Category Archives: The Real Dirt

Hiking in Hunting Season

As readers of Get Your Pitchfork On! know, my opinion of hunting has changed since I was twelve years old. If an animal is being killed for sustenance (not a trophy), I think it’s a reasonable activity. Still, as someone who likes to walk in the same natural areas as the hunters, it’s a source of anxiety.

I spent my first year of college in the north woods of Minnesota, at a German-immersion extension of Concordia College (this is a story unto itself). The orientation instructions I received in August advised me to pack an orange or red hat for hikes in the woods. My suburban mall-girl, lake-path-walking mind reeled. I could get shot? On a hike?

Since then I have, of course, been on lots of hikes wearing blaze orange. When Mike and I had our re-grouping period in Portland and I had to buy a rain jacket for bicycle commuting, I chose a bright orange one in hopes that I would soon need it for autumn hikes in the country.

And, here we are.

Even the dogs have gotten in on the act!

Even the dogs have gotten in on the act!

One afternoon in late September, an SUV pulled into our driveway. I went out to see who it was. A 30-ish man got out of his truck, gave me a nod and said, “Ma’am, I would like to request permission to hunt on your land on the deer opener, which is Saturday, October Fourth.” Must have been ex-military.

I explained that we didn’t own the land, and our parcel doesn’t go up into the trees, anyway.

“There are an awful lot of houses around here, to be shooting a rifle,” I said. He nodded again and politely took his leave.

After a while, I felt like maybe I was overstating my case. I mean, yes, the woods backs up to the farmed acreage that surrounds our house. But, was it really possible to be hit by a stray bullet?

A few days ago, I had my answer. Mike returned from a walk with the dogs, carrying an arrow. It had been stuck in the ground at an angle. Sailed downhill from the woods above us. A bad shot? Can one accidentally discharge a compound bow? We’ll never know how it got there, but it got there.

That looks sharp

That looks sharp

The chance that Mike or I or one of the dogs would have been standing in that very spot at that very moment is remote. This incident won’t keep me from walking our field, nor does it change my view about hunting. But—be careful out there, friends.

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Guest Post: Animal Arbitrators

I met Linda Jo Hunter at the home of friends Jurgen and Susan Hess. She wowed me with her tales of tracking bear, cougars, and other critters in the woods that surrounded us in the Columbia River Gorge. We got to know each other as Linda participated in, and later coordinated, the Plein Air Writing Exhibition. She is the author of Lonesome for Bears and has started a volunteer group to help landowners coexist with wild animals on their country property. She can be reached by email or on the Animal Arbitrators Facebook page.

Animal Arbitrators: Co-Existence Counseling

By Linda Jo Hunter

“Not under my porch!”

The lady was adamant that a skunk may not raise her young under the front porch of her house. She wanted the skunks killed, or maybe moved, but someone had to do something!

I watched the woman’s body language as she talked about her garden and house. She felt murderous and protective of all she felt was her own. While I listened, I noticed a small dish of leftover cat food by her left foot that had attracted several yellow jackets. As we talked the number of yellow jackets increased, each carrying away a little morsel of the leftovers and heading towards the woman’s garden.

I was trying to get to the bottom of why she hated skunks so much. There wasn’t a reason she could put her finger on, except that she objected to the smell of skunk and felt that if there were skunks under her porch that her whole house would be permeated with the smell of skunk spray. No, she didn’t have a dog. She had no cats either. But, she was feeding some in the neighborhood.

This is where my job starts. I pointed out that she was undoubtedly also feeding the mother skunk right there on her porch as well as several raccoons, whose tracks around the bowl were outlined in mud. My first suggestion was that she move the food, or at least take it indoors at night. Then we talked about skunks and I told her how they don’t want or intend to spray things but only do so when threatened. I described the body language that skunks use to warn that they are upset. They stomp their front paws and eventually, if you don’t get that message, they continue looking at you while their body makes a U-shape and the back end comes around to aim the spray.

