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Friday, December 26, 2014

The Goats' Christmas Tree

I tend to be a bit of a "bah humbug" person around this time of year.  I watch people spending money that they can't afford on gifts that may or may not be suitable or appreciated, and I decided a long time ago that it wasn't what I wanted to remember about the Christmas season.

My mother, though, loves many of the trappings of Christmas, and one of her favorites is a Christmas tree.  Since she's 93, it seemed a good idea to cater to her wishes and put up a tree.  They do fill the house with a glorious scent, and even I have to admit that a lit Christmas tree is a joy to behold.

However, I don't think we enjoy our trees nearly as much as the goats enjoyed theirs--albeit  in a very different fashion.  I know they'll like ours just as much.

Dolly and D'Arcy are the first to nibble

Beatrice and Leah have to assert themselves, of course.

Dolly wonders if she can get another bite.

The herd queen loves the tree!  And Dolly can only wait her turn.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The American Community Survey

Several weeks ago, my mother received an American Community Survey in the mail. I threw it away unopened.  I've seen them before, and the questions it asks are incredible--how many bathrooms, whether there's a flush toilet, a stove, a refrigerator, how many animals, how many people are in the household and their relationships to each other, what do you eat, sources of income, whether you have a business, how much you spend on various utilities, how many acres, education of residents, whether they need assistance walking or dressing (!), and the list goes on and on. Incredible, I said, but it should have been "incredibly invasive".

I got a phone call a few days ago from a government lackey to remind me to fill out the survey.  I refused, citing the Fourth Amendment and the lack of constitutional authority for the Census Bureau to even send out such a survey.  She said she'd note my answers and give them to her supervisor. 

Today I got a call from the supervisor, who proceeded to tell me how I was Required By Law, Title 13, to be exact, to answer the questions.  I explained that my mother is 92 and has dementia and would not be answering any questions.  She asked if I lived there, and I replied, "I stay here with her."   She then instructed me that I could answer the survey.  I declined, reiterating my previous replies, and she told me I HAD to answer the questions because "It's the Law".  Ah, yes. 

I patiently advised her that the Fourth Amendment had not been amended, that I had a right to be secure in my person and my effects, and that no law could abridge that right, and that includes secure from prying questions as well.

It's pretty sad that so many government "officials" have either never read the Constitution or have such a complete lack of understanding of what it says.  This woman tried to tell me that Congress had, yes, indeed, amended the Fourth Amendment, and it was all written down in Title 13.  I attempted again to explain to her that Congress cannot amend the Constitution with a law.  I advised her that I was quite familiar with the Constitution and that no amendment had been passed which abridged the Fourth Amendment. She wasn't having any of it, just became more belligerent. I was in the middle of making Tilsit cheese, so I finally said, "Ma'am, this conversation is over.  Goodbye,"  and got back to my cheesemaking.

It's troubling that so many people will blithely send in the ACS with all their private information, trusting the government, no doubt, to keep that information secure.  Tell that to the Japanese who were interred during World War II, or tell it to the Arab Americans who, even more recently have been targeted through the Census Bureau for use on terrorist lists for the airlines.

Sample surveys can be found here.  If you aren't offended by the nature of the questions, then you ought to be

Let me end with the Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." 

The Fourth Amendment has been under attack from many directions.  The ACS is one little talked about by the media, but is every bit as unconstitutional as any other.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Treating burns with heat

A couple of days ago, I was taking hot pans out of the oven.  In a rush, and not paying attention, I started to pick up a hot baking dish, but quickly let it go--too late.  My fingers burned!  Remembering an article I'd read a while ago about using hot water instead of cold to treat burns, I immediately ran hot water, as hot as I could stand, over my fingers and hand.  Then I rested my hand in a bowl of hot water--again, as hot as I could stand--for about 15 minutes.  When I got through, the results were nothing short of miraculous.  My fingers had a mild sting, barely noticeable, with no blistering whatsoever. 

The next day, there was no sign of having been burned at all, not by sight nor by sensation.  The baking dish had come out of a 400°F oven only 5 minutes before, it had not cooled, my fingers grasped it firmly before I let go.  I've grabbed hot things before--who hasn't?--and have always had at least mild blisters, or at least reddened skin, but not this time.  

It makes sense, when you think of it.  We treat frostbite with cool water, slowly raising the temperature of the skin, then why not decrease the temperature slowly as well, so as to avoid tissue damage?  Treating burns with heat is very homeopathic, to say the least.

Now, I don't know if I'd use hot water on a burn from liquids.  I'll have to think about that.  However, for dry burns, I'm keeping this one in my repertory.

