Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trying to heal the pack

Cross-posted in Shadow of the Hooded Crow blog

So, I've not been blogging. I've not been writing much, although four days before deadline I decided to whip something together for Air n-Aithesc coming out next week. I've not done a lot of the things I hoped to do this summer, including writing and getting my business put back together. Mostly I have hung out with my dogs, either hiding from the heat inside or wandering around or running outside.Sure, I could write while I hide from the burning daystar, but what I'm also not doing is sleeping so concentration isn't there. It's been a tough year so far.

Last February we lost our 15 year-old boy Sachairi. We had a good two year stretch, after losing our hounds Cù and Òrlaith close together.  Sach had liver failure, we tried to stem it with meds but we were told there wasn't anything else we could do. As he lost interest in life, we let him go. Free of his body, he visits often but can also visit his beloved first human who now lives on an island where dogs cannot be brought in.  No body, no laws.  But it was a rough loss, even if we had adopted him as a senior knowing he would never be with us very long. He made himself very central to our lives, making sure we all were doing what was supposed to be done. He was the dog that when you were upset he'd come over and pat your shoulder and then go get a toy to shove at you to make you feel better. When I needed that this time, well.....

Just a few weeks later - with all of us, pup, human and, yes, the cat still devastated- we took our remaining dogs, Gleann and Gráinne for their yearly shots and checkups. The vet suggested a "wellness" blood work for Gleann as he was about to turn 12. And one for Gráinne as she had displayed symptoms months earlier that indicated a possible autoimmune issue.  And...

Me with Gleann and Gráinne heading to vet
Gleann has hypercalcemia, high blood calcium of unknown origin, possibly cancer somewhere, but even if not can cause kidney failure.  Gráinne has leukemia. Which seemed scarier at first, but really is less of an issue right now, as it is chronic lymphocytic leukemia and currently asymptomatic.   The regular vet put her right on Prednisone, which the oncologist (much to the regular vet's chagrin) had us wean her right off....for some reason our regular vet is insisting she was symptomatic when we brought her in although that had been months before...if she has no symptoms she should not be under treatment for levels she has. We'll be monitoring her lymphocyte levels monthly and watching her for symptoms.

With Gleann, the oncologist (we should have been referred to an intern, although it probably is cancer) also noted he has a neurological disorder (then the regular vet later taking blood and lymph node samples for test the oncologist ordered, as the regular vet was cheaper and closer for them, also insisted he did not have said eye symptom of it,while then admitting that his head muscles are atrophied from the same disorder.  At this, point we have no idea what is causing either of these conditions or how they may relate.

So, those tests were inconclusive, at least according to the regular vet. We need to do ultrasounds and x-rays the regular vet can't do at the referral vet and to get a consultation from someone there for both sets of tests.  We're broke. Especially after the vet bills for Sach and the horse ones added up last year (and we need to get a vet here for the horses soon too).  So we have been fundraising at the page hopefully linked at this widget. I am hoping readers might be willing to help as they can (lots of small donations do add up) and will share this around. If my work has had meaning to you, please consider that this is work and I do not get regular pay for it, so now might be a good time to compensate (an important factor in Gaelic culture, after all) a bit.  We need to get answers, we need to treat the cause of theses issues as we can. Chances are, with the possible causes, it is treatable...if we can figure it out in time, but time may be running out fast.

I am hoping that we can get these answers and get Gleann treated. I am hoping to be able to refocus on my writing and get back to taking fitness clients as well as get out to teach some workshops again.  (I will likely give a discount to anyone who donates should they wish to do a future workshop or hire me as a trainer...and I am looking at long-distance options).  Right now, I'm spending as much time as I can with my pups.  Looking forward to our next ritual, as Gleann is our star ritual dog, having participated since he was a couple of months old and absolutely loving it.

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Me with Gráinne, Gleann and Sach just before going out to the hill las Samhuinn

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Golden Princess

I feel rather horrid about this. I wrote two posts about Cù when he lost use of his legs and we were so hopeful to get him walking again, perhaps with aid, and then when he took a turn for the worse and we had to let him go.  But I have written nothing here about Òrlaith's battle this winter. I posted a bit about it here, primarily as both his death and her battle at the time influenced my writing.
Òrlaith (Prevo)
Born:June 16, 2002-adopted: November 25, 2009-died: February 22, 2014

Òrlaith was our fourth Greyhound, the fifth we have lost. We adopted her when we realized that we were losing Scolaighe to her meningitis and we didn't want Glean, our AussieX to be alone.  As she was a tiny "feminine" fawn girl, we were somewhat surprised she was "thrown" at us, we get losers, after all and tiny
Peeking out from her pillow fort
"feminine" fawn girls are apparently among the most sought after Greyhounds.  However, she did have her issues and she did need us. Namely, she had anxiety issues, but they were rather unique. Hardly a spook, she was outgoing and friendly to humans and dogs, rather bossy and body slamming with the latter (and if they didn't obey, I already told the story of her reprimanding Cù then him being put in solitary for supposedly hurting her by kennel workers).  However, noises bothered her a lot if she wasn't active at the moment. Sleeping was a real problem; wind, rain, sounds of the house settling, never mind when actual thunder.

Her previous home had children as well, she hid in her crate and they felt horrible, feeling she was unhappy.  Here she took to building a "fort" out of the couch cushions and hiding there to sleep. We figured she was pretty happy, actually, but also got her a ThunderShirt (tm) which helped some but she still like to hide.We let her as long as she needed it.

