Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The elephant, er pig, in the room.....

Ok I had to do a crash study of flu viruses, given what we are hearing on the media since the weekend. I had actually been following this since the information broke last Thursday, on a really solid website:

I had bookmarked that a while back due to odd little virus outbreak right here in Alaska, and am happy to tell you all, it has solid information throughout. There is a section for Swine Flu by itself, plus sections on the CDC, Avian Flu, and other flu's around. In addition there is a marvelous resource section which covers everything from basic hygiene to how to deal with a flu stricken person at home. It also has recommendations for basic home preps should there be a severe outbreak-which is what is happening.

Then this morning I ran across this video-which was posted to flutrackers:

Watch it, then watch it again. The speaker is Dr. Henry Niman Phd, and contributing member to flutrackers (which is funded by Doctors Without Borders). As soon as I posted it to several private boards, adding that I expected the WHO to elevate the Alert level to six within a few days, it came up as bumped to alert level 5 on Drudge just a few minutes ago.

Here are some salient facts:

It is going to get much worse, very fast. The virus has changed to sustained human-to-human transmission.

This is essentially the same virus as the 1918 Spanish Flu which killed millions-most of them were healthy adults between 20 and 45.

The very young and the aged have more moderate immune responses and this actually helps them-too robust an immune response and you can die from that response-instead of the disease itself.

You cannot get Swine Flu from eating pork (or any other meats, actually) but you can get it in numerous ways.

The virus can stay viable on some surfaces for 48 hours.

Viruses don't like humidity, so they expect to see cases taper off as the Northern Hemisphere moves on into summer....with a rapid increase in the Southern Hemisphere. They also expect to see a huge surge in cases this fall, if the virus follows the same pattern as the 1918 pandemic.

The big fear is whether or not this virus mutates and begins to pick up elements of other flus. The most likely one does not respond well to the common drugs, such as Tamiflu. Currently, the H1N1 (swine flu) is suseptible to Tamiflu and Relenza. If they combine, then the only effective drug may be Relenza.

It could take six months to produce an effective vaccine for this, and that effectiveness may be mitigated by mutations yet to come.

I am sure I could type a whole bunch more about this, and will over the months to come. I expect to have our schools closed within the month, since we have so much international travel here in Alaska.

Catching up

It's been a busy week, and then some!

Breakup has about run it's course at home. We still have large piles of melting snow from plowing, but the main low spots are basically puddle free, and the arena is dry. No snow remains on the lawn or under the trees, thanks to very nice temperatures and sunshine the past two days, yay!! Today we may get near 60 with sun-and we haven't had any days like that since last summer-I'm loving it myself :)

I've taken the week off, and have been very busy. Still growing veggies of course, I have some flats I need to start shuffling today or tomorrow so I have room to plant more lettuces. A bunch of my squashes just bolted up, I presume to being too warm at night. They look rather weird but I know they will produce just fine. And I got a couple flats up to a neighbors' greenhouse since they have a heat source-the pansies (oh so difficult to grow from seeds) and dill are extremely happy now.

Yesterday we mucked out the greenhouse area, and got nearly all the pots, flats, and miscellaneous garden stuff off the ground and in one spot. I am abashed to say that I have a lot of "stuff", lol We put all the contents from last years' greenhouse pots on the bank below the horse runs, so we can begin building a garden spot along there at some point in the future. Next up is the garden proper, which needs some mucking too. We are thinking of knocking down the large pile of dirt, which did not grow much except a bumper crop of weeds last year. Right now I am wishing I had about five wheel barrow loads of rabbit manure, or a couple more yards of compost-we'll see what we can scrounge up before rototilling. I have no idea when we may be able to rototill, maybe towards the end of next week?

The horses are all good, Reba is still an air fern and Sully is content to hang out and watch over our efforts. I have a van load of hay in that I am working on getting offloaded too, its just lovely grass. The silly chickens are running all over the place, but are staying on the property. At night they do roost in the barn which is great, and the hens are using the laying boxes instead of the hay bales-so that was a worthwhile purchase. Two eggs a day, regular as clockwork, with the occasional third egg being presented. This is actually more than we can eat in a week, but it's wonderful to have fresh eggs for cooking just the same.

