Sunday, March 26, 2017

more good food

I just had a dinner of salmon cakes and cucumber-dill-feta salad.  Lunch was kale-potato-bean-sausage soup. 

I know how incredibly lucky I am to have the resources to eat so well.  I look forward to many frittatas in my future with eggs from my chickens (if Ziggy doesn't make a feast of them) and vegetables from my garden.  I don't even much like frittatas but I will learn to make them how I like.

Things are moving forward at the Stardust Homestead.  Tomorrow I am scheduled to get the garden bed which I will need to assemble and locate, and then I will order dirt.  Minimum of 6 cubic yards so I need a plan.  When I called to ask about it, I called a place that isn't super near so I'd never gone before despite hearing good things about them.  The delivery charge is $45, but when I add up the wear and tear of a full load multiple times on my truck along with the drive and having to take time off work - well, it's worth it to avoid doing it myself.  And the best part was the woman who answered the phone - what an absolute delight she was.  Before I knew it we were sharing gardening secrets and stories. 

I think that i will put the chickens in the back corner by the house with the man on power tools.  They're located right by AC units now and it doesn't bother them a bit.  I think the chickens will do very well here - they are curious and content.  They are also not unfamiliar with dogs and so they won't overreact to Ziggy, and my friends are very matter-of-fact and if the chickens die it's not the end of the world.  They didn't even name them this time.  I don't know the breed -they were generic "brown egg layers" but the hens seem on the small side.  I'll get them in two weeks.  I think I'll just order a damn coop because I'm not super crazy about theirs and the construction of a run is more than I need to do. 

The rooster is a lovely gent but his amor is making the hens super plucked and my friends think that they need to get rid of him.  Plus it's illegal to have a rooster in city limits.  I could probably get away with it and he does seem a lovely rooster other than that (he kept giving me the eye, a protective fellow), but with all the stress of moving to a new place and having a dog around more - I worry that the hens may turn on each other with the wounds he inflicts.  And I trust my friends' judgment. 

OK, time to read.  A friend just called wanting to stop by so I need to get on my game and finish work.  After I pack up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Yum.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

coops on my mind

The chickens are mine for the taking.  I plan to go over and meet them this weekend.  If they're mean and ugly, I won't take them.  Chances of that are low, as they are my friends' beloved pets. 

The question becomes: how to introduce them and Ziggy Stardust. 

I've asked the behavioral vet and will put it out to some dog groups to see advice.  What I'm thinking is of putting them in the front yard for awhile in a tractor coop.  Let them rip up my lawn and prep it for gardening and save me the work! Then I can have Ziggy interact with them completely supervised by me. 

In the backyard I'd put their current coop and put up a fence around it as more protection, and move them there when I'm feeling like Ziggy won't rip through things to eat them.  She in general isn't a rip through things kind of dog, but one never knows and I want her to prove herself. 

The ideal would be that eventually I could have them roam free in the backyard (at least when I'm home) and Ziggy would have free access to the yard without my constant supervision and would be more protector than predator.  I don't know if that can happen with chickens we receive as adults, but it's good to have goals.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

bwak bwak

As I swung in the hammock today, I said to Ziggy: you know what this backyard is missing? Chickens.

And then I learned that a friend got a job across the country, and the last time I saw her she asked: so if I get this job, how many chickens will you take?

I think that if Ziggy were to raise chickens from babies that she would understand her role to protect them.  With older chickens, there would be training.  And maybe tragedy, but life would go on.  Well not for the prey, but yeah. 

IF I could train her right, Ziggy would LOVE having chickens.  A JOB!  She could protect them from all evil.  She could watch them and be entertained. 

Anyway, I'm not sure of this of course.  But it could be a lot of fun.  And tasty eggs and good fertilizer! 

no worms

I just ordered a raised bed kit because I NEED TO GROW THINGS and the grass in my front yard is way too thick to deal with anyway other than solarizing and that process won't be over until August and then there's cover crops to plant, and yeah.  A raised bed it is.  I had sworn off all purchases until I paid off my credit card, but ... yeah. 