Linda snapped this skunk using a trail camera near her home

Linda snapped this skunk using a trail camera near her home

When I mentioned that they eat yellow jacket nests she finally got interested. We found some chicken fencing in her shed and tacked it up to the edge of the porch to keep the animals out and she voluntarily moved her stray cat food bowl over in front of the shed. By the time I left, she hoped the mother skunk would move her family over to the shed and stay around.

When I visited her the next season, she was happily tolerating a family of skunks which she proudly pointed out had eliminated several pests in her yard, including yellow jackets. “Her” skunk had also sprayed a neighborhood dog, which left piles of unwanted poop in her garden. She was pleased as punch that the dog never came in her yard again.

Co-existing with wild animals is usually a matter of figuring out what exactly is going on in your personal habitat, rather than relying on what people have told you all your life. Any wild animal, no matter how cute or ugly has a place in the habitat or they wouldn’t exist or be there. Each time you make a change to your garden or grounds, you make changes in the habitat that affect these animals. Being aware of what eats what is one of the best ways not to make a mistake that will make you and all the animals uncomfortable.

For instance, if everyone in your neighborhood is insistent on killing coyotes because of something they “might” do, you could very likely have a problem with rabbits, mice, rats and ticks and other species too numerous to name. Ticks have an interesting reproduction cycle and must find a furry animal to hibernate on in order to multiply. The perfect candidates are in the squirrel family as well as other small mammals that coyotes control.

Oh, I can already hear the groans; “but they eat dogs and cats!” Yes, they do sometimes. However, so do owls, bobcats and other animals. Even domestic dogs kill pet kitties and cause mayhem that their wild buddies get blamed for. Some cats live for years around every kind of wild animal and have the wisdom to survive. Domestic dogs either have wild wisdom or they don’t. You know best about your pet; if it lacks the wisdom to survive in the face of wild animals it needs to be protected and supervised when outdoors.

Coyotes get a bad reputation for eating the occasional kitty, but mostly they catch mice and other pests

Coyote that caught a mouse

Coexisting with wildlife can enrich your life. The bottom line is, that is why you moved to the country to begin with. The deer who grace your neighborhood in the evening come with their predators, which are just as necessary as the deer. Seeing a cougar, for instance, is not a life-threatening event, but rather a gift and a wonderfully wild experience. Cougars have a job to do and if they can freely move with their food they will do that job.

One of the best ways to enjoy your habitat is to be more aware of the animals that visit, pass through, or make it their territory and how you can assist that animal to fulfill its function. To that end, I teach people how to see animal passages and set up trail cameras so they can see what uses different parts of their land. Changing unwanted wild animal behavior can be as easy as moving an access site or moving a food source as long as you understand what it is. If a bear, for instance, has always visited a wild apple tree in your pasture, year after year, and suddenly that tree is fenced in, the bear will become a pest when it breaks down the fence. Instead, when the apples fall on the ground and the smell of apples gets strong, you can take a bushel basket and move the unwanted fruit over the fence, set up a trail camera and enjoy the results.

Fear of wild animals is something we all grew up with or, if we didn’t, various news media will make sure you pick up some fear, even if it isn’t rational or real. If you are afraid of a particular animal, say rattlesnakes, that is the animal you need to study. If you learn about their lives, and how they use and benefit your habitat you won’t have a reason to fear them because you won’t go stepping on one.

Bears seem to generate the most fear, although statistically they are the very least of our worries when it comes to being hurt by wildlife. Understanding the habits of your neighborhood bears is fascinating. First, they eat different things in each part of the season and if you find out what those things are in your area, it is a huge step in understanding the local natural history. Cubs learn what and when to eat by following their mothers closely for a year and a half. They lick their mother’s mouth when she eats something new to make sure they get the right things, and they remember even individual plants from one year to the next. Slowly, the news media is allowing us to know that bears are not meat-hungry predators that will eat a person if they find them out alone. Bears are mostly vegetarian and prefer their meat to be killed by some other animal—they like it aged. It seems like when they kill an animal to eat it, it is almost because of an unusual opportunity.