Two "big" events here-the first is that we now have another dog. I have been looking off and on for over a year, and nothing has really struck me until recently. Last month I ended up emailing a gal quite a lot and actually went to meet the dog and get a feel for him. She decided against me since I don't have a chain link fenced yard (and neither does she?) so I pretty much wrote off the dog until I got another email from her last week. And yep, I have another Great Dane, a black. He's a good natured wussie, who needs some help with manners but so far, so good. Had him into the vet yesterday for all over check up, and even though he needs a few pounds, got a clean bill of health. My cats, of course, are mortally offended, haha But they are getting over it as I teach the dog "thou shalt not chase kitties, period"

The second big news is I think we are going to bite the bullet and get a real greenhouse. There is a local guy who has been building sheds, etc for about 18 years now, and a good friend of mine had a greenhouse built a month or two ago. I called him up, showed him my spot and we talked about dimension and placement, flooring, shelves, you name it. I have settled on a 16x28, built on a deck so that I will have flooring. Today I am going to see a couple of his structures in person and then we will decide for sure. It's a huge amount of money, egads, but I know I need something besides the cold frame.

And we may just set the cold frame up over the garden itself, to boost production this summer ;)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Breakup continues......

So far, it's been a relatively great breakup season. For those visiting from other parts of the world, "breakup", loosely defined in Alaska, is that period between winter and early summer. As the days lengthen rapidly and we begin seeing day time temperatures above freezing, we Alaskans know spring is surely on the way.

Of course, we have plenty of other signs-such as chickadees, pussywillow blossoms, birch limbs changing color as sap rises, and so forth. When it warms up rapidly, we have major flooding in many places-especially along rivers where ice jams will form. Breakup is the time for the Nenana Ice Classic-Alaska's well known raffle-you bet on the day and time a tripod erected on the Nenana River records when the ice "goes out"-some years, the prize is above $300,000. Proceeds are split 50/50 with the non profit running the raffle, as I recall.

Breakup is the time of repeated car washing, gallons of wiper fluid, tire change over from studs to summer treads, and squinting through smudgy windsheilds at bright early morning sun. It's the time when it's light out when you go to bed, and get up-and takes some getting used to.

A lot of extra laundry gets done during this period if you have children. They will be outside, playing in the mud and meltwater and those lucky enough to have boot dryers will be using them nonstop. Anyone can play amateur hydrologist in their own driveway, if they like. All it takes is a shovel and remembering where the run off needs to go. I do this myself every evening, to help drain low spots and puddles. I consider myself very fortunate that I don't have drainage issues right at my house or barn-some people are not so fortunate, like my new neighbor to whom we loaned a pump and hose, when we saw his garage flooding.

I still have huge piles of rotting snow along the driveway, and quite a bit remains on the lawn areas, especially in shady spots. Considering that a couple weeks ago, the snow depth was well above the seat on the picnic table, I am not complaining now that we are down to just a few inches. The driveway has not softened up to "sponge" stage yet, but I expect that any day. The ground becomes so saturated just below the surface that it will literally give beneath vehicles. And the first time we have a couple nights in a row above freezing, we'll have a mess.

My poor cats are going stir crazy also, and over the weekend they both ventured outside to explore. And both saw small birds making use of one puddle near the lawn and attempted to stalk them. Silly cats-stark white for one, and black for the other, they weren't exactly well camoflaged, lol The paddocks remain a mess, but the arena area is drying out fairly quickly. This week, now that it has dried up some, we need to strip the chicken stall.

The silly chickens are very happy to be loose, and they still come running when I call. On Saturday I got three eggs-I was astounded. One of those was a very tiny brown egg and I have no idea which hen laid it, lol, then yesterday I got a white and a blue. The white ones should be from the Yokohama (I think) so the colored ones come from the Americaunas. I think. Obviously I am no chicken expert, but I am sure enjoying the fresh eggs and watching the birds.

The snow has finally melted off the garden area, so this means I am about three weeks out from planting-depending on night time temperatures. That's good, I am up to my eyeballs in flats, over a hundred planted so far!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

America's Tea Party Day

I am hearing some amazing reports on the radio about attendance at tea parties around the nation. The thought makes me smile. I have many online acquaintances across the US, and most are stuck at work, just like I am-but they are very supportive.

Locally, I heard there were at least 500 people at the gathering in downtown Anchorage. Out here in the Valley, there was no place to park! I drove by the spot on the lake, and there were easily 100 people there. I might have stopped for it, but with no parking....well, I honked my horn in support instead :)

I could get into a long diatribe about the Omnibus Spending Bill and what it means for our future, but I will leave that to the more eloquent. I just know that I feel genuinely sorry for my young son, whose tax burden will dog him his entire working life.

