My New Standing Desk

 Posted by on 17 April 2010 at 7:00 am  Health, Productivity, The Beasts
Apr 172010

Since mid-March, I’ve been seriously wanting to

I had to make the desk deep rather than wide to avoid the glare from the windows to the left of my standard desk. I like having the computer far back though. That allows me to lightly rest my whole forearm on the desk, something helpful for my still-lingering carpal tunnel problems. Plus, I can drive my computer from my traditional desk by just turning the monitor slightly, as well as use my traditional desk as an additional surface while standing.

When my feet grow particularly weary, I can use the barstool, appropriated from upstairs, to sit for a spell. I hope that I won’t need that often or for long. The small stool is for resting one leg at a time, something that I’ve seen recommended. I’m going to buy some standing pads from Costco too, as those will add some more padding to our rather thin carpet.

I’m sure that I’ll do some tweaking, but I’m pretty pleased with this set up. Best of all, I didn’t pay a cent for it!

As a bonus, don’t miss the sorrowful look of doggie Conrad. Yes, I did require him to lay on his fluffy dog bed for all of about three minutes while I took the picture. The horror!

More Beasts

 Posted by on 26 March 2010 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Personal, Photography, The Beasts
Mar 262010

Yesterday, my calendar told me that it was our cat Elliot’s “Adoptaday.” When I checked, I was very surprised to learn that we adopted him in 2004. Wow, we’ve had this cat for six years! That time has flown by, and happily so.

Elliot was born with a hole in his heart. He has no “lub-dub” sound from his chest, but only a “swish-swish-swish-swish” that you can hear with the naked ear and feel with your hand. (It’s a category six murmur.) When we adopted him, our vet warned us that he might only live a year or two before the onset of congestive heart failure. Yet here he is, six years later, perfectly healthy!


To celebrate, I shared some of my lunch with him. It was liverwurst. He was pleased.

Our other cat, Oliver, had his adoptaday on January 26th. He’s been with us since 2002, so he’s about nine years old now. (I’m going to have to get a new kitty soon! That’ll have to wait until I get Conrad his buddy.) Here’s a recent shot of Oliver:

While I’m posting pictures… we had a massive snowstorm that dumped about a foot of snow on Tuesday night. Here’s our house the next morning:

Happily, I was able to get some good shots of Conrad in the snow. My best dog pictures are always in high snow, but Conrad does have trouble standing still when there’s so much fun to be had from running around like a madman!

Oh, how I do love my beasts!

Conrad: One Year Later

 Posted by on 22 March 2010 at 9:00 pm  Animals, Personal, Photography, The Beasts
Mar 222010

One year ago today, we adopted our dog Conrad. He’s been a great dog: very smart, eager to please, very playful, and just a bit naughty. Apart from a few hours per week, he is my constant companion. I depend on his relentless cheerfulness and lust for fun to keep me energized.

On occasion though, he can be serious:

The major problem with Conrad has been his unquenchable desire to catch, kill, and eat our cats. Yes, he would have killed and eaten them, if he’d ever been free to do that. He has a very high prey drive — combined with the impulse control of a teenager.

I’ve been working with Conrad on that problem for the whole year, almost every day. He was making slow but steady progress — usually on the order of “he’s not frantically lunging at the cat the moment he spots it” and “he’s willing to look at me when the cat is in sight.” Finally, in the last two months, we’ve made major headway. I’m now able to have him loose in the house — under voice command, with the shock collar as backup — while the cats roam about, eat their raw food, and engage in their usual strange kitty behaviors. He’s still far too fixated on the cats, but he’s able to sniff them, then leave them alone. Given his history, that’s just amazing. He’ll be pretty trustworthy in another few weeks with some further daily work on my part, I think.

I tried to take some pictures today of him sniffing the cats for this post. However, I taught him that he can only sniff the cats for a second or two, then he has to leave them alone. Consequently, I had a terrible time getting anything other than a blurry mess. You’ll have to do with these two blurry shots of him with Elliot. (Oliver is more skittish, but they’re doing okay together too.)

