Saturday, December 22, 2007

How do you say goodbye to an old friend?

Ditka isn't just any old friend... he was my first dog. Well... the first dog I had for more than 6 months, and he'll be the first dog I really have to say goodbye to. He's part of our big pet family, and the littlest member, as shown above.

He was always my friend. I taught him bad habits, like getting up on the furniture and letting him sleep on the bed. He has a touch of stiffness in his hips and hasn't been jumping on the furniture much in the last year or so. But we bring him up sometimes so he can snuggle on the bed. This is a picture of him trying to take a nap in our new house, this year.

Before we had a pasture to let him run around in, we used to take them all to the dog park. Ditka would play and play until his little paws got cold, and then he'd give me that look, and I'd know the only way to get him home was to carry him. That's the only time Ditka has ever really shown discomfort... when his paws get too cold for the ice and snow. He still cross country skies with us, and still does his crazy little spastic running in circles game when he gets all excited outside. So why on earth would I have to say goodbye to my little fuzzy friend?

He was so happy this summer on our new farm. This is picture of him after he had taken a dip in the pond. We know he has had liver problems for several years... and I kept waiting for something. For him to whimper when we petted him. For him to slow down, or get stiff, or start crying in the night. Some kind of sign that I knew the liver disease had gotten to be too much.

And today, I still don't have those signs. Or am I ignoring them because I don't know how to say goodbye? (things get graphic and clinical here folks, so ignore if you don't want the dirty details)

2 weeks ago, we noticed blood in his urine. Not a lot, just a few drops. I took him to the vet. A urine sample didn't point out anything specific, like an infection or stones, so we put him on an antibiotic just to see. No temperature. Nothing else that was obvious something was wrong.
I went back today, because there is still blood in his urine. And he pees in the house all the time. Anyone who knows my little man knows he isn't one to want to go in the house. Now he does it more than once a day, right in front of us. So we went back to the vet. My rule with him right now is that I won't cut him open. He's 15. That's 105 to us. The vet suggested an ultrasound, which she could do right away. I'm ok with a shaved belly. So that's what we did. It couldn't have shown me anything worse. He has a 3 centimeter long tumor in his liver, and his liver is enlarged. His bladder has more tumor in it right now than there is bladder. One of his kidneys is almost disintegrated, and kidney tissue is also present in his urine. Sounds like he'd be bedridden. I know I would be. But aside from the peeing in the house, nothing has changed. He still runs around. He's still eating. He still plays with us. I know he's broken. But he doesn't seem to be in pain. S0 how do I say goodbye? How do I know when it's time?

This is Ditka when he was only 2. I was a junior in college, and we got in trouble for having him in our apartment. OOPS! Back then, he was "My Pretty Brown Eyes" and "Fuzzy Face". His eyes have long since clouded over with glaucoma. His hearing is limited. He's now "My Old Man" and "Baby D." In the morning, when he doesn't wake up with the rest of the pack, I will sit and watch and wait to see if he's breathing. He always is, he's just a slow breather. I don't wake him. He's an old dog. I always hoped he'd die quietly in his sleep. So, really, how do you say goodbye to an old friend?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I love it when a plan comes together

I was going to label this post "BIG NEWS" because that's what it is to us. Until I realized most of my friends might think I was announcing that I was expecting. Nope. The only one in our family that is expecting is Laverne... next month, baby lambs, I am so excited.

So I changed the label, because this old A-team quote works here too. Let me tell you the dramatic version, because it's no fun to just get to the point!

As most of you know, our chickens started laying eggs. I swear in a matter of days, it went from one or two eggs a day to 2 DOZEN. Yeah, we put up some make-shift nesting boxes, and the girls went nuts!

So in November a few things happened. We had more eggs than we could eat and more than our friends were buying from us. I also finally got around to planting my tulip bulbs, and found a bed of carrots that were hanging out in the cold soil. Dang. They tasted GOOD. So Larry and I spent a weekend harvesting carrots and planting bulbs in the same bed. We had more carrots than we could handle, too! Being wiped out from a weekend's worth of work, we decided to have dinner at the Wayside Inn, our favorite Berthoud restaurant. We thought, just because we liked the owners and love the restaurant we would give him a dozen eggs and a bag of carrots so he could check them out, and as a thank you for serving good, organic food in Berthoud.

