Friday, July 27, 2012

Elastic Mom gets a Puppy

There are some things that I will scrimp on, and others that are non-negotiable, no matter what. One of them is my pets. Our animals are all pure bred and chosen for the characteristics of their specific breed. A pet becomes part of the family for many years and in choosing a dog or cat, I like to make as informed a choice as possible. Even if that means waiting for years in order to find an affordable Burmese cat at an animal shelter, as we did a while ago. 

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are my dog of choice. They are wonderful family dogs and excellent guard dogs, fantastic running partners, intelligent and generally easy to train. when Sabi, our Ridgeback bitch died six months ago, I knew we wouldn't have the luxury of waiting too long before we needed to find another puppy as we live in an isolated house on a border farm and our other Ridgeback, Copper is aging too. So, when I heard of a good litter of Ridgeback pups, we had to bite the bullet to pay for our expensive puppy. 

So what did I do?

I advertised our unused piano in the local bulletin and used the proceeds of the sale to finance our precious new canine baby. I am sad to see the piano go, but neither of my children have shown much interest in the instrument for all the years that we have had it. 

So last Monday, little Hunter, 8 weeks old, became a part of our lives. He is a sweet, affectionate, eager-to-please puppy.... a beautiful bouncy boy dog that has fitted into our family so well.

A lot of people rush out to shop for a new puppy, but I carefully thought about what Hunter really needed before I threw any money in his direction. 

He is growing so fast, so for now, he is wearing our fat Jack Russell's collar that no longer fits. I have another medium sized collar that he will wear next, and I am thinking of persuading my clever husband to make a large one for when Hunter is fully grown.

Pups need toys and things to chew. Every time Hunter is caught chewing on something forbidden, I try to swap it for something appropriate. Hunter was spoiled by Extravagant Dad with one small rawhide bone and a hoof from the vet shop, but they were rather a waste of money as he prefers my homemade or home found toys. He sleeps with Buddy, a soft toy dog that we earned from coupons. Buddy is looking a tad worse for wear since this pic was taken. Hunter loves chasing the cardboard tubes from the inside of toilet paper rolls, I put dog pellets in empty plastic bottles and he scurries around  with this exciting toy. He also plays with pine cones, an old scrubbing brush, which he loves (I think it massages his gums), pieces of rope, sticks, large bones, the other dogs and of course, with us.

For a large breed dog, a good diet is important during their development to prevent later health problems, so I am willing to spend  what it takes to provide him with a suitable brand of food, another non-negotiable particularly during the first two years.

Every pup needs a bed. Considering that our Jack Russell terrier thinks that he is a large dog, I donated his old bed to Hunter, not that he will fit into it for very long. It needed a little patching, denim offcuts did the trick. Puppies are notorious for shredding their beds, so I just couldn't justify buying a new one. 

We had plenty of cheap grey blankets, leftover from our move, in storage some of which have now been donated to Hunter. I also made sure that the breeder sent a piece of cloth that smelled like his original home to help settle him at first. Hunter has attached himself to Copper, and is happiest with the warmth of friendship that the old man dog provides. It is really freezing here, so Hunter sleeps indoors next to a heater near my bed by night, and has the freedom of sleeping in front of the wood fire inside, or in the heated kennel outside by day. 

This area is rife with dog-killing diseases like biliary and rabies, so disease prevention is not an option. I  would have saved on our veterinary bill by buying the shots and injecting him myself, if he hadn't decided to swallow a piece of soft plastic. All's well though, and I hope to inject him myself for his booster shots. As far as tick and flea prevention goes, I have chosen to use a wipe on dip for now. I already had it in my medicine stockpile.

Every dog should be trained. Once the owner has been trained how to train their dog, I do not believe it necessary to attend formal classes with every new pup. As long as the dog is well socialized with other animals, people of all types and new experiences, and carefully taught the basics of obedience, the pup will usually grow up to be a pleasure.
 Hunter is already well on his way with house training, learning to come when called, sitting on command, and is starting to learn the down command. Rather than spending heaps of money on training, we spend plenty of time and patience on our pups.