If you still don’t like the idea of a bear eating on your property, just remember that bears avoid skunks!

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Friends with Animals

Living in the country not only gives you access to open spaces, quiet roads, and friendly folks. It also gives you access to the friendly folks’ livestock!

This spring, my friends Carolyn and Eric invited Mike and me over to see their new babies. They raise Lusitano horses, a Portuguese breed. Beautiful animals. We got the full tour—the nursery, the geriatric pasture, the young females’ and males’ separate quarters.

Baby's first hay

Baby’s first hay

This suave dude reminds me of Robert Plant

This suave dude reminds me of Robert Plant

Around the same time, we were invited over to our friend Nancy’s house to see her baby goats. We didn’t make it there until a week ago, but they were still fun to hang around with! Nancy also gave us a tour of her incredible outbuildings—an old granary that will someday soon be the most spectacular guesthouse in Wallowa County, and a heritage barn. We climbed the stairs to the second level and startled a gorgeous, snowy-white barn owl from her roost. She glided silently overhead, and was gone.

Sweet goat that tried to eat the zipper-pull on my jacket

Sweet goat that tried to eat the zipper-pull on my jacket

Nancy and Mike contemplate the hay loft

Nancy and Mike contemplate the hay loft

 

Early September boasts Mule Days in Enterprise, which includes a completely non-motorized parade. Mules of every shape and description pull wagons and haul packs down the streets of the town. But the star of the show has to be the oxen pair brought by “Bushwacker Sue.” Their trailer rivals that of any successful touring band’s.

Look at this big guy!

Look at this big guy!

Okay, okay, so Bushwacker Sue is not technically my friend. However, she did chat us up about her gentle giants. I know I shouldn’t view my agriculture-centric county as one big petting zoo, but it sure is fun to live in close proximity to so many animals.

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Converting a Conventional Farm to Organic

Here is another of my research papers from my Food Policy and Law course that I took this summer. The assignment was to consider a hypothetical conventional farm and calculate the costs and considerations for converting to a certified organic farm. My scenario is not particularly realistic, but it gets the job done …

Carol and Ron Hinckel, the owners of a conventional 50-acre wheat farm in Damascus, Oregon, want to convert their acreage to USDA-certified 100-percent organic asparagus. They plan to sell this crop at the Portland Farmers Market, which takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays in downtown Portland, 19 miles away. The Hinckels are looking for a seasonal, low-maintenance, high-premium crop that will allow them to spend much of the year traveling to visit grandchildren. Because Carol worked for city government for 25 years, she has a pension, and they have saved enough money to cover the three-year transition period that is required of farmers converting a conventional field into an organic one. They have considered the changes they need to make that will affect the land and their business.

Changes to Their Land

The Hinckels’ soil is volcanic and heavy, and has been planted in wheat since 1973. The wheat was sprayed with a number of chemical herbicides and synthetic fertilizers over the years. In order to rest the soil and prepare it for an asparagus crop, they will first put in a triticale/vetch cover crop, plow that in at the end of the season, add compost, lime and phosphorus, and finally amend the soil with sand to lighten it.

They will need to expand their existing buffer zones, adding native plants, trees, and grasses. They also plan to restore a streambed that was re-routed in the 1960s to create more arable land; they received a grant from their water conservation district for this project. They estimate that their restoration efforts will leave them with 25 acres to plant in asparagus.

They will buy one-year-old organic male crowns to plant in the spring, rather than start from seed (§ 205.204(a)(4), Baier, 2012). The asparagus must not be picked for two additional years after planting in order to establish the root system; this will coordinate with the three-year waiting period associated with becoming certified organic growers.

