Category Archives: Life

The Totality: Impressionistic

The landscape fell into shadow, as if night came in from all directions at once. The air grew chill.

The sun still blazed high — and then it was snuffed, a bottomless emptiness where it should have been, ringed with a feathered halo of white fire streaming away into a deep twilight sky.

Around the horizon was a pale band, as if the sun was rising from all directions at once.

This, then, was the end of the world.

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For a more complete and less evocative description of the eclipse, please go here.

Eclipse 2017

I was fortunate enough to see the eclipse totality yesterday. If you just want a descriptive sense of what the totality was like, go here.

My parents and I watched it from John Day National Monument in eastern Oregon. The park service had mown a field to accommodate all the visitors.

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Fortunately for us, people didn’t hear about the parking area, or presumed it was full — there were a couple hundred cars in a field that could have held twenty times as many.

The Eclipse

Without the eclipse glasses, we wouldn’t have been able to tell anything was going on until the sun was 3/4 covered. At that point it got a little dim, as if there were a high haze.

I honestly don’t think that I would have remarked it until the sun was about 90% covered. At that point the whole landscape started to dim into twilight, and there was a little nip to the air.

At 98% it was notably twilight, but you still wouldn’t have been able to directly see what was going on with the sun — without the eclipse glasses.

Though the glasses we watched a fine sickle reduce to a line, then a dot.

Then….

Gone.

The Totality

This is the sight the has stopped wars and ended reigns.

It is truly amazing.

The whole sky was a deep twilight, but not black.

There was the blackest of black circles where the sun should have been, with a streaming pale halo wisping off in all directions.

All around it was a deep twilight, but there was a band of pale light around the horizon — as if dawn would be coming in another half hour or so.

The otherworldly look lasted about two minutes for us — then the light started beading at the edge.

And the light returned.

The Totality: Impressionistic

 

Go here for a more evocative description.

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Comment on Eclipse Photos

There are much better photos of the eclipse itself — but I wanted to note that even the best of the eclipse photos don’t truly capture what I saw.

In even the best eclipse photos, the surrounding sky is too dark (often completely black), and the light is too bright and crisp-looking.

I think the issue is that the corona is too bright relative to the rest of the light.

I hope you get to see a totality in person some day, because as with so many things in life, the photos don’t do it justice.

 

Processing

It has been a week since Trump won the projected electoral vote.

It has been a tough week, although as a white woman living in a quiet corner of a liberal state, it has been tough at some remove.

A week ago, I watched with creeping dread as the early returns looked worse and worse for Hillary. I went to bed before the worst was known — hoping that somehow the world would have reset to the “right” path by morning.

When I woke up, the first thing I did was check the results.

I had a few seconds of profound relief when I saw the vote percentages.

Then I saw the electoral college tallies.

The mixture of disbelief and creeping dread throughout was similar to when Dubya beat Gore, except a few orders of magnitude worse. It was having a nightmare come to life in slow motion — and of course this is just the beginning.

In the last week there has been a swell of hate crimes. Trump has put together a ghastly transition team.

I have heard such terror from so many of my at-risk friends (minorities, people with health problems, people outside of the white “mainstream”). And at the same time, there is a chorus of “this won’t be so bad, we can get through this, we’ll just roll with the punches.”

It is terrifying to think that these conciliating attitudes may exacerbate the harm that Trump could cause.

A snippet from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been going on. I just hope that it isn’t as prescient as it feels at this moment in time.

There is still the cruel hope that faithless electors can prevent Trump from taking the Whitehouse. I signed the petition, but I know that it is an incredibly long shot. One or two might defect. Maybe ten could defect. But unless Trump does something absolutely insane in the next month (something Republicans see as insane, that is), I don’t see how 38 would possibly defect.

I feel very helpless, but I also know that I can’t just sit here and feel helpless.

I am privileged. I am not at risk in the way that many of my friends are. I need to step up for those at risk.