Oh, and as an aside, I searched for this treatment on the internet.  Maybe it can be found on page 1004, but no matter how I phrased the search, I was unable to find any reference to treating burns with heat.  So much for information availability. I don't remember when or where I read about it, but I can't find it now. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cats and dogs

With all the snow and bitter cold this winter, each long visit to the barn left  my toes feeling like they were about to break off.  I had a wonderful pair of boots last year, but the zipper wouldn't stay up so I returned them.  This year I treated myself to a pair that looked exactly what I needed, and so they were: a pair of Sorel Bear boots. Oh, they are warm!  The kicker, though, the bonus unlooked for, was the box.

My sister's dogs and cats are staying with me for a while, and Roar, aka Hambone, loves boxes.  Little did I know!  As I was trying on the boots, Hambone was trying out the box.  The dogs were fascinated.
There's something in there!

I think it's a cat.

Someone shone a light in the box and startled Roar..
Okay, I'm done.

Zoë and Lilly have to check him over.

Omigosh!  Now the box and the cat are in the living room!

A cat just can't find a private place with two dogs around.

Zoë's going to stay till the bitter end.

Time for a well-deserved rest.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weathering the winter storms

December was a challenge, and January is shaping up to be another.  I heard (but haven't confirmed it) that it was the coldest December on record in Maine.  Could be! It was pretty darned cold, with temperatures in either the single digits or below zero much of the time.  The challenge, though, was not just the temperature.

On December 15th, heavy, wet snow fell.  Usually, Decembers aren't too bad for snow, but this time it came fast and furious.  Church cancelled because no one could get there.  The following week, freezing rain--ICE STORM!  No church, no one could drive unless they had skis on their vehices. Late afternoon, the lights flickered--and went out.  A couple of hours later, power came back.  And a short time later, gone again.  

Haul out the candles, the oil lamps--whoops, no oil--, and the Coleman Lamp, which says don't use indoors. HA! I just love federal safety regulations and all the CYA instructions on everything. Of course I used it, and it burned brightly. And, since by now it was night, out came my Freeplay radio to entertain us.  I played with the shortwave bands and found a Chinese language station, probaby from Toronto, Canada, but who knows?  The vagaries of short wave are many and perhaps it was from even farther distant.  We settled on an FM station with Christmas music and read by flashlight.

At 9:30, we headed for bed, flashlights in hand.  It is so much fun waking up to the sound of puppy needing to go out, and stumbling around in the dark with only a small flashlight, shining it outside while the dog miserably goes about its business and woefully begs to come in out of the storm.

Next morning, still no electricity, but lots of snow.  Thank goodness for gas stoves.  A simple match makes sure of cooking power, and a flame ensures melted snow for water. 

Several buckets later, I had watered all the goats and the horse.  Since the temperatures were forecast to plummet, I cleaned the ice from my car.

 and surveyed the world. 
Ice laden branch over the frozen driveway (Click to enlarge)
Meanwhile, Shawn was outside trying to get the generator started, after walking down our icy 1/4 mile driveway.The next day, we had a new generator and--blessing of all blessings!--Electricity! Water! Furnace!  Did you know that if you remove the DSL filter on your phone, it will work during a power outage?  After pondering the problem for a while, knowing that telephones are usually still functional when the power is gone, I examined the phone setup and removed the filter. Voilà! The next day we had both phone and internet, so I replaced the DSL filter.

I quickly got into a routine:  Charge everything--lantern, cell phone, extra batteries, Kindle; take out the dogs and turn off the generator before bed, making very sure I have the battery-powered lantern with me and a small flashlight in my pocket; turn off the circuit breakers for the furnace, water, and electronics; in the morning heat water to break up the ice in the barn buckets.  If I had a stronger arm, I would have restarted the generator myself, but as it was, Shawn came every morning to do that.  The joys of having a son!

We didn't get power for several days, and until the driveway (the lane) was sanded, I didn't go anywhere.  Temperatures were frigid, but all my critters did well.  I don't think Angel liked being locked in the barn, but I wasn't willing to let her out for a couple of days--not until it snowed again and covered the crust.

The aftermath was breathtaking.  Though it was bitter cold, there was little wind, and even when the sky was overcast, the landscape was wondrous.  Glass trees formed crystal forests, the light dancing on prisms of ice.  Such beauty, and yet so boggles the mind.  The pictures below don't do justice, but enlarge them to full size to see more lovely detail.

A view of the lane.  There's that branch again.

Lane side tangle

View up the driveway (aka the lane)
Forest of snow and ice
Beech Hill Road
 A few days later, the sun came out.
Ducktrap Mountain
View out the back
long shadows, late afternoon

 The storms and power outages have given me serious pause.  I thought I was prepared--plenty of food, plenty of water--but I wasn't.  I didn't have enough potable water, my store of candles and lamp oil were very low. I'm remedying it now, checking other stores I hadn't thought about.  One day in the future, the economy will crash.  It may be sooner, it may be later, but it cannot be sustained.  It's time to prepare.