Speaking of beds, my dog is on mine.  She slept with me last night.  Well part of the night at least.  And I don't know how to break up with my dog, but I don't sleep well with her in the bed and she's going to have to move back out onto the couch.  She never sleeps with me unless something's wrong, so who knows what's up. 

We went to the vet today.  ZIGGY IS HEARTWORM FREE!!  Also intestinal worm free.

The vet tech whom she ADORES was not at work today but as I was kind of whining about that, the vet (not the usual vet) said: "It's ok, Ziggy.  I'm his sister."

What!?  How cool is that?! 

Ziggy didn't buy it.  She wanted her Matthew.  Ziggy is NOT a feminist.  We'll work on that. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

and then there are days like today

Low-stress at work.  I ignore what irritates me.

Meeting with advisor went well.  Again he wishes that all students are like me. He doesn't mean it because I'm a pain in the ass, but I am motivated to finish and stay on track.  First step: choose committee.  His friend who lives elsewhere, whom I took a distance course with, offered to him last week again that he would be happy to be on my committee.  Which is kind.  And a stats prof I had recently said he would serve, and he's kind.  I'm going to contact my old advisor to see if he'll come along for the ride even though he's retired.  I miss him.  He's old and infirm but he's still kicking.  He's brilliant and he has always brought the best out in me intellectually.

That could be my committee.

And then we figure what I should be studying for exams.  And I start to draft a proposal.  I really need to get on that because I have ideas but they could be bullshit and I don't know yet.

"Yes, you are absolutely on track," he said, when he finally let me left.  My advisor likes talking.  We always have fun conversations.

The vet said taking Ziggy off Prozac is as easy as just not giving it to her anymore.

I spoke with an agility trainer who has reactive dogs and agreed to do private lessons with us until we can transition to a group class.

Then Ziggy and I sat outside, I swung in the hammock as she laid nearby, surveying her domain.

Then the tenant came home after a weekend away and we caught up.  Under the sunny skies. And when I researched some things for her I saw some interesting outdoorsy opportunities I want to take advantage of. Some iris spying and other such things.

My pile of horse manure was steaming hot this morning.  Literally.  That's what composting looks like!

So much more good stuff to report but I've got some bad eye strain so trying to limit time here.  Bad headache, no work today.  

In an excited state last night I emailed advisor asking what he thinks about me changing my dissertation topic to food.  I think that would be a lot more fun and I'd meet fun people in my research.  Mostly urban farming and gathering.  There's old stuff and new stuff with this. 

Ziggy and I just stopped at a tree to pick fruit that has a folk name in New Orleans, which HNIC's son is obsessed with.  Truly obsessed.  And he'll move on but for right now it's really fascinating to watch his journey with this.  He's trying to make his living hustling with this fruit - making products from the fruit itself as well as using the local name for other commercial entertainment ventures.  Credit to him for giving me some good ideas, like the thousands of times his father did. 

And I've realized that so much of me wanting to move West is because I mss my closest friends and life is short.  BFF is years older than HNIC was when he died and The Driver, whose 1-year-death anniversary just passed.  I want to be close to my people.  We're not immortal. 

But, that will wait.  OR I will learn to live with the fear of loss. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

wild boar sausage

I just spent more than I wanted to on wild boar sausage, and most of it will go to the dog because it's with pork and I don't really eat pork, but I'll let it other foods season a bit. 

I like local food.  There was this wild boar sausage made in Louisiana and a venison sausage made in TX, but that had nitrates in it.  Plus, Catahoulas are bred for hunting wild boars, so this was really made for the Z'Dust.  And while it's not cheap, it's cheaper than dog treats better than Milk-Bone.  (I tried to take Ziggy for a walk on a long line to work on recall but as soon as she realized all I had were boring kibble and dry biscuit treats, I was dead to her.  I'm always in the market for high-reward treats that don't make me second guess myself.  I won't give her much cheese, no sugar, low salt, etc.  But yesterday I caught her counter surfing to lick the knife that had marionberry jam on it so I can't judge her tastes as anything but excellent.  She got pieces of chicken that I'd cooked with artichoke hearts and tomatoes and mozzarella and she was very delighted to do anything for that.)

