting with her flock again! We are happy to report that today she laid her first egg of the new year, and that the coop has been more extensively secured.

To encourage more adhesive flock dynamics (cooperation?), all of the hens are now cooped-up day and night. This will also establish the coop as a safe home base, and allow me to collect mass quantities of their nutrient-dense chicken poop for the garden.

chicken t.v: All in a day's work.