I have set  up recurring donations. I have subscribed to the New York Times and The Seattle Times, in hopes of showing my support for journalistic integrity.

I will try to go troll hunting for my friends.

If I see something in real life, I will do my best to quash my conflict-avoidant conditioning and intervene. As lily white as Port Angeles is, that seems a bit unlikely, but I will put myself in the mindset to be ready.

I desperately hope that all of this will pass without doing too much damage, but I cannot assume that. I desperately hope that history will not be looking with profound image at this period to see how America let a fascist dictator take power.

Much as I would love to assume that everything will be ok, I cannot assume that. I will do what I can to help make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it is a number of small things.

The small things add up.

Cringer

The other exciting development is the addition of a kitten to the family.

We first met Cringer at the end of July.

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At that time he was being fostered by a tech at the Port Townsend animal shelter. He was due to be neutered at the start of August — just in time for Rob’s birthday.

Because of some complications, he actually came home with us three weeks later than expected. It was hard waiting, but in retrospect a 12 week old kitten was much easier than a 9 week old kitten.

Even so, he spent his first day with us in the corner of the closet, facing the wall. That was pretty sad, but he settled in quickly. By the next day he was purring and playing.

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Within a few days we let him out of his room and he started terrorizing Dulcie. She had never been around kittens, and so she ran away every time he came into the room. It didn’t help that he recognized her as a cat, and wanted to dash over and make friends.

After a few days she realized he wasn’t actually dangerous, but he persisted in leaping on her at every opportunity for the first few weeks.

He is starting to mellow slightly — he only pounces on her half the time now — and they occasionally look downright cuddly together.

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He’s shaping up to be a great lap cat when he’s not acting like a kitten.

Cougars, Part 4 – 3 goats – Done!

The fence is done, and has been for a while.

From getting the corners done to getting the fence completed took about a month. We had to cross-lash the H braces, string the wire, and install a gate.

Once we figured out the process, it took about 15 minutes for each electric wire, and a bit less for each ground wire. I’d rather not compute how much time that required, considering that there were four sides, seven wires per side.

It looks good, and although it isn’t cougar proof, it is a lot better than what we had.

It’s rather comical to look at the old and new next to each other.

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Having gotten the fence squared away, we were able to get a new girl. Her name is Teela, and she is another Nigerian Dwarf — probably with a bit of Pygmy in there.

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Nob spent a couple weeks bossing her around — he’s bigger — but she has some spunk, and she has horns. Now she ranks him, and 8-Bit ignores her (except when there’s food involved), so she has it pretty good.

She’s a sweet goat, and fits in very well.

Hopefully that will be the end of our cougar woes.

It is a risk still — the fence is cougar resistant, not cougar proof — but the only realistic alternative would be to rehome our goats. That wouldn’t have been hard with Nob, but 8-Bit would have been a job and a half.

Now we just have to wait and hope. It was a year and a half before we lost Bell, so it will be a while before we can be confident in our lovely new fence.

Cougars, Part 3 – 2 goats – Fencing!

It is now late July, and our remaining 2 goats are intact.

Unfortunately our remaining goats are the 2 boys – one big (a La Mancha) and one little (a Nigerian Dwarf).

From a compatibility standpoint, they’re the worst pair of survivors to have . . . But they seem to have adjusted reasonably well.

The only problem is that the big boy can’t play very well with the little boy, so then he’s overly frisky with us.

Once the fencing is done, we’ll see about getting a girl to keep the boys in line.

The fencing . . . ugh.

Good fencing isn’t easy.

What the game warden recommended was high tensile electric fence.

The power of the fence doesn’t need to be any higher than what we had already, but the goal is for it to be tight and strong — so the cougar can’t just zip through.

High tensile electric fence is made with 12.5 gauge wire (annoyingly heavy-duty) cranked to 250 lbs of force.

The real problem is to support that kind of fence, you need really strong corner posts.

We have spent the last month and a half going through the steps to get H braces in place.