And here’s another shot that I just took of my handsome boy:

Conrad doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to get a HUGE reward for learning to live in peace with the cats: a live-in girlfriend. Conrad loves the company of other dogs: he’s a favorite with all the playful ladies at the dog park. So he’s going to be thrilled to have a dog to play with 24/7.

This time, however, we’ll be adopting a dog that used to live in a household chock full of cats!

Raw Fed Beasts

 Posted by on 13 March 2010 at 8:00 am  Animals, Health, The Beasts
Mar 132010

Although I regard standard pet food as junk unsuitable for canine or feline consumption, I loved this ad for Pedigree:

As I might have mentioned before, I’ve been feeding my dogs and cats a prey-model raw diet for nearly two years, with excellent results. Despite my vet’s worries about bacteria, I’ve had far fewer gastro-intestinal problems with raw food than I did with supposedly high-quality wet food and kibble. They’re all fit and trim, and their teeth and coats are fabulous. You can learn more here:

Basically, a prey-model raw diet is the diet that dogs and cats are adapted by evolution to eat. And boy oh boy, do they ever love to eat it!

In terms of purchases, my staple is the super-convenient six-packs of good-quality chicken thighs at Costco for $1 per pound. They come four thighs per pack; Conrad eats two per feeding. I’ll also buy pork and occasionally beef when on sale, almost always for $1 per pound or less. I like to add chicken backs to the mix, particularly for the cats. Sometimes I’ll cut up a whole chicken. Oh, and I feed canned salmon from Costco once per week too.

To prepare that, I spend about thirty minutes cutting up and mixing meat, bones, and organ meats for the beasts while I watch television or listen to a podcast about once or twice per week. My biggest constraint is freezer space when I find some good meat on sale.

If raw feeding seems unworkable for your lifestyle, then you might try grain-free kibble and wet food. However, that’s really quite expensive, particularly for a large dog. Also, if you have a carb-addicted dog or cat, the kibble might not be a good option. Our cat Oliver was growing obese on a standard diet, despite my attempts to limit his intake. (He was pretty grumpy about that!) On raw food — eating as much as he wants — he’s perfectly trim. However, a few months ago, I put the cats on grain-free kibble and grain-free wet food for a few weeks. Oliver got fat rather quickly. Oh, and he’d routinely up-chuck his food in the morning — on the carpet, of course. So raw is definitely the best option for Oliver. But Conrad and Elliot did fine on grain-free food.

If you switch to raw feeding, I strongly suggest reading a bit about it beforehand. You don’t want to feed ground meat to cats, for example, as that reduces much-needed taurine. You want to feed only raw bones: cooked bones are dangerous because they’re brittle. You don’t want to neglect organ meats or bones. And you might need to gradually adjust cats to raw food, as they’re often rather persnickety.

If you’ve been feeding raw, tell us about it in the comments!

The New Barn

 Posted by on 12 February 2010 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Personal, Photography, The Beasts
Feb 122010

Last week, I finally took some pictures of the barn that Dave Brown built for us over the summer and fall. It’s huge, beautiful, well-built, and awesome in all possible ways. (As always, click on the photo for a larger version.)

First, here’s the overall layout of the barn.

Here’s the view of the north and east sides, as seen walking from the house. The stalls faced west on the old barn. That was bass-ackwards: the horses were chilled in the morning, then broiled in the afternoon. Now the stalls face east. That was somewhat difficult to build with the hill; we had to add the retaining wall. It was worth the trouble, however. The horses enjoy warm morning sun in the winter and good afternoon shade in the summer. They’re also well-sheltered from our unbearable winds. Plus, I can see the horses from the house, if they’re in that east area. That’s reassuring, particularly in nasty weather.

Here are the south and west sides. As you can see, Dave still has some grading work to do. The ground froze this winter before he could finish that.

