"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Aimee Gotcha Gun (Finally!)

My first bullseye (probably a fluke)

Homero takes aim

My target.

About two years ago, I bought a handgun( http://newtofarmlife.blogspot.com/2009/10/armed-aimee.html). I was almost totally inexperienced with guns: my siblings and I were given daisy air rifles one christmas when I was about eight, and we merrily donned puffy jackets and shot each other until our outraged mother caught us and took our guns away. Only once had I ever shot a real gun. When I was fourteen, my Dad won a tiny little pearl handled .22 in a poker game. It was almost small enough for me to palm, small as my hands were at the time. He took me down into the sub-basement of our apartment building and showed me how to fire the gun into the damp, crumbly brick walls. That was that as far as my firearms experience.

I decided I needed a gun when it became clear we would be doing our own slaughtering and butchering. Homero's friends dispatch the goats by the old-time method of a sharp knife to the throat, but I prefer a bullet to the brain. The first time I saw one of our pigs killed, by the very professional Keizer Meats men, they used a .22 revolver at point blank range, and that pig was dead before it hit the ground. If I'm going to kill an animal myself, I want it to die just that fast. So I asked the husband of a friend, who is a very knowledgeable enthusiast, to help me pick a gun that would serve my needs. This is the gun I picked:

It's a Ruger single action .22 revolver. 19th century technology that still works with perfect efficacy. It may not be the most excellent choice if you are looking for personal protection, but for dispatching pigs and goats, or for target shooting, no problem whatsoever. Plus - and forgive me, anti-gun folks - it's a COOL gun. It's a cowboy gun. It LOOKS like a gun, unlike modern automatics, which to me look like they came out of a vending machine. If - God forbid - I ever did have to use it to protect myself, whoever was threatening me would feel for certain like he was looking down the barrel of a real gun.

It was recommended, it was reasonably priced, it was nearby. So I bought it. Then it spent the next year and a half in a box on a high shelf. I never touched it. I must have been scared, I guess. To myself, I just kept saying "I need to sign up for a safety course." My friend who recommended it to me asked me, every other month or so, "so have you taken that pistol to range yet?" No, not yet. My younger brother likes to shoot, and he offered to take me to the range several times. "Oh, sounds like fun," I always said. "Yeah, I should really do that."

Meanwhile, the gun stayed in it's box.

Yesterday, my brother came up to spend the night. He brought his pistol and just flat out told me we were going to the range. He provided the ammunition (I never bought any) and we paid the entry fee (a very reasonable eight bucks, paper targets and earplugs included). My brother taught us the four cardinal rules of shooting:

-treat every gun as though it is loaded
-don't point the muzzle at anything you don't want to shoot
-keep your finger away from the trigger until you are sighted and ready to fire
- and I think I forgot the last one but it'll come to me.

He helped us learn a basic stance and a basic grip, and taught us the basic etiquette of the public range. Then we spent a happy hour and a half shooting. It was really very fun, although much more difficult that I would have guessed. Even a .22, for example, gets quite heavy after a while, and my injured shoulder did not stand up well after the first half hour. I learned that there is a big difference between my accuracy at 21 feet (the minimum) and at forty feet. I learned that with a little time and practice I can get over that panicky OH MY GOD THERE'S A GUN IN MY HAND feeling. And I learned that Homero is a much better shot than I am.

I enjoyed target shooting. I will do it again, and again, until I feel comfortable and reasonably practiced. But somewhere in my future I know there looms a much more difficult test: the day I actually shoot an animal. I'm not looking forward to that day at all, but at least I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I have done what was needed to ensure that my animals suffer as little as possible in their final moments.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Banding Baby Bucklings (What's Outside Your Comfort Zone?)

There are many animal procedures that happen on a farm that fall along a spectrum of skill. From the things that almost all farmers so for themselves - such as hoof trimming - to the things that almost everyone has the vet do - like putting down a terminally ill beast - we all have our "no big deal" procedures and our "no way I'm not going there" procedures.