This setup involves bracing the corner post with a partner post a few feet away, with a pole holding them apart towards the top, and a cross wire pulling them together into a stable box.

It is, frankly, a huge pain.

The biggest issue was getting the holes done. Our soil is rocky, and even with an auger it took several hours to do the preliminary holes — and even longer to tidy them up and wrangle a few extra inches to get the full three foot depth.

Then we had to put 8 foot posts in the holes, level them, and fill in with concrete.

Thirteen of them.

It was slow going, but we finally got the top braces in a couple days ago.

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The next step will be the wire cross-lashing that will stabilize the box.

Of course, at that point we still won’t have a fence. We’ll have corners.

Cougars, Part 2 – 3 Goats – May

I am sorry to say that we did nothing.

After all, we had lived in our house for a year and a half without any problems. And the cougar didn’t get a square meal out of Bell, so maybe it would just roam on its way.

A couple weeks later, I went out to give the goats a treat, and Minnie was gone.

Poof.

One big goat – 130+ pounds – missing.

Not without a trace, though. All of the electric fence wires at one end of the pasture were broken, and there was a broad drag trail.

I followed the trail a little ways, but balked when it went into the woods. After all, Minnie was bigger than I was, and the cougar had taken her out just fine!

When Rob got home from work, he managed to find Minnie’s remains . . . Which was amazing, because the cougar had carefully buried her. It was sad, but also really impressive. I don’t think that a human could have done much better hiding a goat with duff and moss.

Can you spot the goat?

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We didn’t notice it at the time, but a couple days later we realized that 8-Bit — the big boy — had a bite on his rear leg. The cougar must have gone for him first, failed, and then gone for Minnie.

The less said about giving antibiotics to goats, the better.

The game warden came out the next day. The first step was to put up a game cam and try to see what was what.

I had assumed it must be a big cat. It dragged Minnie a hundred yards, including through the brush.

The game warden told us about a cat that took out a 400 lb. calf. The cat was able to drag the calf to the fence, but then couldn’t get it over or under.

So . . . cats are freakishly strong.

The game cam came up empty the next morning, but the morning after we had some fine pictures of the cougar.

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Unfortunately, halibut season had just started, so it was a couple more days before a warden made it out. It was too late for a cage trap, he said — the carcass was starting to rot. He told us that we should keep checking the camera, and let him know when the cougar resurfaced.

In the meantime, see to our fences.

We had taken advantage of the “safe” time after the cougar took Minnie to set up a gate in the shed, so we could lock our two remaining boys in at night. That was fine in the short term, but in the long-term the only answer was a really good fence.

Really good fences are a big pain.

Cougars, Part 1 – 4 goats – April

I tend to go to bed early, so Rob had to wake me out of a sound sleep.

“Bell is hurt. Can you come help?”

Bell is the smallest of our 4 goats. She is super sweet, and all the other goats bully her.

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I pulled on some clothes and went out with him, feeling that this was probably a dream. What could have hurt Bell?

Rob had moved her to the shed, and she was lying on her side on the ground, her four little legs sticking straight out.

Stiff.

Screaming.

She had blood on her neck, but we couldn’t find the wound in her thick hair. It wasn’t gushing, but there was a liberal amount of blood on the ground, and all over Rob’s sweatshirt.

I went to check the other three goats – her brother and two big goats. Of course, the other goats took that as an invitation to come back in the shed. Not good with a wounded goat.

Nothing to do but move her.

We have a little back area in the shed for hay. I opened the inner gate, and Rob picked Bell up. More screaming.

He lay her in the small space by the hay, and stayed to comfort her while I went to phone the vet.

Note: Always have the vet in your contact list, easily found.

I didn’t have that foresight, so even though it was close on 11 I called a friend who also has goats to get the livestock vet’s number.

Thank goodness for emergency livestock vets! He said he’d be there in 45 minutes.

Back out to the shed, where Rob sat next to Bell. She was quieter, but still looked awful: eyes open wide and rolled back, blood on her neck, stiff as a board.