Over time she started spending less time under the cushions and started snuggling us a bit.  When we adopted another AussieX, Sachairi, she did go back into hiding for a bit when she was sleeping, although she did seem to like him. She then started to spend more time out again, except when there were really high winds and thunderstorms.

She especially liked Sach when he was where she wanted to be
As the only female the boys all learned to respect her and the seemed to all adore her. She was very bonded with Cù, because their activity levels were a bit different from the Aussies, there was a strong sense of pairing. We'd often walk the hounds on their own and take the fluffy dogs out for a romp in rougher terrain, especially as the hounds both started showing signs of lameness as they aged (Sach is actually older, but yet shows little signs of age other than being deaf). So when Cù became lame, Òrlaith was very reluctant to go for walks on her own. As I didn't want to take all the other dogs out and leave him, I didn't at the time try to take her out with the boys.  That would come later, after he was gone and she seemed to enjoy those walks quite a lot.

She missed him terribly, as did the boys  They moped a lot, even all snuggling together often.  As snuggly as she had been, she became a total velcro hound to us too.

Then over Thanksgiving, when the vets where off and Aaron was working, I noticed that her gums were bleeding badly when I brushed her teeth. The next morning there was a lump, we figured a tooth infection that got into her jaw and got her to an emergency vet who determined the same and sent her home with a course of anitbiotics.

The antibiotics did nothing, the lump grew. Taking her to a regular vet, we learned she had osteosarcoma, a bone tumor. He gave her about three more weeks, which would have been around the holidays, and gave us little option. We took her to another vet for a second opinion. On the plus side we found them a wonderful clinic and will be continuing to use them....wishing greatly that we knew about them when we still had Cù (this is Bethel Animal Hospital they are a bit further from us even than our old vet, but greatly worth the trip!).  They didn't give a death date, but confirmed it was cancer. They laid out the options, which were to have the jaw amputated and replaced with a prosthetic and do chemo.  Manage her care until it grew too large.

Given her age, given how horribly invasive and painful the idea of jaw amputation seemed...especially while suffering the effects of chemo....and especially at her age when there was a chance that something else would get her before she even finished the chemo so that she'd probably never have a good quality of life, we opted to care for her while we could without imposing all that on her.

We did try, with the support and help of the new vet, several herbal treatments.  We were sold a lot of hope by many when we bought these things, miracle stories....which was not helpful to us. We had so much hope for Cù and were still feeling crushed by him not making it, not walking again, that more false hope was painful. We knew the cancer would spread, the tumor would grow. All we could hope for was that we could slow it.  And it seemed to work. I spent almost all my time with her, Aaron as much as he could. We spoiled her with "treats" which disguised her herbs.  And she ate soft food....although she could still wolf down the boys' (who do not eat like Greyhounds) kibble when we weren't looking).

Around the end of December, it did seem maybe it was getting too big and time was close, but it did seem to slow at that point.  She got to the new year, still happily eating, still going for walks when it was warm enough (which, sadly, it wasn't very often).  She made it into February and then...as the month was winding down, we realized that the tumor was getting too big. Her mouth was bleeding again. She could still eat, but it was more difficult.  She still had happy moments but it no longer was all the time and we knew that shortly those happy moments would be gone.

I often feel and See the "shadow hounds" around here. But Cù was very close this whole time. He missed being in the same world as his closest packmate, she missed him.  They are together again, this I know. They are with Irony, Bran and Scolaighe too, but importantly they are together.  Always. I miss sharing this world with all my lovely hounds, their silken ears, their snuggles...but I know on some nights, I can still run with them under the moon. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

About a dog

Cù Mór (Onaim Dogzilla)
Born:August 24, 2002-adopted: January 30, 2010-died:July, 27, 2013
When I last posted it was about how our activities here were all backburnered while we took care of our sick dog, Cù. Sadly, while at first things looked good that he might walk, aided, again, he took a turn for the worse and his body couldn't fight any longer. On the 27th we had to say good-bye to this wonderful soul.

Cù was our fourth Greyhound we lost, the fifth one we adopted. Irony, Bran and Scolaighe were there to greet him and he is now buried with them.  Òrlaith is now mourning her boy, as are the Aussie crosses Gleann and Sachairi.

Those who came before: Irony, Bran and Scolaighe
Snuggling Gleann
 Cù was really classically a Greyhound, with that ability they have to be simultaneously elegant and goofy.  He loved to snuggle, whether it was people or other dogs. He could also be rambunctious and this
sometimes confused people.

Snuggling Sach
One story that sticks out is when we went to Chicago the year we adopted him, the pack, then him, Òrlaith and Gleann were so close we didn't want them in separate kennels as the kennels the place we were boarding in were large anyway.  When they were going in to feed the day before we got back, they here a fight and found Òrlaith bleeding from the ear.   Figuring that Cù had attacked her, as he was big and male and she was the one bleeding, they exiled him to another pen.  We got there and, well, their story of him attacking her seemed off to us. When we got into the car, it was clear....that was not what happened. He cringed as far from her as he could get in the back of the car.  When she moved he cringed further.  Meanwhile, Gleann and Òrlaith snuggled.

They made up, of course
When we got him home we took a closer look at him and he had two bites, not real deep but evident if you bothered to look.   Òrlaith had no bite marks at all, just the scrapped ear. What obviously happened was he got excited, as meal times got him, and jumped on her, as he sometimes does to others but not her, usually.  She corrected him, got her ear scraped by the unfortunately rough wall and the kennel staff, not knowing dogs very well, didn't even check to see if he was hurt, just punished him further by separating him. Which also delayed their making up and left him terrified of her for days. (no, we're not likely to board there ever again)

While Cù might have been ruled by Òrlaith, he was a kindly patriarch to the fluffy boys. The closeness of them all was demonstrated often. Sadly, it's not demonstrated by their intense mourning.