We got busy, again, as usual... and never really followed up. I guess it didn't matter! Jeremy (the chef and co-owner) called us this week and asked us how many eggs we had available, how much we would charge... and Larry and I both just lit up like a Christmas tree!! We met with them last night and talked more about the farm and what we can produce.

As Joel Salatin said in his book, chefs LOVE pasture raised chicken eggs. The consistency is better, the flavor is better, the yolks are gorgeous and they cook and taste better. Jeremy agreed. We will now be taking him eggs EVERY week! Next month, we'll be ordering 50 more chickens (plus my "fun" chickens) so that we can replace all of his in-shell egg needs! We also talked about what produce he would want from our greenhouse, so we took a list of herbs, fruits and veggies that he wants us to grow in the house that he will buy from us! We have a restaurant for a customer! Jeremy even said he'd take cut flowers for displays around the restaurant. Can you believe it?

This is really it, folks! We are a real farm, we have a real name, we have a real, large customer. And I know that if I fill my greenhouse with tomatoes and cucumbers, I won't have to eat them every day in case they go bad. Jeremy wants everything we can get to him! This is so exciting!

So, folks, if you're in northern Colorado, check out the Wayside Inn, in Berthoud - they'll be cooking our home grown, natural food. If you aren't in the area, but come visit us in Colorado ever - we'll be sure to take you into town to eat at our favorite restaurant!

Larry says:

The really cool thing is Jeremy's Menu has on the bottom "We support our local farmers and the idea that food should come from your neighbor. We buy from local farmers in season to bring you the freshest food we can." The guy really means it. Jeremy and I are on the same page so much its not even funny. We agree the government is owned by corporations that make laws for their own enrichment (USDA/FDA). We agree that the current model of food raising is not only unsustainable but a sin. Literally sacrilegious. God made the Earth and we are just screwing it up as fast as we can. That is a sin. OK, well I don't know if J-Dawg thinks it is a sin, but he agrees with me it is evil... close enough.

By the way, we get lots of crap from people about moving to "The Sticks". Longmont is the nearest city and people in Boulder refer to it as "Long-Tucky". (Not everyone in Boulder is a pretentious ass but the few that are sure make up for the others by being loud and obnoxious) Well I like Berthoud a lot. Do I wish I lived close to my job? OF COURSE! Its kinda hard to be a believer in peak oil and drive 30 minutes to work. What is my point? While we were in the Wayside Inn waiting to meet with Jeremy, we got Caroled. No kidding. Old School style Christmas Caroled. 10 or so folks came in and sang Silent Night to the bar area. I sang along and even got thanked for being the "requisite deep voice in this corner". I say, "Man, I love this town. You wouldn't get Caroled 45 miles to the South." (Which would be where Denver starts. Deb (Jeremy's Co-owner and girlfriend) and I said at exactly the same time, "You might get mugged!" I'm no Jimmy Stewart but man..... I REALLY REALLY like the people in my town.

Kristin again: I have to admit, I've never ever been Christmas Caroled before. But I have to say, growing up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, I was tempted to lean over and ask the singers if they knew any Chanukah songs. I guess I can pull up Adam Sandler on my iTunes if I want some of those... It was still very nice and quaint. I'll take rural hospitality and fresh food from the farm over big city lights and excitement, and feeling invisible, any day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Snowy Snowy Snowy - Snow Snow Snow

Ah! How Stimpy loved the snow. And so do I, for the most part. It's been snowing all week. People have told me for over a YEAR now that it doens't snow that much on the front range. Well, you could have fooled me! It feels like Michigan here - lots of snow, slushy streets, very cold temperatures. Boy am I glad I have wool sweaters and warm boots!

So in the spirit of this winter snow, and things that make me feel like "home," I've noticed several other things in Colorado that are quite like Michigan...

  • First of all, I moved from Berkley, Michigan, to Berthoud, Colorado.
  • I moved from Bacon Street to Bothun Rd.
  • Berkley and Clawson, Michigan, are two of the only places in Michigan that have a drive-up A&W. Guess what? So does BERTHOUD!
  • Berthoud is a small town located between to bigger, well-known towns of Longmont and Loveland. Berkley was nestled between Royal Oak and Southfield.
  • Berthoud has a small downtown with: a cool pizza place with crazy pizza's(John Dough's), 1 great bar with a ton of beers (Clymers), one fancy restaurant (The Wayside Inn) with great food, and a sort of yucky little grocery store. BERKLEY was home to Amici's Pizza, The Berkley Front (for all the beers you could ever want!) and that nice new restaurant that took the place of the Bear's Den, and a sort of yucky little grocery store.
Interesting how I seemed to drift to something familiar in our new home out here. But I traded in my tall Oak and Maple trees for a view of the mountains. And right now, when they are covered in snow - they couldn't be more beautiful!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stop Puppy Mills