Here’s the north side, including the main human entrance.

Here’s the east side looking toward the house. You can see the tack room door, then the four stall doors.

Here’s one double sized stall, with Conrad. I can divide the stalls if needed with gates to make four 12 x 12 stalls. But for now, I’d rather give the horses the extra freedom of movement.

Here’s the other double-sized stall.

Here is the house storage area, then the soon-to-be chicken coop, as seen from the aisle. We have very little storage space in the house and the garage, so I really wanted to put a good storage room in the barn. Now that I have that, I have to organize and transfer the various crap valuable possessions I have crammed stacked in the house closets and garage.

Here’s the inside of the soon-to-be chicken coop. I’m going to build a secure outside run, as well as make the whole dry lot reasonably secure from foxes and coyotes for them. I need to get that done so that I can get chickens and guinea hens in the spring. (I might get other livestock too, but I’m starting with the fowl.)

Here’s a portion of my tack and feed room. It’s something of a disaster right now, with most everything still packed in tubs on the left, outside the picture. At least I have the blankets hung properly! You can only see a few, but they take up about 3/4 of a 12 foot wall.

Here is this year’s hay. Each pallet contains one ton of compressed hay. I’m used to hay taking up far more space, but the compressed hay is about half the space. It was super-easy to load into the barn, and the horses love it. Win!

Here’s a view of the aisle from the north side looking south. The wide aisle can be used for more hay storage, if needed. It also means that the farrier can pull into the barn in the winter. That makes the whole experience far more comfortable for everyone, particularly the humans.

Also, notice that the tack room on the left is not full height. The ceiling is load-bearing, so we can use the space above for storage… or better yet, I might use it as a greenhouse to start seeds in the spring. The temperatures in the barn are pretty stable, and the clear plastic above the overhang lets in tons of good morning sun. That clear plastic is wonderful: the barn is light and airy, even with the two large doors closed.

The barn was a huge project for me, but I’m so glad that it’s (mostly) done!

Photo Du Jour: Conrad

 Posted by on 10 February 2010 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Personal, Photography, The Beasts
Feb 102010

He’s ready for action!

Photo Du Jour: Conrad

 Posted by on 28 January 2010 at 4:00 pm  Animals, Personal, Photography, The Beasts
Jan 282010

(26 January 2010)

Conrad via My New Camera

 Posted by on 26 January 2010 at 3:00 pm  Animals, Personal, Photography, The Beasts
Jan 262010

My new camera — a Panasonic Luminex DMC-FZ35 — arrived today. Of course, I had to take some pictures of doggie Conrad. I love the new camera already, and I’m looking forward to playing around with it. Yup, Miranda Barzey has inspired me to try to learn a bit about the art of photography! (As usual, click to enlarge.)

Great Moments in Horse Photography

 Posted by on 17 January 2010 at 2:30 pm  Animals, Photography, The Beasts
Jan 172010

I took this fabulous picture of Image yesterday… and somehow managed to snap it while he was closing his eyes.

Horse photography… FAIL!

Notice that Image is totally muddy. He’s really taken to being a country farm horse. He loves to lie down in the dirt and mud, and Conrad is often lying down nearby, just like this:

Conrad loves playing the farm dog, and Image is his buddy! That makes me so pleased. Oh and that’s Tara on the right, also snoozing. Conrad’s not so keen on her, as she’s pretty boring and not much interested in him.

Conrad at Play

 Posted by on 9 January 2010 at 2:00 pm  Animals, The Beasts
Jan 092010

A few weeks ago, I took this short video of Conrad playing with his favorite toy in one of our horse pastures. It’s nothing too exciting, but he’s awfully cute. He really does love to whack himself in the head with his toys. Unfortunately, that toy — the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff — is currently lost somewhere in the snow. And even worse, I managed to throw his other “ball on a rope” toy high into a tree last weekend. Doh!

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