He apparently also remembered his first family. I became friendly with the woman who cares for one of his littermate sisters, Annie.  We had taken Cù to be euthanized on Saturday morning, getting there just before noon.  The vet came out and gave his sleep shot, then went back in to get the euthanasia drug and let the shot work while we petted and cuddled him.  The noon bell rang. A few minutes later the vet came out and sent him to the other side, we never saw the exact time. At 12:06 Annie who had been sleeping woke up, startled.  She spent the day being very clingy, which was unlike her.  To us and to her person it's obvious he came by.

Just as it's often clear he's here still at times. I'm sure he will be, with our other hounds, when we celebrate Lùnasdal later this month.

I regret deeply that we were not able to help Cù as I had hoped. I do not regret the time we spent with him in his last weeks. Sometimes it was very hard, but that only makes the loss all the deeper.  Our animals are our life, really, and our sacred trust.

He was a magnificent, beautiful hound, showing a true legacy of the ancient Celtic Hound he was descended from. I know there is much more that should be said, but even after over a week, I seem unable to manage as well as I'd like. I'll update his page soon, but I still am not able to. Still dealing with this in steps.

Cù demonstrating his ancestral hunting skills on a stuffy

Friday, July 5, 2013

Already Dog Days

I could be talking about the weather, because what we've had I do remember as typically hitting us here only in the end of July and beginning of August. But that's not all of it. But it does play a part.

Cù in more limber days, showing himself to be a True Celtic hound
We started with a humid but rainless end of April and beginning of May. We were a bit worried about having a fire for Bealtuinne, especially after our neighbor set our woods on fire (he owns five acres on this side, right in the middle of ours, where his damn wood furnace sits way too much in the trees).  But a few days before we were set to celebrate, we got enough rain to ease the fire danger.  We had a  lovely celebration. And a few nice days.

And then it kept raining, and kept warming up and stayed humid. Ever since. Dog Days.

We had lots of plans for chickens, gardens, fences and horses. Lots of horse stuff.

He can't even lie like this anymore.
And then.....Cù our male Greyhound, started getting wobbly in the back. He already had some lameness int his front for leg.   And in the beginning of June he completely loss he use of his hind legs. Vet trip, ex-rays, meds.....sitting with him so he wouldn't' try to get p and hurt himself.  Carrying him out for business. Mostly lying on his side, sometimes back. He had one good day after this started when he got himself up to lie on his belly. Which he can't do like this anymore. He can still get himself on his back, which he enjoys, but often we need to help.  His left foreleg has gotten far worse, leaving him with one usable leg. Which really isn't usable alone. 

He sometimes would be alert!
He was never a real active dog since we got him. Greyhounds are not on the go all the time, except when puppies. A good walk or run and then the couch or bed for most of the day is the lifestyle most hounds over 2 years old prefer. But after a month of this, I think even Cù, who might actually be the laziest hound we've had (we had three before the two we have now) is getting a bit bored, however.

The issue appears to be spinal disc compression and arthritis.  He's on Prednisone and pain meds and it seemed to help, but, of course, the Pred also ate his muscle tissue making him weaker.  He can't stand at all.

But he's happily eating, still loves snuggles (if it's not too hot...which has been an issue) and is eliminating fine, even if he can't get up on his own to do it....he usually manages to let us know and get him out in time and appears upset with himself when he has an accident, which is a good sign for his mental state.  So we keep fighting for him.

We plan to get a harness which is made to actually carry him. I'm not really able to lift him, due to back problems and after a month, I don't think Aaron's back is holding out too well. This would allow us to carry him in a such a way to be easier on us and on him. It would also allow us to see if we can get him walking again. He needs more support than mot "walking harnesses" would give. We might need another harness for his hind end, as well, but that certainly wouldn't be enough.

His left foreleg may not be usable again. While the Pred sand inactivity atrophied his muscle all over, the left front is seriously atrophied.  He can kick his hind legs and his right foreleg when dreaming and use his right foreleg to try to move himself....and to reach out to touch us, but the left foreleg only twitches. So we think that's really a separate issue, just worsened by the other.

So we also want to see about getting him downstate to be seen by another vet, one with a lot of Greyhound experience.

Between the harness, the medical bills we have, the ones we're looking at and the fact neither of us is now working full time and need to spend more time here with him even if we could get more work (which is a big if, anyway), we have decided to ask for help through crowdfunding. I have also decided that as writing is work, especially the more heavily researched bits which tend to be here, here and, at least one so far, here.

So, yeah, this is one part "why I'm not posting much" and one part "if you can spare a bit to help our poor dog, please do" post.  We appreciate any help, including prayers and passing word along.  We know he could have good life. He just needs a little help getting up again.
The whole pack together

Monday, April 22, 2013

Circle, circle

I was going to post shortly after Imbolg but realized that it was sounding an awful lot like the post I had done the year before. Except some of our "cupboards" weren't as well stocked due to life while we dd have more
chicken in the freezer and eggs. We've been eating a lot of eggs. Sometimes things just circle around.

More recently anything I posted here would have been just about the weather. While many complained about it, this spring was much more "normal" than last, with no early warming spell to bring on a huge population of insects (while our bats are nearly wiped out by White Nose Syndrome). It's still quite cool, with the snow now finally gone from our mountain except for a patch here and there in well shaded woods, despite a light snowfall two nights ago which was gone by mid-day.