For me, banding bucklings is as easy as pie. You buy a twelve dollar tool at the farm store, and off you go. A bander is a small handheld tool with squeeze handles on one end and four prongs on the other. You slip a heavy duty rubber band over the prongs, and squeeze the handles to separate the prongs and force open the band. Then you slip the scrotum through and let go. That's not quite all there is to it - you do need to be careful and know a couple of things. Yesterday I banded my sister's bucklings (because for her, banding is one of those "uh-uh" jobs) and I took a picture to try to illustrate those couple of things. It's a terrible picture, but I'll try to use it:

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Okay, the big round thing is the scrotum. At the top, you can see a bit of the dark green band. Above the band and to one side, you can see a dark pointy-down thing. That's one of his nipples. Yes, boy baby goats have nipples, too. And the nipples are right one front of the scrotum, quite close to where the band goes. Before you let go of the handles, you need to be quite sure that neither nipple is under the band. That would be bad.

My vet told me that the other main way to fail at castrating is to get only one ball under the band. See, the testicles are actually quite free-floating inside the scrotum. And they are slippery little buggers, too. After pushing the scrotum through the band, and before you let go, palpate to make sure there are TWO testicles inside. You will be surprised at how easy it is, while palpating, to accidentally send on or both of them squipping up through the loose skin of the scrotum and into the body cavity. I'm sure many a farmer has only half castrated a billy and been unpleasantly surprised come breeding season.

It's also surprising - men will be shocked - that the baby goats hardly seem to notice. Sometimes one will yelp a little bit just as I let go the band, but most of the time, if they are eating a little grain, they don't do anything at all. One or two will walk a little funny or shake their hind legs for an hour or so, and then they just utterly forget about it. Clearly, being castrated is not nearly as traumatic as having your horn buds burned off.

Now, that is a procedure that is seriously painful. This is something I have not been able to bring myself to do. My husband says I should, that it is part of farming, and taking them all to the vet just isn't practical. It isn't - he's right. It costs a minimum of $40 to have the vet do it, and this is for an animal that most years, sells for $75 if I'm very lucky. The vet gives them a nerve block and puts them to sleep with gas. One year I took them to a farmer who does it herself, and I must say, with no anesthesia at all, I was impressed with how quickly the little animals bounced back. They were imprisoned in a box with just their heads sticking out and they struggled and screamed most horribly as they were burned, but when they were let out, they ran back to their mothers, nursed, and then pretty much went back to jumping and playing as usual. But I just don't have the stomach for it. Plus I think it extremely likely I would burn myself.

And of course, disbudding can be dangerous. I lost a baby to brain injury from disbudding this year (See "this one really hurts"). And the vet did that disbudding! If I had done it myself I'd never have forgiven myself. I'd rather somebody else kill my goat than kill it myself.

What about you all? Do you castrate, disbud, slaughter? Do you hire it out, call in a neighbor, or what?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Busting Out All Over

Today was the fourth in a string of sunny days. The longest string of sunshine we have enjoyed around here since last September. The mercury has not yet broken 70 degrees - the longest such stretch in many years, I read in the paper, a full 300 days - but for the past four days, it has been somewhere near or slightly above 60, with clear blue skies. The mud has receded to a few stubborn puddles. The grass is growing almost visibly. And I have emerged from a serious funk.

Having been born and bred here, I like to think that I pay slight attention to the weather. It is sort of a mark of pride, for the native Seattleite, to never ever carry an umbrella; to walk head high through the drizzle; and to be just ever so gently condescending of those poor souls who haven't the gumption to abide the endless grey skies and who succumb to sissy weaknesses like seasonal affective disorder. They are not to be scorned, but pitied.

Of course, it's all a pathetic front. Born and bred is as may be, but we are just as susceptible as the rest of the rabble to SAD and cabin fever. We just work harder to hide it behind closed doors, and subsequently take it out even more on our spouses and children and pets. Behind the brave facade of the chipper outdoorsman/woman striding confidently down the street through the driving rain is a whining whimperer huddled next to a woodstove or a radiator, snapping pulishly at his or her family to bring them some hot chocolate, goddammit. Housewives like myself spend fully seven months of the year screeching at their family to take their ever-loving shoes off before they track mud all over the carpet. Those of us who live on farms endure seven months of damp, of never being clean, of stinky wrinkled white feet, of deep misanthropic resentment.

Then, just about now, the sun comes out. Suddenly, the trees are in full leaf, having seemingly skipped over all the stages from bare branches. There is endless birdsong, flowers of all descriptions, spring mushrooms, flowing milk, early crops bursting out the garden, an amazing over-abundance of eggs. The farmer's markets open, and there is fresh asparagus, bright red radishes, spinach galore. Last night at my sister's house we made pizza with fresh goat cheese and arugula from the farm. Our winter-starved bodies hunger for the fresh greens and the vivid, astringent tastes of spring. Our pallid skins begin to soak up the sun and manufacture some sorely needed vitamin D.