Asparagus is a perennial plant that can produce for ten to twenty years, and therefore cannot be rotated with other crops; the Hinckels will keep their soil healthy by side-dressing with compost (Hutton, n.d.). Weeding is essential; the first two years, especially, they will hire extra help to hand-pull weeds to ensure that none get established. After the asparagus plants have grown, the Hinckels will switch to an approved fabric row cover. They will keep wide aisles (72 inches) between the rows to accommodate a compact tractor for these tasks and for use during harvest.

They plan to use an integrated pest management system to keep their asparagus plants healthy. Asparagus is generally a low-maintenance crop; the most common pest is the asparagus beetle. Since the Hinckels will have only male plants, they should have less problem with the beetles, as the eggs are laid in the berries of the female plants (Pleasant, 2013). They plan to hand-remove any beetles that appear, or use a USDA-approved insecticidal soap if they have a larger infestation.

Changes to Their Business

The Hinckels will need to invest in refrigeration equipment to keep the asparagus cool once it is picked (U.S. Dept. Agriculture, n.d.a.; Baier, 2012); a van to transport the produce to the market; a tent, tables, displays, signage, and POS equipment (cash register, credit-card reader); and possibly temporary housing for their interns. They will be able to use their existing irrigation equipment. Once they have tilled in the cover crop, added the amendments, and dug the asparagus trenches, they will sell their full-sized tractor and buy a compact tractor. They haven’t decided what to do with their grain bin. They have hired out the spraying and threshing in the past, so they have no equipment to liquidate in that regard.

The Hinckels have “hired work done” in the past, but never had regular employees. They are looking into WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and other avenues for bringing low- or unpaid interns onto the farm to help with hand-weeding, and to send to the market to sell the asparagus. Most farmers they know use migrant workers, but they are hesitant to explore that option.

They will continue to use their existing record-keeping procedures “concerning the production, harvesting, and handling of agricultural products” (Baier, 2011). They will also add personnel records to track their interns, and use the Field History/Previous Land Use form to document past farming practices, and note improvements to the soil and buffer zone (ibid.). They will create an Organic System Plan to which they can refer if they have an outbreak of disease or infestation; this plan will help them fill out the application at Oregon Tilth (Oregon Tilth, n.d.).

Because the farm will exceed $5,000 in revenue (Hutton, n.d.), they are not exempt from certification (U.S. Dept. Agriculture, n.d.b.; Baier, 2012). They will contact Oregon Tilth to apply for “transitional certification” and, once the waiting period is over, apply for full status (Oregon Tilth, 2014b, p. 19). They will welcome an inspector to their farm and follow up on any requests promptly.

The Hinckels’ fees during the first year will be less than $700 (see Appendix, Table 1). After the first year, the base fee is determined in conjunction with gross income (Oregon Tilth, 2014a). For the following two years, there will be no income, as the asparagus will be too immature to harvest. Things change significantly after that. With asparagus currently selling for $6 per pound at the Portland Farmers Market, the Hinckels have estimated their annual gross income to be approximately $21,780,000* (Hutton, n.d.; Johnny Seeds, n.d.). Their base fee will be $4,000 plus 0.05% of sales that exceed $2 million, or $13,890 total. However, the fee is capped at $10,000 (Oregon Tilth, 2014a). They will continue to pay for inspections every year, as well.

* This is not a realistic scenario; they would have to sell 3,490 pounds of asparagus at each market day in order to liquidate their produce and earn this income.

Appendix

Table 1

Oregon Tilth Fees, Year 1

Cost Reason
$75 First-time applicant fee
$399 First-year base fee
$200 Inspection deposit
$674 Total
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Windfalls

Remember last week, when I was waxing poetic about the night sky? And I mentioned hearing crickets, and sprinklers, and Pendleton eating windfall apples? Well.

That night Pendleton, who has been housetrained for months, snuck down to the basement and laid an enormous, foul pile of heinous fecal gore on the floor. Mike gagged when he cleaned it up in the morning (lucky for me, I was asleep and oblivious). What could have caused this horrific display?