And so, we are back on our mission to find a way to fence in the gardens so that we get something instead of them just feeding the goat. ~;p  Maybe I'll have something to write about that later, but I will likely only do so if we win. Or there is something funny to share. Meanwhile, this hasn't been updated because life is kind of quiet and boring. Much of my winter and spring has been focused on writing, possibly for publication (which, due to subject matter, I'm most likely to announce at Flying with the Hooded Crow) Now, of course, there is fencing and building and preparing and, soon, planting.Oh, and cleaning, lots and lots of cleaning now that the snow is gone.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Catching up to winter

 It's the Winter Solstice and I've realized I've not yet posted about Samhuinn at all. I had a few things kicking around I was going to write about then, like the meaning of sacrifice. After all, I see a lot of people prattling on about animal sacrifice who aren't actually involved in the raising of food animals and most of it is ludicrous.  I mean some is the idea that you can by factory-farmed meat and "sacrifice" it but one bunch actually proudly proclaims they "sacrifice" the "blood" they think is in the bottom off their packages of frozen (factory-farmed no doubt) chicken. Dearies, that's not blood, that's blood tinged water and it's a waste product. You seriously offer to your Gods that which normal people throw away? I'm sorry there's something wrong with that.

Obviously, not everyone is raising any of their own food animals so doing a sacrifice is not possible. I do believe you can do a meat offering with purchased meat, but I'm going to maintain that it really should be purchased with consideration including not using factory farmed meat for offerings. Even if YOU choose to eat factory farmed meat, consider that perhaps you want to splurge if you are buying for them. There are enough resources to find pasture-raised meat in any given area, after all. But also do on think that it is the same as sacrificing an animal you raised from infancy, that you cared for and nurtured and made sure had the best life you could provide for him. Because it's just not. It's an offering.

Lucky (left) with Pops (right) and two hens
Shortly before Samhuinn we did our chicken sacrifice, killing all but one of this year's cockerels. This did include offering the best one to the Gods. We hadn't planned on keeping any, but one little guy who had somehow worked his way into the older flock, with our older rooster, Pops, accepting him after the younger rooster, Sonny, (we don't work real hard in naming our chickens) had gone and taken over the pullets in this year's hatch. Most of the other cockerels had been separated out already, two others managed to live with Sonny okay, but this one head to take Sonny's place in the other flock. I had wanted to keep him, Aaron got me to agree to dispatch him as well, but then he escaped. Found a hole the others didn't. So I put my foot down, he might not be real big or real flashy but he was real smart so he got to live. He still lives with Pops and his hens, but we may eventually try to establish three flocks. Or not. The other factor is that if something happens to either of the other two, we have him. We seem to be calling him "Lucky" but I don't think luck had much to do with it. I think he's a bit of a con artist, but I like that about him. It's a good survival skill in the very complicated society of chickens.

I would have also liked to have written about  how things were going with the mares, but we got rain. Lots of rain. Serious ground-soaking too much mud to do much sort of rain. Which then froze the mud into nasty, hard ground.  So we didn't work with them a lot. A bit of brushing if the rain let up long enough for them to be dry, as much game playing as the mushy and then frozen ground allows. Now we have snow, well today it's turning to slush in a winter rain but I'm hoping it will turn back to snow without painfully frozen slush that resembles that painfully frozen mud. Meanwhile we seem to be settling into a nice winter routine with the four horses and the goat.

So not a lot to talk about which is why I hadn't. We survived Superstorm Sandy which actually wasn't so super by the time she got here so we were again lucky. Or, as I keep noting when others say something nasty about our weather...we found a good place, nestled here in the mountains, when it comes to storms we never seem to get the worse. *knockswood* We celebrated Samhuinn about mid-November, had a nice fire followed by a nice meal. Aaron found a 7lb turnip for our Jack, as our swede growing attempts failed (seriously we need to figure out the goat-proof fencing thing better). So this was damn nice. The meal was one of our chickens with veggies, including most of the inside of the turnip...we actually had too much from it fit it all in the clay cooker. Next year hope to grow our own but matching this size might take a few years.

Now we're settling into winter routine. The past week has been one of sadness and contemplation. And annoyance at rampant stupidity. I think a lot of my winter will be like I am right now, surrounded by snuggling dogs, trying to write and realizing I should get out to check the outside animals and the fires soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And as summer starts winding down

 Summer arrived, we did celebrate Bealtuinn, it was a lovely ritual and it poured rain at the point where I did the omen for the blessing...all things considered, we took that as a good blessing.  The summer came on hot though, real hot. Okay, it has not been as hot here as many places, and while a bit dry for us we have no drought, so we can't complain. Might a bit more if we got as serious with planting as we intended to, some here have been hurt by the weather...but battles of fences and goats meant we were prepared not to have much of a domestic harvest.

The chick have grown, with two more losses including the one that wasn't growing. The wild geese, which were three families this year, have grown too. One family is gone, um, as I write I'm not sure about the other two as they've both been flying but returning....today may have been the day. We'll likely see them, but not be able to pick them out, as the flocks fly south in a couple of months. We also have had one family of Mergansers born and brought up on the pond, that we know of; there is always a chance that another family might have been a bit more private about it. 
 A huge part of our focus this year, what with me no longer working nights, has been us catching up on working with the horses. And while it's an all seasons thing, I wrote last year that we call our Lùnasdal celebration here "Là Fhéill Mhacha" and that we do have an even stronger focus on horses for this celebration than others, although, again, horses like dogs are always a part of what we do. It was a time of horse racing and still is of horse fairs, although as I wrote elsewhere this summer I do not believe going to or watching modern professional horse races is a very spiritual experience, especially not for the poor horses. You are, after all, supporting horse slaughter every time you do so.