I have begun to slough off the torpid skin of winter. I feel like a turtle emerging from damp frigid sand, like a small animal shaking off the dull metabolism of hibernation. Soon enough, perhaps, I will be complaining about the heat of summer and about drought; but for now, I am content to revel in green spring. Today I was able to lay down in the tall fresh grass and look up at the blue sky through a frame of bright green leaves, and I was very very happy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Urban Gardens, Bellingham Style

I love walking around residential neighborhoods this time of year. I am such an unrepentant voyeur; I just can't help looking into people's yards and checking out their gardens. Bellingham is a great city for urban gardens. At a rough guess, I'd say that easily a third of homes have a medium to serious garden - raised beds, a compost pile. And alm ost all the yards have something edible planted in them - a fruit tree, a blueberry bush, a line of raspberry canes, a window box full of herbs.

Chickens are legal in Bellingham, and it's quite common to see a coop in a backyard with three or four hens inside. I believe goats are legal too, but I didn't see any of those. This being a short-season climate (and a cold year) serious gardeners must do something to extend the season, and many homes have hoop houses set up over their raised beds, or cold frames, or greenhouses. In the picture below, you see an ingeniously cheap cold frame made by the simple expedient of leaning up a pane of glass against the side of the house, and planting beneath it.

Here, at the other end of the spectrum, is a gorgeous well constructed hoop house that was fully 12 x 30 feet, and a good eight or nine feet high. It was too early in the season for me to see what was planted inside, but there was enough space in there to plant anything. The photo below that shows a raised bed in the same yard, about six by twenty, full of raspberry canes. There are some folks who are NOT going to run short of raspberries.

On the smaller end of the scale, here is a cute little bamboo pyramid with a bunch of snap peas growing up it. There will be enough peas here to provide snacks for several weeks. Next to the pyramid is a seriously out of control rhubarb plant.

And finally, this photo has no edibles at all in it, but what a beautiful tulip garden! This view just made my day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Loaning Out the Goats (Never Loan More Goats Than You Can Afford to Give Away)

Ok, that subtitle was an inside joke for my siblings.

Half my herd is at a friend's house. A friend of my sister's, B., put up a notice on Facebook that she was looking for a few goats to help her take control of an out-of-control yard. Also, she thought her kids would get a big kick out of having some temporary goats. After ascertaining that the yard in question has good fences, I offered my goats.

I am only milking one goat at present, Iris. The others have enough to do feeding their own kids, or else haven't been bred. The pastures have been very slow to get growing this year, because of the unseasonable cold. It makes sense for me to pawn off a few goats, if I can, for a week or two and take a little stress off of the pasture. B. is very trustworthy, and I felt totally confident in her ability to take care of a few goats for a week.

Really, it isn't very hard. Friday, I loaded Edith and Flopsy in the van, along with Flopsy's kid (who isn't named but who the kids have taken to calling Spotsicle) and the largest of Django's triplets. I figured I might as well take the opportunity to forcibly wean that greedy little bugger and give Django a bit of a rest.

B. and her family were excited just about out of their pants to see the goats. Her children are very close in age to my own (7 and 5). Hope and Paloma instantly took a liking to B.'s little girl and the three of them ran off into the underbrush to giggle and play. The little boy, the youngest of the four, toddled after the goats and hugged them mercilessly.

Many of B.'s neighbors and friends were also interested in the goats, and quite soon the event had evolved into a pizza picnic, complete with a cooler full of beer and approximately seventeen small children rampaging all over the landscape, alternately chasing and chased by goats. B. and I unloaded a bale of hay into the carport and kicked it around to make a nest for the goats. By the time I left, all four goats looked quite happy with their new digs.

B. called me this morning to let me know that so far all the goats seemed to be doing fine. My reconnaissance of the property led me to believe that the goats will have about a week before they have eaten everything edible and it will be time for them to come home. Who knows... if B. and her family love the goats a whole lot, maybe I will be able to sell them one of the babies!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Greenhouse Pictures

My new sitting area on the porch. I traded a dozen eggs for each of the wooden spools, and I think they make nice tables. My herbs are acclimating to life outside the greenhouse.