Most of all, our pup needs lots of LOVE and AFFECTION and to learn to trust us, his new family.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Slow Living in June

I am not so sure why it is called slow living. Cooking from scratch, growing the food, crafting and living purposefully keeps me busier than ever before. I suppose food grown and then cooked is slow food rather than fast food, but I am moving faster to do it all. Coaxing milk into cheese is tediously slow, but in that, my appreciation of the final golden block is heightened as I value the process to create it. For what it's worth here is my June Journal, inspired by Slow Living Essentials

The month of June brought us a day of snow falling on the farm and covering the distant Maluti Mountains in white. It had all melted here by the following morning, but the mountains are still beautifully iced. Winter days are usually crisp and clear, inviting us outdoors. Icy mornings and evenings call for log fires and steaming cups of tea. June also heralds the winter school holidays, a welcome relief form the study routines, and a chance for a change of pace.

This past month we have moved away form the warm porridges and have mostly had delicious muesli breakfasts instead. My creative husband has been experimenting with making his own muesli, possibly to sell, and we have been the grateful recipients of the best tasting muesli I have ever had. Summer's bounty graces our bowls of muesli in the form of golden honey and a choice of preserved apricots, peaches, pears or apples topped with a dollop of fresh Rosie yoghurt. This is slow living at it's best with this wonderfully nourishing breakfast each morning.
t's potato harvest time, and so I have included many different forms of potatoes in our meals, from gnocchi, to mashed, baked, boiled, and layered potato pies. This winter potato salad was a variation on Barbara Kingsolver's recipe, using what was available here: feta, ricotta, green tomato preserve, rocket and boiled eggs tossed with the potatoes in a mayonnaise and yoghurt dressing.

One way of storing the extra cream that we have around here is to bake it into rusks. These keep well and make a fantastic any-time snack. The recipe is super easy:

Warm one liter of slightly sour cream and stir in 1 1/2 cups of sugar until it dissolves.
Mix 10 cups of flour (assorted types if you like) with 2 1/2 T baking powder, 1/2 t salt and 10 ml cream of tartar.
Stir in your choice of raisins, coconut, seeds and nuts. Mix everything together and bake at 180 degrees C for one hour. Cool, cut into squares, lay them on racks. Dry overnight at 100 degrees C.

 Our first successful batch of apple cider is finally bottled, and although meant for long term storage ... there are eight green bottle sitting in the fridge... and if one green bottle should accidentally go, there are seven green bottles....

The cheese making is continuing with new trials of Monteray Jack, Farmhouse cheddar, Raw Milk Tomme and another gouda all maturing in a cool room alongside some of May's cheeses.

Reduce, Re-Use:
No citrus peels make it into the compost heap around here. Dried and chopped, they add wonderful flavor to my man's fabulous muesli. The rest of the skins are slowly tuning into citrus cleaner.

Old cardboard boxes cut up and folded made perfect envelopes for posting computer discs. A pretty sticker, some string and a little melted wax crayon made for attractive parcels, ready for posting to someone special.

 Most of our vegetable garden is dormant during this heavy frost season. We still have some spinach, cabbage and rocket for harvesting. I am using the garden rest period to focus on a few structural changes to the beds.

I have been blessed by my husband's creativity this month. He used old ceiling boards and made me some chalk boards for advertising my cream cheese at the farmers market.

He built me a shelf for my sewing area, helping me to create some order.

He cleverly made a bracket for my cream cheeses. It attaches to the burglar bars that swings up and out of the way when not in use. He also created some straining bags using old sheeting and some fabric from my stash. Not bad for re-using and creating at the same time.

I am reading a book called Earth Artist written by one of my classmates from high school, Jenny Louw. This book challenges my approach to gardening, encouraging the use of weeds as pioneer plants and taking biodiversity to a completely new level.

My emerging cream cheese business has been enhanced by a large weekly order from a local restaurant. (A bit of reversal here as I am the local being supported) This greatly helps me to use up some of the 100 liters of milk that Rose produces a week. I was able to give crochet lessons to some little people one afternoon this month. My son earned a little extra income by caring for a friend's dog while she was away. Jack, the bull terrier usually is kenneled while his owner is away, but the kennel is almost an hour's drive from here, so this arrangement was mutually beneficial.

Happy times this month included....

... a little girls birthday party on top of a koppie with a 360 degree view of the countryside.

... a short but sweet visit from my in-laws en-route to a wedding.

.... another special family visit from faraway cousins that included a farm tour where the city kids dug up their own potatoes.

I feel as if I have hardly done justice to the month of June, just superficially touching on some highlights of our wintry days. Time marches forward into July with its slightly shorter, but much colder nights. Who knows, we may even see some more snow. Now wouldn't that be something.