I'm feeling this celebration is very special, as this summer has been very much focused on training Saorsa, getting to know Misty, trying to keep the Mini boys from being bored. No longer working nights, I've been able to spend a lot more time out with the horses with all of us awake (you know, when it's not been too sweltering, so sometimes it is evening). Between me having more time to play with her and Misty being her herd, perhaps some maturing as well now that she's 5, Saorsa has made some great strides. In fact, it's been amazing! She's still bold and daring, but not as pushy and rude as she was.

This has included me finally riding her.We did or first trail ride on August 5th, so now our "Great Horse Unrace" can now include actual riding again. Maybe we'll even start racing for fun by next year. We'll see. We need to get boots for them first or do it in the field though, as the gravelly road does not inspire them to want to move very fast. Saorsa, in fact, acts like an old plug who has been trail riding for years. It's been three times. This is slow, steady training using Natural Horsemanship methods at work. She's been on the road many times, without a rider, after all. Having a rider seems to be nothing to her, she just was, "oh, okay, so now you're going to do all this stuff from up there? Kinda lazy, then, ain't ya?"

She's really turning into a seriously awesome horse. Um, aside from shots. She does not like shots. She is not very forgiving of shots. Shots bring back the old, scary, "I'm going to maul you now!" Saorsa.   Fortunately, in NH we can give our own shots, all of them, and the vet is more than happy with this idea (because getting to live can outweigh making money, sometimes, I mean what would he do with it if he's dead? and he's just a nice guy, anyway). Of course, this will work only as long as we don't do anything that requires certification. We don't exactly have any immediate plans to do anything other than hang out and ride here, so that's not a problem. If my dreams of doing Search and Rescue with her or any sort of fun competitions (I have no interest in showing, but do have a mild interest in mounted Cowboy shooting which I think she has the moxie for or something like that...just fun...and not economical at this point anyway, especially as the nearest mounted team I know of is in NY state).

The mares have ended up with the run of the place, actually. Did I mention we seem to be having some issues with fencing. The not very good fencing blocking off the driveways doesn't seem to be a problem, as after a couple of adventures, neither seem to be interested in leaving us. *knockwood*  So we decided to put aside the rest of the fencing and let them wander. They come to the door to visit or to ask for help when one loses track of the other while they graze. And Saorsa is free to swim in the pond as she likes, although Misty doesn't approve. (Despite the heat she didn't seem to do this much, perhaps because Misty was so pissed at her last May ..left hand photo....but today she ventured back in... right hand photo).   Oh, and as I typed this paragraph they just trotted by to head for the shelter of the barn, apparently it's nap time.

So, summer has been horses, walking and playing with dogs, Aaron getting more shifts with the ambulance, job hunting (I admit, him more than me), some work on building a business (me), trying to keep up training while it's broiling inside and out, working on the place and a bit of writing (me).  I actually have a few things cooking, one which I thought I'd be announcing all over the place but my own online posting of it is going to be delayed. I may be telling why over at Championing Ourselves in the next few weeks (or months), but suffice it to say that my War Goddesses article will not be seeing light until about Samhuinn either way.   Yes, it's been a good summer. We have much to celebrate...which should be within a week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sumer Is Icumen In.....

Yes, I know that's an Old English song and not Celtic, but as part of my Bealtuinn practice always includes watching The Wicker Man (the original, of course) it's totally stuck in my head.  (This year we also watched The Wicker Tree. I had considered doing a review, but I don't think I'll bother anymore than I'll bother ever watching it again. No, it won't be part of our tradition. It was quite dreadful, although not as horrible as the remake with Nicolas Cage, and boring. I don't know if Hardy never did get what the actual happy accident that made The Wicker Man a Pagan cult hit or if he intentionally decided to just bore us to death but it was very sad and I'm not going to put any energy into anticipating his next film.   Anyway.....)

We're a couple weeks and a lot of word from celebrating as of yet. Work has begun, pastures, chickens, gardens. It's all slow but ....   We are also planning a fenced in yard and it turns out friends of ours are getting rid of theirs...so we have some chain link and some of the parts for it to use! This means we'll have a better fence than we initially were planning, only having to buy the gates and some parts and concrete. And then do the work. This will give the hounds a place to romp off leash and an area protected from the goat and the horses when they get out (which they do a lot, this spring, lots of fence work in our future there, too). We'll have some of our gardens in there, including trying to salvage some of my parents' flowers.

We're also doing a good deal more in cleaning up the entire house, making it more and more our space. This is a rather difficult thing for me, as it means going through my parents' things and changing the house from how they had it to what we need. I want to get it so that we can have company over on the A-frame side, so that not everyone who visits has to immediately deal with our crazy dog pack and to have a roomier place to sit. I also want the kitchen all fixed up for future canning and other bigger food projects. The little one in our "in-law" apartment is often difficult to work in even for what we're doing right now.
March 29, just arrived

As I noted in my last post, we got another bunch of Silver Gray Dorking chicks, they arrived safely and so far 22 of the 25 are still with us. One is tiny, not growing and seems gimpy, but eats, drinks and poops and seems enthusiastic about life so we're giving her a chance. The other chicks are not picking on her, although she does get run over when they get excited (which is all the time).