The broilers are getting big. We made them a small run by leaning cattle panels up against the side of the greenhouse, and they sleep in the old truck canopy. Isn't it great how you can make almost everything you need out of trash and rubble, if you aren't too picky about aesthetics?

The tomatoes are beginning to bloom - bad news because it is still too cold to move them outside. Will this cold spring ever end? Probably not for a while yet. The paper had an extended weather report that said they expect all of May and June to be significantly colder than usual. Then they thoughtfully provided the newest round trip airfares to Honolulu, Phoenix, and Palm Springs, along with the current temperatures. Oh well, I guess I should be happy I have a greenhouse now. I AM happy - even on a cold day, I can go inside and close the doors and enjoy the warmth.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On Trading and Canning

Yesterday I made the first major trade of the year - four dozen eggs and a pound of goat cheese for ten pounds of asparagus. That makes a pretty big box of asparagus, even after deducting my sister's mother's day present (she adores asparagus). I traded with Veggie/Oil Man, now officially my longest-term trade partner. We have three solid years of trading everything we have to trade - eggs, cheese, and mechanic services on our side for organic vegetables, use of equipment, and waste veggie oil on his side. Veggie/Oil Man supplies a great percentage of our fresh food in the summertime, and allows us to glean his fields as the season ends. He is also a very interesting and colorful character and something of a local legend.

The trade network is real fun, something I very much enjoy. I like meeting new people; I like finding out what our local foodshed has to offer; and I like offering up the fruits of our own labor. But it does have a few disadvantages. Imagine for a minute that the only place you could ever shop was Costco. Imagine that most of your fresh produce comes in ten pound lots. Most of us are probably familiar with a ten pound sack of potatoes, and if we have a medium-to-large family, that's not really a lot of potatoes. But ten pounds of asparagus is a lot. Ten pounds of tomatoes is a lot. Ten pounds of snap peas or green beans is a MAJOR lot. And ten pounds of kale or chard is an insane amount.

There are a few ways to deal with massive amounts of one kind of food at a time - recipes heavy on one or two ingredients ( for example - http://newtofarmlife.blogspot.com/2010/06/seasonal-abundance-greens-n-cheese.html), or throwing a party with enough people to absorb whatever you have too much of (any excuse for a party.). But eventually, we have to fall back on preserving. Not that it's a hardship or a last resort - quite the opposite. It's the only way to eat locally throughout the year; a good way to save money; a wonderful source of satisfaction and pride, not to mention cheap christmas presents.

Again, there are many methods of preserving, and each of them has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the produce involved, your preferences, and energy/infrastructure situation. We tend to favor freezing and canning around here. To get back to the subject of this week's trade, asparagus, I am planning to pickle it. I know my siblings both consider pickles to be the scourge of the earth and a shameful waste of good fresh food. I couldn't disagree more. Maybe I was born with a salty/sour gene that they missed out on, but there's nothing I like more than a good half-sour kosher dill. Or some tangy, sweet pickled beets. Or hot n' spicy dilly beans. Or, more to the point, pickled asparagus.

Maybe it has something to do with my love of a good Bloody Mary, I don't know. Is there a better addition to a Bloody Mary than a hot, garlicky spear of pickled asparagus? I think not; unless it might be the pickled yard-long bean served in the Wasabi Mary at the Dragonfish Cafe in Seattle. Last year, alas, only a very few of my pickled asparagus spears ever made it into a Bloody Mary. Most of them were snarfed up by my children, who have apparently all inherited the salty/sour gene. I can't remember for sure, but I think I made six quarts of pickled asparagus last year. There is enough asparagus in the fridge right now for about the same amount - but I'm going back next week for more. There is no such thing as too much pickled asparagus.

Six quarts pickled asparagus:

2 or 3 pounds fresh asparagus
1 quart distilled white vinegar
3 quarts water
1/2 cup sea salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1 head garlic, separated and peeled
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
small handful whole black peppercorns
several whole allspice berries
several cloves

Sterilize 6 wide mouth quart jars in boiling water; keep water simmering. Set our sterilized jars on a clean towel on counter. Add lids and rings to simmering water.
Make brine - boil all remaining ingredients and keep at a bare simmer.
Pack jars with cleaned, trimmed spears of asparagus.
Add simmering brine to within 1/4 inch of jar lips. Make sure each jar has a couple of cloves of garlic.
Using tongs, remove lids and rings from simmering water and close jars. Replace jars in simmering water and process for 30 minutes. Remove jars with tongs and set out to cool. Testy to make sure all jars have sealed. If any have not, keep in fridge and use within 2 weeks.