We have some gnarled old apple trees in our backyard. They could use a good pruning, but we don’t have a ladder and anyway, they aren’t mine and not everyone appreciates a “good pruning.” I didn’t bother to cull the fruits this spring, and now we have dozens of small apples falling out of the trees every time the wind blows. Pendleton’s been foreman of the clean-up crew.

At your service, ma'am

At your service, ma’am

But the dogs are not the only ones who like free apples. The owner of the house we’re renting, last fall, told us that he kept the gate open so the deer could come in and browse. Otherwise, they all go to the wasps.

So, the morning in question, once I woke up and said, “Geez, it kind of smells like poop in here,” and Mike said, “You think?” before he went to take a shower, I walked out into the yard to collect the windfalls into a bucket, so Pendleton couldn’t reach them.

While I was out there, a doe walked up to the fence, as if to claim her autumn meal. The dogs went crazy. I calmed them, but the deer stayed put. Opening the gate is something of a formality, as any deer can jump a four-foot fence without even thinking about it. But she was, rightfully, afraid of the dogs and stayed outside the fence.

I wanted to scare the doe off, so I threw what I had in my hand at her. As soon as I did, I realized it was a bad idea. The apple fell short, and then rolled a foot or two toward the doe. She didn’t jump or even move, just considered it, and then took a step toward the apple and gently picked it up, staring at us while she ate it. That was not the message I was hoping to send.

I left the dogs in the yard and scared the doe off. She’ll be back; this is where those nice people throw apples for you to eat!

Mike’s and my yard-maintenance routine has included picking up poo-piles and refilling holes that have been dug. For the next few weeks it will also include regularly collecting windfalls, depriving deer, dog, and wasp.

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Stargazing

I was a bit disappointed to learn, my first summer back in a place without light pollution, that August’s Perseid meteor shower was going to be washed out by a full moon. The other night, I received a consolation prize.

I had finished my homework and was about to go to bed, when I realized it was pitch black outside. And relatively warm. I poured myself a nightcap, put on a sweatshirt, turned off the lights in the house, and carefully made my way down the steps to the backyard with Pendleton the dog.

It took a while for my vision to adjust. I closed my eyes for a minute to coax my pupils to dilate wide enough to take in the pinpoints. At first I saw only a few, then a few more, then ten times more, then twenty times more. After fifteen minutes or so, the Milky Way was fully visible, stretching across the sky toward Ruby Peak.

It’s all about waiting for the stars to come to you. I even caught a few shooting stars, perhaps remnants of the Perseids. I had to stand in a place that my vision wasn’t blocked overhead by the apple trees in our yard. What I should have done was walk out into the field, but I didn’t want Pendleton to rustle up any deer that were undoubtedly bedded down out there.

Mike and I were recently in Portland, visiting friends. Our friends’ kid was showing Mike her new bedroom furniture, and he pointed out that, from her bed, she could look out the window at the stars. She gave him a blank look. He remembered that you can only see a few stars in the city; not anything to impress a nine-year-old.

Standing in my yard, I was reminded of getting up at 4 in the morning every night last winter to let the puppies outside. In January, I regularly heard the Great horned owls conversing. Now, I could hear cows yelling, sprinklers whooshing, grasshoppers singing, and Pendleton munching on windfall apples.

I wished I could bring my friends’ kid out to our yard, so she would understand what Mike was talking about.

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Honey, I Canned the Peaches

Whenever I engage in domesticities such as canning, I refer to my bible, The Encyclopedia of Country Living. As I’ve noted in this blog, most recently when I canned apricots, I love its author, Carla Emery. And sometimes, love means you can tell someone to go jump in a lake.

I’m not someone who particularly enjoys process. So, just like e.e. cummings talked about the joy of “having written,” when I talk about the joy of canning peaches I am talking about the joy of having canned peaches. The act itself involves anxiety, minor burns, and swearing. I work really hard not to cut myself.