It was a long 45 minutes.

In the meantime, Rob filled me in.

He had gone out to say goodnight to the goats, and he had heard them moving around in an odd way. He turned his headlamp on, and saw an animal disappearing through the orchard – and there was Bell, in extremis.

I went out and, sure enough, the electrical fence was busted in two places. Entry and exit. There was a liberal smear of blood near the exit point.

 

At last the vet pulled up in his van/vet’s office.

He looked Bell over, gave her a shot for the pain, and told us that we could most likely expect her to bounce back the next day – eating, etc. – or not. And if not, there would be some hard decisions to be made. In the meantime we should keep her warm.

We tucked her between a hay bail and the wall, with a ratty old sleeping bag that we had been meaning to trash wrapped around her. Rob settled in for a long night, while I went in to get a little sleep before spelling him at 4:30 the next morning.

He had to work the next day, but I didn’t have anything pressing for work – so I would take her for the day Friday.

 

It was a long night for Rob. He got a few winks dozing on the hay bales next to Bell, but the one time he went inside for more than a couple minutes she dragged herself out of the nook and was lying on her side in the middle area – crying – when he got back.

Ugh.

So I collected my kit – reading light, book to edit, snacks – and settled in for goat duty while Rob headed off for work on half an hour of sleep.

After some experimentation, I established that Bell and I were both happy if I sat next to her, against the hay bales. It gave her a sense of herd, and it gave me the sense that I was doing something useful. And a backrest.

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When I had my breakfast – hot cereal – I offered her the last bit, and she ate it with every evidence of enjoyment. That was encouraging, so I went in and made some rolled oats with lots of hot water, so that she would get some fluid as well.

She took that as well.

All very encouraging. Eating had been one of the vet’s criteria for bouncing back.

I caught up on social media and did some editing. Every hour I popped inside for a few minutes to make sure nothing was blowing up at work.

All seemed to be going well . . . but by noon she still hadn’t stood up.

Worse, she had tried, and every time she did she would scream and subside shaking, and pant for the next ten minutes or so.

And it was Friday.

So around noon I gave the vet a call. He said he would come by to take X-Rays around 3. That way we would have a better sense of things going into the weekend.

Fortunately Rob was on the early shift, and was there for the vet’s visit. The vet had a nifty portable rig. He would position a plate under Bell, and then pass a hand-held machine over it to take the X-Ray.

No digital processing, though – we’d have to wait for the results.

In the meantime, he wasn’t sure whether she would be ok or not. It was the dreaded “not bouncing back, but not in dire straits” gray area that he had warned us about. She might just be very sore. Or it might be a more serious issue.

His advice was to keep her quiet, but he didn’t think we needed to keep sitting out with her, as long as she was pinned in. She wasn’t about to keel over.

He gave us some more shots to give her over the weekend, and left us feeling generally optimistic.

 

Two hours later, the vet called back.

The X-Rays were done. Her neck was broken. He would be out in 45 minutes to do the necessary.

Bad news, clearly. I was a little surprised it was so cut and dry. After all, Bell was eating, and apparently there’s some gray area with a broken neck. Sometimes they can heal, although it’s a pain for all concerned.

We went out to spend the last stretch of time with Bell. We fed her treats, and sat with her.

And I cried.

When the vet arrived he showed us the X-Rays, and his certainty made sense. One of the large bone spurs from her vertebrae was snapped off, and out of place by a couple inches. The vertebrae was at an odd angle.

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This wasn’t just a broken neck. It was a badly broken neck.

Bell should have been dead eighteen hours ago.

But she had somehow made it, and her spinal cord hadn’t been severed – so she could eat – but it was pinched enough that she couldn’t stand.

This wasn’t an injury that a goat could come back from.

So we said our goodbyes, and the vet did the necessary – first something to knock her out, and then a shot to the heart to stop it cold.

No more suffering for Bell.

 

We buried Bell in a nice spot by the woods. Our smallest, sweetest goat was no more.