Bloody Mary:

For Four:

In a pitcher, combine 6 - 8 ounces of vodka, one jar of V-8 or Very Veggie juice, juice of 2 lemons, and several shakes of tabasco. Pour over ice-filled tumblers. Garnish with celery sticks, parsley springs, pickled asparagus, and whatever else helps you maintain the illusion that you are consuming a healthy dose of vitamins along with your alcohol. Best served around the breakfast table about 11 a.m. with 3 of your best friends over a platter of greasy hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, bacon, and biscuits. Hair of the dog and all that.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Best Mother's Day Present EVER (Thanks, Baby, You're the BEST)

Today was great. The best mother's day I can remember, in fact. Many things about today were nice - lunch at my sister's with Mom and family; a late afternoon sunbreak; barbecue ribs and potato salad - but the best thing about today, as it is most days, was my husband.

Homero spent yesterday out in his shop, working on a mysterious present for me. All I knew about it was that he came in with greasy hands and that welding was involved, but that pretty much mirrors his daily routine, so I couldn't guess. He was fairly smug about it, however, supremely assured that I was going to love it. The little girls, who knew, did an admirable job of keeping the secret, only giggling uncontrollably as I interrogated them: "Is it bigger than a breadbox? Does it walk and talk? Does it wriggle on it's belly like a reptile?"

He wouldn't even give it to me this morning, but insisted on taking it with us to my sister's house so I could open in front of everybody. Which I did. And here it is:

It's okay; it took me a minute, too. It's a CHEESE PRESS! A beautiful, beautiful CHEESE PRESS, about two feet tall. The cheese basket (?) is a stainless steel pot from Goodwill, in which Homero drilled several drainage holes. He then cut the lid so that instead of sitting on top of the pot it slid neatly inside of it. Then he made the frame. The handle on top spins, lowering or raising the pressing-arm (I really know my technical language, don't I?). The entire machine is stainless steel for easy cleaning, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

No more wobbly stacks of books! No more kettles of water precariously balanced on top of a colander! No more sudden crashes in the night, waking us all out of a sound sleep! Now I have even, controlled pressure. Now I can make beautiful round wheels instead of irregularly shaped lumps. Now I feel like a real cheesemaker!

The best part of all is the beautiful knowledge that my husband knows what is important to me. He really thinks about my desires, he respects my work and he wants to help me. He has done this before - once he spent weeks making me a whole series of gigantic stretched canvasses for me to paint on. I still haven't used them all. I am so very lucky to have a man like Homero. Not only does he know me and love me enough to think of these terrific gifts, but he is capable of making them a reality. And willing to spend time and sweat on them, too. I am so grateful and so moved and so happy.

And I haven't the FAINTEST IDEA how I am going to top this for father's day next month.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ivory (Dog O'My Heart)

My husband has been bugging me for some time to write a post exclusively about Ivory. Ivory is our dog, one of our two dogs, and as you can clearly see, the most beautiful dog on the planet. Oh I know, many of you are thinking that YOUR dog is the most beautiful dog on the planet, and I feel for you. I really do. You are laboring under a very common delusion, a delusion called "being flat-out wrong." I've run into this delusion before, on the very rare occasions when somebody thinks their children are cuter or more intelligent than mine.

We have had Ivory since the very first days of our marriage, which means she is just about ten years old now. Before Ivory, I had never had a dog of my own. My mother had a dog during my early childhood - a cocker spaniel named Pepper - but since I went out on my own I had not lived a lifestyle conducive to dog ownership (cough cough), and moreover had self-identified as a cat person. We all make embarrassing mistakes during adolescence, don't we? The story of how I acquired my first dog is kind of cute: one day my seven year old daughter came home from school and burst in the door yelling "Mom! Mom! Come quick! There's a hurt crow on the sidewalk!"