I put in an order with a local farmer for peaches a month or so ago, and they were finally ready on Thursday. I picked up my lug, and yesterday loaded my dishwasher with jars and set everything up: vat of boiling water, cutting board, steam canner. I consulted The Encyclopedia of Country Living, which had Carla’s instructions as well as my notes from past years about how many jars I’d used.

Canning prep

Canning prep

Carla wrote: “If you’re slow you can drop the fruit into water containing 2 T. each salt and vinegar per gallon water to prevent darkening. But I just work fast.” I filled another vat with water.

I was careful to buy freestone peaches so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stones sticking into the fruit. However, the peaches were just slightly underripe. Unlike Carla, who was a full-time back-to-the-land homemaker and could can her peaches at the exact right time, I have a schedule, and that schedule allowed me to can on Saturday. Not Wednesday, when the peaches would have been ready. By next week, they’d be too far gone. Now or never.

The result was that only a few of them separated the way they were supposed to. Mostly, I had to cut around the stone, which had stuck in one of the two halves, and then dig it out with a spoon. Even though I doused the peaches in boiling water, the skins only sort-of peeled off. Mostly I had to peel them with a paring knife. This was fussy.

“I just work fast,” Carla said. Go jump in a lake, Carla.

It was a good thing I had prepared the vinegar-salt water.

But, as with any problem, if you keep working at it you’ll eventually lick it. And I did. And my February-self will thank me!

See, that wasn't so bad! Now, go ice those burns

See, that wasn’t so bad! Now, go ice those burns

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Go to Farm School

Back in the day, a person learned how to farm by osmosis: they’d been doing chores since they could walk. But then mid-20th-century agriculture policies caused farmers to hit hard times; many of them actually encouraged their children to pursue other careers. The ones who stayed took up industrial farming. A couple generations later, young adults are renewing their interest in small farms but have no personal background to lean on. Most university-level ag programs are geared toward the children of industrial farms. Who is passing on the knowledge of family-sized farming?

Ten years ago, almost no one was. But things have changed—quickly. Oregon State University has launched a Small Farms program. Rogue Farm Corps, a farming internship program, is expanding from southern Oregon into Portland and Bend. Friends of Family Farmers has a Next Generation campaign. All of them, and others, are working to replenish the supply of farmers that is aging out of the industry.

Last September, on a whim, I went to an all-day “Small Farm School” workshop. It is run by the OSU program on the Clackamas Community College campus. There were a number of courses to choose from. Since I already know how to garden, I chose “On-Farm Veterinary Care,” “Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping Basics,” and “Invasive and Perennial Weeds.” You can see this year’s options and register on their website. Here are some pictures!

We learned about giving vaccinations

We learned about giving vaccinations

IMG_1999

We learned about hoof care

IMG_2001

We learned about pasture (this stick shows how tall your grass should be)

IMG_2006

We learned about bees and colony collapse disorder

IMG_2008

We learned about noxious weeds and how to combat them (I should have paid more attention when he talked about cheatgrass)

I had a great time and learned a lot. If you’re considering a career—or even a hobby—in farming, I recommend this workshop as a fairly inexpensive way to see how you like it!

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Cheatgrass Sonsabitches

I apologize for the strong language. Once you’ve read my tale, you will understand.

This spring, Mike and I went out with our workgloves and pulled up or cut every plant we could find on our property with beautiful pink/purple flowers. We had learned that it was the source of the round, flat seeds our dogs are constantly plagued with—what are called “stick-tights” around here. They get in the dog’s fur, where dozens of hairs twist around them. Some get so twisted in you have to cut them out. They’re a pain! We were proud of ourselves for eradicating next season’s crop by killing the plants before they went to seed.

Bye-bye, stick-tights!

Bye-bye, stick-tights!

Meanwhile, all around us was another plant, one we weren’t familiar with. Just a simple little grass plant. We paid it no mind. That was a mistake.