On April 16
 In the next couple of days we intend to separate the two Dorking roosters we have along with half the Dorking hens each and one with the hybrid as well. We'll see if we can get a couple hatches, hopefully brooded by the hens, out of this. We might incubate some eggs as well.  We don't plan to keep any of the males of this batch past fall, we'll keep the two roosters we have and the new hens and try to keep the lines as diverse as we can with that.

We are not going to get the Scots Dumpies this year, unless we have some radical developments which makes all this too easy and we need to get more. We now wouldn't be able to until July, which is rather late and I'd rather aim for next year. And get more experience with these guys.  I do intend to have the Dumpies some day, I really do. However, I also want a lot of things set up better, because we really want to be able to make major strides in knowing how to breed and keep the flock thriving before we attempt it. And, honestly, I love the Dorkings, they are a beautiful and quite nice birds.

April 16, our little girl next to a normal sized female

The past week or so has been chilly to cold. We had snow a few days ago and night temps in the teens. This after hot weather in March. I'm a bit concerned about a lot of our trees and bushes, as they had been budding when this hit, and some of our perennials were up and may now be done for the season early. And others might not make it this year.  Fortunately, we hadn't been fooled into planting anything outdoors yet.

We've been exploring the land a bit, it's nice to together now, as for years our schedules didn't allow. Yesterday we heard coywolf puppies not far from here while walking the fuzzy dogs. Aaron kept them with him while I followed the sound. It was distressed, although I knew I wouldn't go too close or interfere if I did find them as there is seldom a reason to. The adults were likely off hunting. They went quiet as I got close, I looked around, hoping to see an adult returning having heard them too and probably close enough to know we were there. I didn't actually look for the den, just tried to see if I could make out where there might have been more activity. I am hoping they don't feel a need to move them, as I didn't find them, and I will try staking out the area when the pups are a bit older to see if I can get any photos. I went back to Aaron and the dogs, awhile later we heard the pups again, this time a very different cry which likely indicated the adults coming back.  I love these beasts. Yes, I know that seems odd to some that a chicken farmer says that, but it's my duty to protect the chickens without harming the possible competition.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adventures in corned beef and other foodie stuff

Beet Kvass brewing
I think we might officially be entering the foodie world. While we have been dedicated to real food for awhile, sometimes it's hard to see us in this light, but I think it's getting hard to avoid. We're also fermenting things, that's a big step in this for us. Aaron has been the one making kefir, I've just started a batch of beet kvass.

But our big adventure has been in corned beef. The past few weeks had the subject brought up a lot due to the association with Irish American St. Patrick's Day dinners. Of course, as we're Pagan it gets drowned out a bit by all the various blather on the implications of the day. As we're more Scottishly inclined, I didn't feel a need to voice in on that and our only celebration was to go to a local coffee house to listen to music (which was a nice sociable thing to try to break out hermity ways). But there were enough mentions of corned beef and cabbage that I did start craving and then Nourshed Kitchen, a lovely blog you should check out if you're interested in real food, had this post on curing your own corned beef.

The roast before
As it's awfully hard to find grass-fed corned beef on a whim, we decided to go for this. Of course, we got started rather late to do it for St. Paddy's but that's not an issue. For me corned beef is not about St. Paddy's Day or about "being Irish." It's about being a New Englander with a Québécois father. It was an important meal, cheap, hardy, filling, savory on both sides of my family. The truth is that in the Northeast corned beef isn't about a ethnicity it's about class. It's a meal of the people. Of course, for boiled dinner it's not generally just corned beef and cabbage, but a variety of root vegetables as well. Things that get through the winter, which does make it quintessentially March meal.

In the whey, salt and spices
We have a few roast cuts from our last half-a-cow, although not a brisket apparently, but figured this piece would do although a bit more fat might have been nice. Of course, before we could start the curing of the beef, we needed to make the whey. This was something I had been intending to do as it's useful stuff and so the cream cheese which is the other side of the process. This, of course, took several days, in fact a bit more than we though it might. We went by Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions for this process. We did some raw milk and some raw milk yogurt, obviously the former took
Ready to cook

longer than the latter. We skipped the celery juice as we don't have a juicer anyway and would have had to buy celery (probably not local at this time of year).


Once the whey was separated out we put the spices and salt on the meat and poured the whey over it all. We left it out for one day at room temp but the moved it into the refrigerator for 5 (or so days, we aren't remembering this the same LOL). Then we took it out and got it going in the crockpot.
It's food!

We added turnips, parsnips, carrots and, of course the cabbage.This is, after all, not corned beef and cabbage but New England Boiled Dinner.

And amazingly it tasted just like New England Boiled Dinner!

 We still have a few meals of it. We are also left with some cream cheese for various things, as well as more whey which allowed us to start the beet kvass.

We've been taking baby steps in to a lot of this over the years, but getting more and more into it. Cooking isn't something that we've been the strongest about, but it's an important part. Especially as I've always had health issues which makes this very important to me, both the eating as traditionally as possible and the eating a lot of traditionally fermented foods.  I am one of many I know who screwed up my system through years of vegetarianism and "mainstream" food. It's amazing to me as I look at "the big 5 0" in a few weeks that I am as healthy as I ever remember being in my adult life. And this has been largely due to eating real food. Some which we raise ourselves, some which we buy locally and all of which we prepare in traditional ways.