Just stopping in to share a link with you that I got from the Humane Society of the United States today. I already knew this, I already knew that puppy mills were bad, but in case you don't know, check this out:

Larry and I are raising pasture-raised, free range chickens for a reason. Large scale production chicken houses lock chickens in small cages, where they are prone to illness, disease, and injury. Injured birds are not cared for, and often die and are left in those cages. Those birds never get to go outside and forage for grass and bugs they way they nature wants them to.

The same goes for puppy mills. Please don't ever buy an animal from a pet store. You don't know the conditions in which they were born. Just like the large scale chicken "factories", puppy mills treat animals like machines. They lock them in cages, never to see the light of day, never cleaning up their cages, and forcing them to breed. They don't care if they get sick or injured. Then they take the cute little puppies to the store to make a quick buck.

We have never gotten an animal from a puppy mill. Only Grish was purchased from a breeder. The rest of our pets are rescues. We rescued them directly from an owner, from the Humane Society, or from a breed rescue. I am all about giving dogs a home - but when you buy a puppy mill puppy, you are supporting an INDUSTRY, a factory. Should your dog come from a factory? Heck, Larry and I don't even think your Thanksgiving turkey should come from a factory. So should a pet you have for 10-18 years come from a factory? No. Rescue an animal first - from a shelter, or rescue society. Get it spayed or neutered. Talk with your wallet. Don't give puppy mills money - then they can't stay in business. If we are all aware, we can all take action, and puppy mills will close.

Just my 2 cents.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Skijoring - Farm Style

It snowed all day yesterday (and people keep telling me it doesn't snow that much in Colorado... feels like Michigan to me!) So here are our adventures in the snow!

Grish says, "Can we go play now? Please? There's SNOW! PLEASE?"

Goliath has a favorite toy. It's Ditka. Ditka doens't want to be Goliath's toy. Good thing he still has some speed to escape when he needs to.

Laverne and Shirley were happy to get outside today with the sun shining. Yesterday they weren't thrilled with the cloudy skies and unending snow. One of them is pregnant. Can you tell which one? I'll give you a hint - it's the ROUND ONE! That's Laverne... she should have her lamb(s) in January!

This is what happens after skijoring. All the dogs collapse and sleep for hours.

Now, skijoring takes an extra twist on the farm. We've done it before - hooked up Athena and Hobbes to harnesses and gone skijoring. Today, we also hooked up the bicycle trailer (yes, we have a trailer for our's for grocery shopping!) We took the trailer out to Eric's pasture and picked up a bale of hay to bring home for the sheep. They'll be happy! Athena and Hobbes weren't impressed with a heavy trailer!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Stash

So, this is my last week at MOI. And it's not the first time I have left a job, and leaving is never easy. I have met some of the greatest people in my life through different career opportunities. And in leaving, you sometimes find out what you should have known all along - how much impact you have at your job. Obviously, I made some sort of impression on the friends I have worked with since I moved to Colorado.

Every company has its culture. At Detroit Diesel, we had "bagel" files and top ten lists. At Applied Process, we had Dr. Kathy's comfort food. At Alcoa we had the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus come for visits. At MOI - we have pot luck lunches! And we have some creative and yummy cooks. They hosted a pot luck in my honor since it was my last week. Prior to the pot luck, several people asked me what my favorite food was. Favorite? I like it all!! I froze and responded "Macaroni and Cheese!" When I got that weird look like I must be joking, I said, "OK, then Ice Cream!"

Well, we had a little of both. Some mac n cheese for the pot luck, as well as ice cream with my three favorite Cold Stone toppings: white chocolate chips, caramel and whipped cream. Fabulous.

But the best of all was my going away gift. As a consolation that I might not have any potlucks at my next job , they gave me a can of microwavable EasyMac. And then, to tide me over, presumably all winter... everyone chipped in and brought me a box of macaroni and cheese! If they are trying to guilt me into staying, it's almost working!

All kidding aside, the mac n cheese stash almost made me cry. I will miss working with all of my MOI friends, but as I have done in the past... I keep my old friends and get to go off and make a bunch of new ones. It's another chapter in the adventure. And this time... there's mac n cheese involved! Yummy for me!