Anyhow, if you can't attend a tea party, please honk in support as you drive by!

Edited to add-the turn out in Wasilla is at least 500 (no wonder I could not park!) and The Alaska Standard has someone there with live blog posts:

Wow!! I wonder what Super Dave will have to say about that :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Is it April Fools Day?

I have to tell you I wondered, because if not, the joke's on has snowed most of the day here. Nothing has accumulated but I am sure the roads are going to be nasty tomorrow morning.

For the day, I planted and planted. Adding to the tally at least another 17 flats. Three of those are pumpkins and cucumbers for friends and family, and I have some sweet corn I should go ahead and plant also, now that I think about it-enough for a few 5 gallon buckets in the greenhouse. I am now officially done with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, and pumpkins.

Next up is summer squashes, zucchini and yellow. Not sure how many flats of that I will end up with, but quite a few and the plan is to start those at work, leaving the home rack full of the reserve flats I did today. I am so thankful I did not start these earlier-the varieties I chose are vigorous short season types, and I would have been repotting like crazy by now if I had started three weeks ago.

Tomorrow morning I will load up the car with cucumbers and the corn which is up. The pumpkins seem to be a little slower but that's okay, these are both under 100 days and I think the timing is just about right for them. I found some seeds I had saved back from my one pumpkin last year, and after a quick soak, they got planted as well. I have no idea if they will come up-that's an experiment but I sure wouldn't mind more Sugar Pie plants!

So until I get things shuffled off, I have no space to pot up the peppers. They will have to suffer on through crowded quarters for another day or so, I know they will really take off as soon as they have more space.

As I watched the snow sift down outside the windows, I wondered about the wisdom of planting seeds and sprouts. I think it's called faith. Faith that there will be a spring, that green will come, that life will burst forth (by Mothers' Day, thankyouverymuch) and soon we will be slapping mosquitoes and swatting bees, and beginning the summer to do list......

I can't wait :)

Green eggs and ham

Yesterday, I finally got a pale green egg from one of the hens. They basically had stopped laying for a couple months for whatever reason, so I am happy they have begun again. Prior to this, I have been getting reliably one egg a day. White. Which has to be from the Yokohama hen, which is a puzzler-they are supposed to be pretty small birds and yet I am definitely getting large size eggs. I can't really judge how big the birds are, since I don't have any banties to compare them against, but she is smaller bodied than the "easter egger" hens. Today I need to clean out the boxes and put in some clean shavings, and rake out some of the bedding in the stall.

The birds themselves have settled their roosting spots. The two Yokohama's are happy enough to use the lower perch inside the chicken stall. The other three are all the way up top, in the barn rafter. As long as they stay in that spot, I can live with this, as any droppings are deposited on the aisle mats. But boy I sure have break up going on, so I was happy to snag the last bag of PDZ from the feed store yesterday. Amazing what sprinkling a little odor control does!

The weather pattern is just perfect (so far) for an easy break up. Freezing at night, into the low 40s during the day. The only thing better would be some light steady winds, to dry things out. I still have some built up ice along the barn eave, but it is retreating rapidly. No ice or slush remains on the arena but of course I have snow covering the wooded areas and rotting snow banks along the drive. I imagine it will be a few more days yet before I will need to drag out the transfer pump and move melt water across the driveway.

On the planting front, I have a bunch of sprouts to deal with today. Sprouts cannot wait, and must be planted before they expend their energy creating a root that starves. These vegetables will be held here for a while as the greenhouse is getting pretty full over there. Of course, I am weeks away from being able to use my own greenhouse-there is plenty of snow remaining on the unplowed areas.

On the horse front, I happened to notice a sale ad on the local CL, and sure enough, it was Breezy, the mare I leased about 7 years ago. She is back up for sale and it is so tempting! But I cannot purchase another horse, no matter what. The seller wants a pretty penny for her of course, and in other circumstances-I would figure out a way. So if anyone is looking for a very well seasoned show and trail horse, I can recommend her. A great all around horse, on the small side and would be perfect for kids.......14.3 hands, Reg, Appaloosa, blue roan and has excellent conformation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Green is good, right?

Not referring to some of the whacked out lefty environmental notions here, but instead, plants!