Wild boars can be really destructive and hunting them humanely is good for the ecosystem balance.  Turning them into an edible sausage is way better than letting their carcasses rot in a landfill.  And maybe it's hype but when I look at the website of this company, I see local jobs and a mission - they give profits to reforestation projects, that sort of thing.  So, we'll see how it tastes. 

There are interesting food things here.  It's unfair of me to say that I don't like the food here - I just mean the really heavy stuff in restaurants.  There are plenty of things to appreciate.  Like red beans on Mondays.  And there is a local fresh food scene that I just need to devote my resources to.  It is more expensive, but if food is going to be my greatest expense then I may as well speak with my wallet.

My goal too is to wean myself off of Costco.  I just paid to renew my membership because I was standing there with the fantastic feta I can get there, and the organic ground beef, and the tuna I really like - oh and the lunch-sized portions of fried rice that make life possible.  But, I can move away from Costco and not renew again. And if I really want something there, I can go with friends who have a membership.  

The thing to always remember about New Orleans is that electricity is fragile.  In a storm, we can easily go without for ten days.  Everything in the freezer dies and that really sucks.  So, freezing - the way I grew up preserving food - isn't the best here.  No need to stock up. 

And, some things are great prices there - like the avocado oil I've gotten accustomed to using.  But I have five pounds of almonds in my cupboard and am completely at a loss of what to do with what seemed like a great purchase idea. And a $55/year membership cost distributed over the cost of those great deals - well, it's not something that most single people need, probably. 

The main reason I went to the store was to get tuna in oil for the dog.  To make high-reward treats for her.  And then I got these ice cream bars that I'd heard the guys speak of on the radio - the outside is locally-roasted frozen coffee (fair trade) and the inside is locally-made ice cream.  I am here to tell you: that's two great tastes that taste great together.  Yum.  A special treat for all the manure I hauled.  It was a truckload, and now it's in a big pile in my front yard.  I'll turn it every so often, keep it damp.  IT's a lot of horse urine on pine bedding and fresh alfalfa, and when I was grabbing it (I push it into a bucket and dump in the back of the truck), it was already all hot inside.  Nice composting magic there.

And were I not to make compost, it would go to the landfill.  I break onto police property to get to this stable and crawl into a dumpster.  It's not glamorous. 

If you're here for the glamor, keep moving on. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I just did some math. 

If I leave my job in, say, 2 years and 2 months, then I could pull out my contributions to the pension plan.  That would be "x."  (I would turn around and reinvest it, so let's assume 8% interest until I'm 60.  And because I don't recall how to calculate capitalized interest, let's just round it to 2x.) 

If I stay in my job for another 2 years and 3 months, then I will be eligible to receive a pension beginning when I'm 60 and going until I die (and eligibility for health insurance then, which is a concern in this regime - I would have to pay, but cheaper than market rates).  If I live until 80, that would be "y."  y= 9x

The value of staying in my job for another two years and three months is y-2x.  And that would be equivalent to approximately three years of salary after taxes.  Well, maybe two and a half - a lot of my deductions aren't tax but instead are investments and such. 

But still.

The bottom line is that if I were to stay here until I finish my PhD, then the financial benefit to me is really significant - like not having to work an extra 2.5 years into retirement. 

I may not live to 80.  I may.  I may live to 100, and then it's so incredibly worth it. 

I may die before 60 and then my survivors would get the lump sum payout.

Maybe I did the math wrong here.  I'm tired.  But it looks right.  It looks like such a no-brainer that I need to suck it up and ride on for at least until July 2019.  Which is when I plan to have a massive roadtrip, perhaps with new vehicle, definitely with hound.  (If the Kia Niro is with AWD then.) 

OF course, when have I ever let money be my primary motivation?