First Blue Egg

Finally, at about 30-31 weeks old, one of my young Easter Egger chickens is laying eggs. She's laying one every other day or so, as most newbie chickens will. The color is so pretty, and they have a very delicate shape, long and skinny. Here is her first egg pictured next to my faithful Phoenix's Extra Large brown egg (Phoenix is a Hubbard's Golden Comet, and lays an egg every day, sometimes two!)

Easter Eggers are basically mutts, derived from a cross of any chicken with an Araucana chicken, though some people are trying to develop them into a recognized breed. Araucanas lay blue/green eggs, and come from South America originally. EEs are generally a bit for hardy with less genetic anomalies, but their egg color can be unpredictable: you don't know what color the eggs will be until they start laying. So I may get a pink, blue, green, brown or even cream colored egg from the other two. Time will tell :)

Most chickens begin laying between 16 and 24 weeks old. 30 weeks and up is very late blooming! But they come from good stock, so I am keeping the faith. At least, until thanksgiving anyways... Then we may be having chicken for dinner, lol.


New Puppies!

I stopped by my mother's house on Thursday and was greeted by an eerie silence. All the dogs from her breeding kennel were in the barn with the horses. No one was barking. What was going on?

I had a feeling maybe my mother's beautiful standard poodle "Dancing Daisies" was birthing her litter a day early -- so I crept up the stairs and went into the spacious master bathroom my mother uses for whelping and saw. . . 5 black puppies, sleepily suckling :)

This is the first litter from Daisy, pictured in the middle of the photo here with a summer "sporting cut", who whelped her puppies in the wee hours of the night between August 26th and 27th. The puppies are large, black and mostly boys (just one girl!) Pictures of the puppies to follow soon.


The best laundry rack. Ever.

Finally. A drying rack I can hang a whole BIG load of laundry on. A drying rack that won't crack, warp, creak or bend. A drying rack whose rods don't fall out. Who folds up compactly and will last for years and years with no special coddling.

After my last wooden drying rack gave out and I bought a new one, I was very disaapointed. I bought one from Target, who usually has great products in my experience, and after the second round of drying it was listing to one side like the Tower of Pisa, and the top rod that hold the whole thing together was bending at an alarming angle.

So after some internet searching this week, I found the FROST rack at Ikea. Wow. It is sturdy coated steel, and had space for about 1 and half full loads of laundry. And, it costs just under $20. I am in love. Really.


Knitting and purling

A few weeks back I went to visit my grandmother in Florida. She's 83 and more active and energetic than anyone I know... My mother and I are close runners-up, according to our friends and family. It seems to run in our genes.

So, my grandmother always has several knitting, crocheting, and corss-stitch projects going on at a time, in addition to watching her stocks every day, bleaching everything in site, and gardening up a storm. Whenever I see her I return inspired to knit, needlepoint and clean, clean, clean. It is great. Too bad she lives so far away!

So far, I have knitted two sweaters: a brown collared vest for my 3 year old (I'll post that one later, when he has a chance to wear it!) and this blue/purple sweater set which I sized for newborn to 3 months. Our baby is due at the end of January, so a warm sweater will see quite a bit of use.

I made the pattern myself (much to my mother's dismay, who only goes by patterns) and made the sweater entirely in stockinette stitch, hence the cute little curled edges. Stockinette stitch is made by knitting one whole row, and then purling one row, and so on. Although I have knitted for over twenty years, I have never really done much with fancy stitches, and stuck mostly to just knitting. So, this was my practice project to make sure I really have the purl down before I move on to some more complicated stitches. The sweater was very easy and fast to make with a thick yarn and size 10 needles. The front consists of two panels -- one which goes only as far in as the neck opening, and the other which crosses over and covers most of the front. It is closed with one button.

Next up: a light purple baby blanket! Some people feel purple is not a unisex color, but I disagree. Most purples are very unisex, tho some of course are better suited to girls. The purple yarns are mottled and also have blues in them, so they are even more unisex. I have plenty of green white and yellow baby things knitted by my grandmother (and others), and my mother is going with turquoise for her baby projects, so I am going to stick with purple for now :)


Bacteria = Green Technology?

Fascinating Article from Discovery News:

Bacteria Desalinate Water, Generate Power
by Eric Bland, Discovery News

Aug. 25, 2009 -- Bacteria can be used to turn dirty salt water into electricity and drinkable water, according to new research from scientists at Penn State University and Tsinghua University.
The research presents a new spin on microbial fuel cells, which have been used in the past to produce electricity or store it as hydrogen or methane gas.
"The idea of a microbial fuel cell is based on taking organic waste and turning it into a source of energy," said Bruce Logan, a scientist at Penn State and co-author of a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
"In this newest discovery, we figured we would desalinate water by modifying the electricity generated by the bacteria."
The researchers start with a cup full of water from a pond or other natural source. Among the millions of microbes in the sample, some of the bacteria (scientists haven't identified the specific species) will naturally produce electrons and protons inside their cells and transport them outside themselves.
Other bacteria scavenge those free electrons and protons and use them as fuel to create hydrogen, methane or other chemicals, which can serve as energy sources.

Using only two thin pieces of plastic, the researchers have discovered the key to harnessing the power of these microbes. The membrane created by the Penn State scientists can draw away the electrons, ions or gases created by the microbes, towards an anode or a cathode, which are positively and negatively charged electrodes.
Anode, cathode and membranes are all encased within a clear plastic case about the size of a small tissue box. Add a cupful of pond water between the two membranes, and the bacteria start their jobs. The entire process leaves almost pure -- about 90 percent -- water behind.
The exact purity of the water can be changed depending on the needs of the scientists or the desalination industry, if the process is scaled up commercially. These microbial fuel cells can create pure, drinkable water. It may also remove most of the salt from water to make conventional purification methods cheaper by reducing the amount of electricity necessary.
Whatever the resulting salinity, "this is the first time that any one has used a microbial fuel cell for desalination," said Hong Liu, a scientist at Oregon State University also developing microbial fuel cells.
"(Using this approach) you basically need zero power input, and it could even produce energy if you use organic material as the input," said Liu.
For now, microbial fuel cells, whether they desalinate water, generate electricity or create hydrogen, methane or other gases, are limited to small-scale laboratory devices. That will change next month, however, when Logan and his colleagues install a larger microbial fuel cell to turn waste water from a Napa Valley winery into hydrogen gas.
"This project is just a demonstration for now," said Logan. "But ultimately (the winery) could use the power generated by the microbial fuel cell to power cars, forklifts or other vehicles."


Laying Low

Well, the heat has really been getting to me this year, I blame it on my new bun in the oven, who is raising my blood volume by about 35% at the moment.... So I don't have much to blog about, because I haven't been doing much of anything!

One great thing I discovered in the past few weeks after I lost ALL my prgrams on my computer was OpenSource programming. I have used it here and there, but now I am using an art program that is every bit as good as Photoshop -- but free! It is called GIMP which stands for Graphic Image Manipulation Program. I love that. I am also using OpenOffice from Sun Microsystems which replaces Microsoft Word and Excel. Fabulous!

For those of you who like to be kept up to date, I have added a little pregnancy ticker at the bottom of the blog -- enjoy!


Back from techno-doom

After a few weeks of computer silence after my windows OS crashed and burned, I'm back! Starting a sister blog (earthlodgehealing.blogger.com) and catching up on all sorts of work for my web and graphic design clients. New posts, on the way!

Happy August, Maya