So, I have already done a total of 59 flats. That includes some that have already been delivered to the greenhouse, thank heavens. My starting racks are full and I won't have room for starting anything else until those teeny tiny babies get a couple days older....and then, off they go. Those 59 flats do not include the ten tomato plants or about three flats worth of pansies I have going at home either, haha

I think I need to do one more big plant of the main veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages-I have done enough brussel sprouts I think) in about a week or so. And that is about the time I need to start all the squashes and the second planting of cucumbers and pumpkins. These squashes take up a lot of room, and I am planning on starting the zucchini and summer squash here at the work rack, and the pumpkins and cucumbers at home where I have more square footage under lights. My plan is to rotate out the starts to make space for each planting, which is why timing is pretty important. After the squashes comes the lettuces. A lot of lettuce, actually, because I have six or seven varieties-mostly leaf lettuce since head lettuce is a bit marginal here due to our sunlight.

I figure I am about one third of the way through this season-yikes, that is a lot of itty bitty sprouts to plant! And the ironic thing is: My own hanging baskets are still buried in a bunch of snow at home, lol!

This is the mantra of the week: Green is good, green is good, green is good!

Monday, April 6, 2009

We have mud!

What a silly thing to be excited about, but mud mud mud means breakup is at hand, woohoo! Break out the champagne, we are about done with winter!!

We are now into the spring time freeze/thaw cycle and I couldn't be happier :) Yes it means slushy roads to wallow through, and filthy vehicles, and sticky gumbo on my feet any place that isn't paved, but I am happy just the same. The majority of the arena is already plain mud, and we won't be driving around it for a while. There is still quite a bit of packed snow and ice around the barn proper, but it will start going fast once we reach the magical 40 degree mark. Yay!!

I delivered some flats to the greenhouse over the weekend, that brings the total there to 22. Started another 16 flats yesterday, and I have about 20 or so to go this week too-the seeds are carefully counted out and germinating as I type. The nice thing is, as soon as they are up, they can go to the greenhouse which has the optimum lighting and temperatures. At any rate, the big push is on, beginning this week......and for the next five weeks or so. I am amazed at how many flats I can stuff into my car though-14. Imagine that, 14 flats!! Six behind the back seat, six behind the front seats and another two up front. And here I was wishing for a mini van, lol!

The true harbringer of spring has yet to make an appearance at home yet-mosquitoes! I expect them by the coming weekend......let the slapping begin!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Catching up

Seems like all I am doing is catching up these days, lol! But I do know I am making some progress, I just need to remind myself of that fact from time to time......

First, I am still watching Mt. Redoubt. As of this time, volcanic activity is increasing so who knows, she's been quiet the last couple of days. The AVO also added another webcam (yay!) so all of us natural science geeks can get a better fix ;) Naturally, I just washed my car!

Second, things are still growing like crazy. My first batch of veggies has bolted something terrible. This is what happens when the blasted light timer does *not* shut off when it's supposed to, argh! I am moving the lights up today in the hopes I can save these first 15 flats. Everything at home is doing well, though-and tomorrow I need to start germinating my second set of veggies.

Third, old Sully is really doing very well. I finally managed to get the joint supplement that I wanted and he's been on it about a week or so. He is already improving, very noticeably. It takes about a month for full effect so I am very encouraged :) He is also proving himself to be the gentleman I know him to be, as mares start cycling into season there at the barn. He is well mannered and quiet-just like stallions should be, even if he has to go right by a mare in full, squatting heat....Good boy, Sully!

Fourth, we are starting to do the spring chores outside. We got the snow plowed off the arena area, and the panels back up after applying zinc to the bottoms. Of course we managed to get the gate backwards (second year in a row, lol!) but it does work. The horse trailer is moved to my work so we'll have access to it during break up.

Fifth, a Bobcat arrives tomorrow, so that we can push back the snowbanks. When we do this, we have much less run off to deal with, and we dry out much faster. If we have the time left on the machine, I think I will see if we can't clear off any deep snow at the barn too.

Sixth, I am still getting about an egg a day out of my three hens. I am amazed because I am pretty sure they are molting-considering the amount of loose feathers there. As soon as we have some green showing, I am going to let them loose for the summer. I am hoping they will come back to roost in the spot they have been using since October, and not up in the barn rafters, lol

Seventh, I have started in earnest to find another dog. This is a big issue for my family, and it does need to be just the right one. I had thought I found one, but the gal selling him-decided against us for a rather flimsy reason. That's okay, some things are not meant to be and I surely hope the wonderful dog finds just the right person. The right dog will come along at the right time, and in the meantime, we get to dog sit for my hub's aunt occasionally-who has an elderly Golden who is a hoot. We adore Mags, she is a great dog :)

That's about it from up to check the AVO, just in case!