Last Tuesday, both dogs started shaking their heads. Pendleton looked particularly miserable, constantly holding his head to the side. They’ve been swimming in the irrigation ditch to beat the heat, and we figured P must have gotten some water in his ear. I learned from my cousin’s partner that dogs with floppy ears are more prone to ear infections (their dog Quixote got one), so I thought maybe this was the issue.

Mike took P in to our veterinarian, Dr. Zwanziger at Red Barn Veterinary. He got out the otoscope and declared, “Cheatgrass!”

Cheatgrass?

Cheatgrass

Cheatgrass

It turns out that this little devil is going to make our lives a hundred times less fun than stick-tights ever could. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is an invasive weed whose seedheads are covered in hairs that stick them into a coat of fur, say, for transport to another area. Fine. The problem is that they don’t know when to quit, and can drive themselves to the base of the coat of fur, through the skin, and through muscle tissue, lungs, or even through the nose to the brain. Or down the ear canal and through an eardrum.

Pendleton was lucky; the cheatgrass was on his eardrum but hadn’t penetrated it. Dr. Zwanziger plucked it off, squirted some antibiotic ointment in there, and P was good to go. Pendleton’s sense of relief was palpable.

That evening, I was working on homework and Mike was talking to his mom on the phone. Suddenly, Cap’n started screaming. I ran into the living room, where she was cowering with her head tilted to the side. She was obviously in pain. Damn it.

I called Red Barn on their emergency line, and brought Cap’n in. She, too, had cheatgrass on both eardrums.

Mike and I were thereafter more diligent, checking their ears after every walk. On Thursday, both dogs were shaking their heads again. Not wanting to have to pay for another after-hours emergency visit, which is considerably more expensive, we scheduled an appointment for them on Friday.

Sure enough, both had more cheatgrass in their ears.

We asked Dr. Zwanziger for ideas of how to keep their ears closed. He offered up some bandaging that might work. It would work … but the dogs were so obsessed with removing it I thought they were going to run themselves into trees.

GET IT OFF!!

GET IT OFF!!

We checked their ears at regular intervals.

Monday, Cap’n was shaking her head again. This time, the cheatgrass had penetrated her eardrum. It should heal, Dr. Zwanziger said, but it might compromise her hearing. (And birds everywhere rejoiced …)

The cheerful Dr. Zwanziger

The cheerful Dr. Zwanziger

How would you like that on your eardrum?

How would you like that on your eardrum?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tried bandanas. They slid off their heads.

We tried cotton balls. They shook them out, and Pendleton promptly ate one.

If any of you, dear readers, have ideas about how to eradicate a stand of cheatgrass, or how to keep it out of a dog’s ears, please share them! These are active, young dogs that need more exercise than leash-walks and hanging out in the fenced yard can provide. There are no pristine green lawn-parks out here. As much as I want to support my vet, we can’t go there once (or twice, or thrice) a week …

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Dust

I had a little time off from school, so I made a beeline for my other desk—the one where I make collage artwork. I hadn’t visited it since January, when I made some valentines for my Etsy site. Our household was in dire need of new thank-you cards, and I was more than happy to do something that did not involve a computer.

I noticed that everything on my desk had a fine layer of dust on it. I opened a drawer and found that everything in it had a fine layer of dust as well. I laughed—even down in the basement, where we hardly go, there is dust!

Living in the country means living with dust. I knew that from being in the Columbia River Gorge. In Get Your Pitchfork On!, I talk about the cloud of dust that careened toward our house every time our neighbors went up or down their driveway. It’s compounded on this, the “dry” side of the state.

This was the best demonstration I could provide ... we just had a few rainy days

This was the best demonstration I could provide … we just had a few rainy days!

During our first warm spell, the people from whom we’re renting this house sent us a note explaining where to install the air-conditioner unit, which is in storage next to the furnace. “It helps keep the dust down,” they said.

Mike and I are not fans (pun intended) of air conditioners. We will open all the windows, except those facing the road, and just keep wiping it off. I do worry about our electronic devices, but what is the point of summer weather if you can’t have fresh air?

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