We could take some comfort in the fact that we made her last eighteen hours as comfortable as possible.

 

But we couldn’t just mourn.

We had a cougar.

Bell’s broken neck confirmed Rob’s initial guess. Cougars latch onto their prey’s neck, both in the initial attack and to drag their prey away.

So, we had a cougar.

What to do?

 

Bell as a baby

lap bell

 

Ups and Downs of Country Life

We live a couple miles outside of Port Angeles, and to most people our neighborhood would look like country.

In the last couple months our life has really been feeling like life on the farm.

In a lot of ways that’s good: gardening, fun critters, neat projects.

In some it’s bad: predators, inclement weather, failures of various sorts.

 

In the next few posts I’m going to record some of the ups and downs of our life in the (almost but not quite) country.

Emergency Preparedness

My family moved to Washington State when I was 12.

Earthquake country.

Since then, I have lived in WA and CA. I even felt a couple minor quakes while living in the Bay Area.

I should have put together an emergency kit years — decades — ago, but I just never got around to it.

A few weeks ago, author Elizabeth Bear tweeted a link to a New Yorker article on the Big One.

It finally scared me into action.

If the Cascadia fault does bust all the way up to Washington, Port Angeles is going to be in deep trouble. If we make it through the initial quake, there will be a tsunami, and then if we survive that, the whole area will be such a mess that it might be a good long time before we get help.

So, properly motivated, I finally went through and put together an emergency kit. With Amazon’s help, I was able to get it done in an hour or so by starting with emergency radios and first aid kits, then looking at the “customers also bought” items.

I think this is a nice, solid basic emergency kit, suitable for anyone who is living in an area at risk of a large-scale disaster.

The whole thing cost a bit more than $100 . . . not cheap, but if I ever need it, it will be well worth it. Of course, I hope that I never actually need it!

If you’re looking forward to put together a kit of your own, feel free to use this as a jumping off point!

My focus below is on a non-food emergency kit – but my friend Blair McGregor recently did a nice post on food preparedness.

Did I miss anything critical?

Emergency Kit Contents:

The most basic requirements have an asterisk; many of the others are nice to have, but not critical.

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Communications

  • *Emergency Radio with USB charger
  •        Cell phone charging cable
  • Sharpie/pencil
  • Paper (for making notes)
  • Telephone list (emergency numbers in case you gain phone access, but your cell phone got broken)

Health

Light

  • *Head lamp (or flashlight)
  •        Extra batteries

Shelter

Tools

General

*Food

Not pictured. Ideally you would have enough for at least 3 days.

Human power pellets or a bunch of canned food . . . Whatever you can actually keep on hand and swap out as necessary.

If you have pets, include some food for them — or select canned food that either of you could eat.

If you want to be properly prepared with more than a few cans of food, here’s  a nice post on food preparedness.

*Water

This is partially covered under health (water treatment), but in an ideal world you would have actual containers with at least 3 days of water.

Clothes

In an ideal world, you would have some layers, clothes, socks, etc. Take some things that you were planning to take to the thrift store, and stick it in your emergency kit instead. Ideally you would have such things in your car, anyway, so one cheater method is to stash a copy of your car key in your emergency kit, and just keep the clothes in the car. Of course, you better be sure that your car will be home if you are!

Aftermath

In an ideal world, you would have a packet of paperwork with copies of your identification, insurance, telephone numbers, etc.

Placement

You have your handy dandy kit. Now where are you going to keep it? I’m stashing mine in a shed, so that if the house falls down I can still get to it. Wherever you put it, imagine the structure in a heap of kindling. Could you still get to the kit in a pinch? If so, you’re good.

 

I broke my emergency kit into a compact kit of items that can just live in a plastic bin.

I’m keeping the food and water separate, since those are bulky, and need to be swapped out periodically.

Even if I get sloppy with the food and water, at least the gear will still be there!

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And if the big one does come . . . well, I’m going to owe Bear a lot of drinks for spurring me to get my act together.