Speaking of raising, regarding the chicken hopes I mentioned awhile back, we are still not sure about the Scots Dumpies, although if we are indecisive too long the decision will be made for this year. And I am thinking that we probably won't get them this year. But we will get them. So while we considered getting White or Red Dorkings, as there are two NH farms which offer one or the other, we decided to just stick with the Silver Grays. We are going to try to breed some of ours, but as I write this there are 25 newly hatched chicks on their way here.

You are what you do, not what you study

This is a moose, your argument is irrelevant
I have been using this mostly just for homestead related issues, but I think this actually relates to some extent. I will, however, most likely use this blog to delve into Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan and Heathen matters here, if they do not more relate to the warrior path where I'm more likely to do so at Championing Ourselves.  The idea of starting yet another blog is just to much. I find it odd that I've divided my life as much as I have, actually.

This topic also fits here for me, because this is very much a blog about living this life, rather than studying it. This is also true of Championing Ourselves, of course. In both cases research plays a major role, of course, research into Gaelic and Norse cultures, but here also research in various arts, crafts and sciences of living this life. However, research is only to lead to living, it can not be the only thing..it is not what defines us.

It seems that some folks now want to define a "Celtic Reconstructionist" as only someone who studies, who is themselves a scholar. That anyone who isn't cracking the books seriously cannot be called a CR. This would mean that my husband who has done minimal study isn't a proper Reconstructionist in their view.  My husband who has been practicing this for nearly 20 years now, who can remember every detail of every discussion he's been in, who actually know more about the lore (both Gaelic and Norse) from what he's picked up over the years than some of these folks relying on questionable tertiary sources and who has been in and lead ritual for, again, nearly 20 years is apparently not qualified because he prefers to research farming, alternative energy and politics; he reads some lore and history, but not a lot.  Fuck that shit!

CR was never meant to be a "religion of scholars" it was, rather meant to be a scholarly based religion. Really, I no longer consider it "a religion" it ceased being that a long time ago when others took up the term and it came to mean many thing, that is that there are many CR religions, it is a methodology. That methodology is a combination of scholarship and experience. But not everyone who decides to follow a religion using this methodology are going to be doing the work. Yes, that was true of most of us 20 odd years ago when we didn't have community, but in order for CR to mean anything, anything at all, we must be open to those who have other things than scholarship to share.

Celtic Reconstructionists have a horrible reputation not just in the broader NeoPagan community, (and yes, we are NeoPagan, we are in fact among the newest), but also among other Reconstructionists and think this issue may well be one which has caused this. Because there may be a valid reason why everyone sees us only as fighting online. Because far too many fancy themselves scholars and tell others that they're not welcome if they're not too. Although some of us (I have from the beginning) have tried to make everyone welcome, I have seen people be attacked, viciously sometimes, for wanting to find practice without having to do research.

Okay, so part of me might resent it a little because off all the work I've had to do being one of the first. But the point is that there has to be room for both those who are and those who can offer other things. Including just community. Because we are just elitists assholes sitting alone in front of our computers if we can't build community. I have seen many in Asatru, Nova Roma and Hellenism who have been welcoming of those who wish to do, to worship, to commune, to live inside their religions without all those people being scholars. And yes, some argue about things online too. But they don't share our reputation about it because it's far clearer that's not all they do.

I have seen people complain about not having community, about their family members not being "interested" only to realize that they have themselves destroyed any interest their friends or family members may have had by requiring that everyone do the same amount of Research.  I have seen people claim that they can't include their kids because kids are too young to do The Research. They're whining about not having a community but they've destroyed it by making absurd demands on people.

CR is over 20 years old now. When it began there was a lot of need for scholarship and there still is. But scholarship is not depending on tertiary sources and rehashing the same things. So what we needed then was more general, "let's get this started" research with some beginnings of serious scholarship. What we need now, actually, are more people doing down right serious, primary sources (translating even) focused study. Most of the people I have seen claiming we all must be scholars are not doing this level of work and often depending on previous work that is fairly easy to obtain but often was very generalized and included misinformation that even academics not focused on specifics of a particular issue fall into. We don't need more of that, we need more serious research and exploration.

We also need those who are not real scholars, both those who realize they are not and shouldn't be bullied about it and those who think they are but it's not the strongest thing they have to offer. We need the farmers, the warriors, the craftspeople; we can't all be priests and poets. We need to be building community, or at least households, to be doing the work of living this life. Because we are not what we study, we can never be ancient Celts, we are what we do. We are how we live. We need to move beyond the beginning stages that CR often seems to still be in and get on with the living of it.

Moos has had enough

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In the spring a middle-aged woman's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ....chickens

And seeds, of course, but the true obsession is on the chickens.

We've had chickens since the spring of 2001, a few months after we moved here. We learned our lesson about going through the local feed stores, having ordered a specific breed and arriving to find out all they had were Black Sex-links (Black Stars). We took them, even though we intended to get something we'd want to keep breeding and would have broody hens, which never happens with Black Stars. What we ended up with was a couple of very nasty tempered roosters, we ate the others, and some good laying hens. One of which, went broody.

The Old Clucker brooded out a batch of eggs from this first flock, then later we got her to brood out some Silver Gray Dorking chicks when we decided we wanted something a bit different, with friendlier roosters and more hens who would brood. However, none of the Dorkings surpassed the Old Clucker as a mommy. She remained our go-to foster-mom through out her life (she died at 9).

We have suffered losses, disease, predators (and an improperly latched door). We got another batch of hybrid eggs for the Clucker, from a local...not a specific hybrid but a "I don't know who got with who" hybrid. We now have one hen from that batch. And we then returned to Dorkings two years ago.