I followed her out the door and found a very large and healthy looking crow which did not, however, fly away when I approached. I couldn't see anything wrong with it, but clearly it couldn't fly or it would have as our sleek cat got closer and closer. I was about to give my daughter the "circle of life" speech when she looked up at me with gigantic china-blue eyes and asked "can't we try to save it, Mama, please?"

Lucky for her - and the crow - it only took one phone call to locate a wildlife rehabilitation shelter willing to take a crow. I found a small cardboard box and a towel, and gingerly approached the fierce looking bird. "I'm only to try this ONCE," I warned my daughter. "If it doesn't work on the first try I don't want to hear a word about it." I will never forget how the crow, as I crept up on it with a towel in my hand, looked at me out of one bright eye and then lay down on it's side and went still. Silly as the idea is, it seemed to me - and it still does - that somehow the bird knew I intended to help it. I threw the towel over it and then gathered it up and put it into the box. Not once did it struggle.

The PAWS wildlife shelter accepted the crow and told me that there was no immediate reason to think it wouldn't recover completely. I couldn't help but notice that the adoption shelter was right next door to the wildlife rehabilitation shelter. "Since we are right here," I said to Rowan, "Do you want to go take a look at the animals? But I'm warning you, we are NOT getting a kitten."

Well we didn't get a kitten. But there was a litter of six puppies, white puppies with spots, that were heartbreakingly adorable. I asked about them and was told that they had just been neutered that day and wouldn't be ready for adoption until the following day. "If you are seriously interested," said the lady at the desk, "get here early. There's been a lot of interest in those puppies."

There was a lot of beseeching around the dinner table that night. Homero had been talking about a dog for quite some time, and I asked him to come with us the next morning, but he couldn't get the time off work. I took my sister instead. At PAWS, when you are interested in adopting an animal, you can take it to a special "interaction room" (or whatever they call it) to play with it for a little while and make up your mind. We took Ivory - the smallest of the puppies and the only one that was pure white - to this room and played for a while. She was bold, friendly, roly-poly, and we all pretty much fell for her. "Wait here," I told my sister, "I'm going to go tell them I want this puppy."

When I came back, my sister grabbed my arm. "You should have seen it," she said. "As soon as you left the room, the puppy ran over to the door and started whining and scratching, even though there are still four people in here who want to play with her. That's your dog, Aimee! You can't leave without her!" I had to tell a fib in order to take her home: PAWS won't let you adopt a dog unless everyone in the household has met the animal. But I lied and said my husband had met her on the previous day. I wasn't going to let this dog slip through my fingers. When I stopped by Homero's work to show him the new puppy, he actually thought she was homely beyond belief and that I might have made a major mistake. That is funny now, because no-one loves Ivory as much as my husband does. He dotes on her so devotedly that it has occasionally made me jealous. C'mon, if your husband thought his dog was more attractive than you are, you'd be jealous too, right? Especially if it were true?

Ten years later, Ivory is still the best dog ever. No member of the family has enjoyed the move out of the city and into the country more than Ivory has; no member of the family tears through the blackberries to catch rabbits like she does; nobody else has learned to herd goats like Ivory has. I moved out here for my children, but I think Ivory has benefitted the most. Ivory is the all-around American dog: she is fierce enough to protect the house and family, yet gentle enough to sleep with a newborn baby. She kills rats mercilessly, but has never killed a chicken.

She is endlessly elegant and beautiful. As an artist, I appreciate her gorgeous lines. She literally can't strike an awkward pose. Yet she can be silly and clownish. She is playful, athletic, graceful, rambunctious, and energetic.

She effortlessly learned to help me with the goats, and even learned to protect the little girls from aggressive pigs.

Ivory was born to be a farm dog. She was born to be OUR dog. Nobody knows what kind of dog she is - although everybody asks. "What a pretty dog!" They always say. "What kind of dog is she?" Even the vet can't guess, but we know she is largely whippet and most likely part pit bull. That leads us to call her a "whippet-pit." But there could easily be a bit of shepherd or just about anything else in there as well. All we care about is that she is OUR dog; a fantastic family dog and a very, very good friend.

At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I will share with you a song we made up for Ivory, back when she was still a young dog. Please refer to the first picture at the top of this post; and then play this to the tune of that old schoolyard favorite "do your ears hang low?"

Do your ears stand high
do they almost touch the sky?
if you flapped them do you think you could fly?
are they tri-an-gu-lar
and covered with fur?
the ears of
the dog that
I love....