We now have a few Dorkings, and the little red hen (who is actually big compared to the Dorking hens). We only had one chick make it last year, a male. *sigh* This year we hope to do better, letting hens brood and brood some eggs ourselves. But we were also going to buy another batch.

Thing is, it's already late to order Dorkings, because they are broody. Well, ours never seem to be as stubbornly broody as they describe, perhaps to balance out having a broody Black Star? But it seems the hatchery ones are. And I was considering perhaps we should splurge on another Dorking variety, especially as Aaron dislikes the big combs which are more prone to frost-bite (although this year we brought them into the heated shop). Sand Hill Preservation Center is far pricier, but is one of the few places that has other Dorking varieties. You need to order the standard 25 to keep them safe and warm on the trip, but you can't get one single variety in that number. Last time I checked I remembered it being about 6 per coloration, but now it's 15 or 10, which means we could get, say 15 black and 10 red rose-comb. The blacks have both rose and single combs. Other colorations are not available in our hoped for time frame, but this would be a good bet for us. But, yeah, pricey. $150 for 25.

We're still debating between us if we want to stick to the Dorkings, I wander up the chicken page on SHPC's site. My eye catches "Cuckoo Scots Dumpy." They appear to have started selling them just last year.

Due to how endangered this breed is, even compared to their other birds, they sell them differently than others. It's $150 for a set of 25 chicks of which at least 15 will be Scots Dumpies, more if they can do it, with the remainder being another breed of their choice. They're sold out until at least June, but on the surface it seems that other than waiting about a month longer than I might want to normally, there is no real difference to us as far as initial cost. Same price for 25 birds.

While I love the Dorkings, I admit that Scots Dumpies have fascinated me for years. I figured, however, that it would be impossible. But now that they are, I'm unsure about taking this step.

While Dorkings are not common, the Silver Greys that we have are no longer endangered. They are attainable from most hatcheries. Other varieties, which Sand Hill offer, are rarer. In NH there is Yellow House Farm in Barrington raising White Dorkings. They also have some great advice on heritage breeds.

That advice is truly needed as well. If we were to do this, or get into a rarer variety of Dorkings, we'll need to change our focus greatly. We'd need to get damn serious. Join associations! Sell breeding birds to others to get diversified local lines to later breed keep our flock diverse. We'd have to have space for a lot more breeding birds than we currently have been keeping in order to be a true preservation flock. We'd have to vaccinate as we'd have to take birds to swaps and shows.

It also thwarts Aaron's wish to have rose combs. However, despite the need to protect their combs from frostbite, Dumpies, like the Dorkings, are hardy in cold weather. To me that's more important. Of course, right now we have few enough birds that we have them in a small chicken house inside the heated shop, hence no comb freezing. If we end up with 60+ breeders we'll not really be able to fit them all in there. So different housing considerations must be made

Between all this, we're talking about a lot more than $150 investment.

Still, I am thinking this will be the future of our farm if the Zombie Apocalypse doesn't hit first. We probably won't do it this year, we'll breed the Dorkings we have and possibly get a few of something else, likely through someone local, to keep us in eggs and meat in the meantime. But eventually, yes, a preservation flock of Scots Dumpies...after all, how can I resist a breed reputed to have been "watch dogs" for the Picts against Roman's. (even if that is probably about as likely as woad, but, you know....)

Scots Dumpy photo totally stolen from the Scots Dumpy Club

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter is getting here...mostly....

Yes, Samhuinn was celebrated, just a few days after my last post. In a nice heavy wet snowfall. It made for a wet, cold ritual, but at least that means didn't have to obsess over whether the fire really was out after, there was enough snow to not matter. We came in, put out our ancestor plate and had a nice feast. The hounds didn't attend, just didn't seem like they'd appreciate it, but they were happy to get a bit of shortbread when we came back. The fuzzy dogs joined us, unfazed by the snow, and seem to have assigned themselves particular ritual parts during the Outsiders' offering.....Gleann went out, like always, with me, but Sachairi stayed to guard Aaron. This is the first we noticed this, it may be because the hounds weren't there.

That snow is now gone again, although at the moment some is trying to come back. We had more warm weather, which has led to continued horse training. In one session Saorsa had her first training in how to carry my enemies' heads. She seemed to be fine about this at first, but then did get a bit upset over the whole thing. Our trainer, btw, thought my interpretation of what this exercise was very odd. In general, this is Saorsa, though, something new doesn't bother her...until she gets bored with it. Keeping this mare occupied is going to always be a challenge.

Misty on the other hand is lazy and stubborn. Riding her is rather a chore at this point for me, but that will just take time and doing it more. Aaron' has begun actual riding lessons and as the trainer/instructor is there on the ground to get Misty to move she moves a bit more during their lessons.

This past weekend, although nice for it, we didn't do training, as we were busy going to pick up a cat from a friend who needed to find him a home. So now we're sort of complete on farm companion animals. So far, Merlin, the cat (the name he came with and will keep as changing anything else is going to be too much for him), is not warming up to us. But we have all winter before we'd want to let him roam outside much anyway. He is proving to be a hunter, however. And he is chicken safe, which is good as he's big enough to be a problem if he wasn't.

I have fixed up the website and it is now residing at the new URL http://www.dunsgathan.net/ and the old one should now be resolving into the new address. Not all changes are there, I finally decided that I had to get it up or I'd wait forever waiting for "perfection." And now I can't use working on it as an excuse to not get to other writing. Of course, Merlin needs a page. And I have plans for more stuff on the Gaelic Heathen section, but it won't ALL need to be uploaded again.