Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Wordage falling from respectability edition

I guess if you stand too close to somebody for too long, you might be mistaken for them, despite being completely unrelated.  Some words have actually gotten people--politicians, teachers, etc--into trouble or fired, simply because the words stood to close to bad words in the dictionary. 

Here's some pairs of definitions--one innocent, one less savory.  Guess the troublesome words.

1.  Stingy, derived from OE word for "miser"/ socially unacceptable word for person of African ancestry.

2.  Educational / prone to molesting children

3.  A word that sounds similar to another word / a person attracted to members of the same sex

4.  A problem that gets worse, and more inescapable the more you try to deal with it, derived from elements in African and/or Native American folklore / socially unacceptable word for person of African ancestry.

Highlight for answers, with references:
1.  Niggardly(a wikipedia list)
2.  Pedagogical.  (possibly an urban legend...)
3.  Homophone(a newspaper report)
4.  Tar baby. (an editorial)

It's sad to see a word, through no fault of its own, fall into disrepute and disfavor.  Ultimately, though, I have to own that the language is not what I want, or what is in the dictionary, but what people speak.  As always, I'd be amused to see any of your contributions

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Some scattered observations from the county fair

Uniforms (1)

A sight which pretty much perfectly summed up the fair:  a pair of FFA boys, in their early teens, walking away from the food court, perfectly done up in their regulation black pants, white shirt, tie, heavy blue blazer, ruddy scrubbed faces and slicked back hair.  Each was working on a "scone" bigger than his head, smiling the biggest damn smiles I've seen in a long time. 

Uniforms (2)

4H-ers are not required to wear a uniform.  Nonetheless, every single 4H girl was wearing exactly the same thing, to the point where a code could be drawn up:  "Cowboy-style boots, with patterned stitching and at least two colors of leather, must be worn at all times.  Jeans shall be boot cut, tight in the rear, and moderately low cut; they shall have patterned stitching on the rear pockets, preferably with rhinestones.  Leather belts with large, bling-y buckles are encouraged.  Shirts shall be long-sleeve, snap-buttoned, plaid with some metallic threads woven in.  Hair shall be pulled back in a pony tail."  Really, just about every 4H girl had that look, and plenty of the moms too. 

All hat, no cattle

Some of the girls who wore the 4H uniform were not quite as farm-y as their look suggested.  A couple of them, whose animal experience I guess was limited to horses,  visited the sheep and goat barn.  I was walking one of my Shetland lambs around, and they were impressed by "what a cute goat" I had.

Small Town

Our truck fell ill before the fair; it had some issues with its turbocharger, so couldn't generate enough power to pull a trailer, which made life very complicated.  We couldn't get it fixed until after the fair; so, a week later I found myself in the Ford dealership's "courtesy shuttle," making conversation with the driver.  I asked him about the fair, if he'd gone, and what he thought.  He thought it was okay, but seemed a little smaller this year.  I told him about our goats, and how they did, and it turned out that his sister-in-law had the Nubians in the stall next-door to ours.  

You can take the professor out of the university, but...

When I'm with my animals at the fair, I try to talk with any passerby who looks even a little interested--I act as an ambassador for the brand.  One lady was interested in what the sheep ate, and how it was neat that an animal could transform hay into wool.  So, we started talking about nutrition and feeding for the sheep, and that led to a discussion about what's going on in the rumen, which led to the microbes therein, which led to...and so on.  She was pretty interested, and had a lot of interesting questions, which I was mostly able to answer.  One question, towards the end of our discussion, was "are you a teacher or something?  You sound like you teach this stuff."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday flora--annoying Armenian rubes

There are folks who are just annoying.  They seem to always be present, and loud, and in your way, clingy and hard to escape.  They do exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, and can’t help but be unhelpful.  They make it hard to get work done, and hinder your friends.  They are not necessarily evil, indeed, their actions are not personal at all.  It’s just that they are a pain through and through. 

Imagine such a person, a total jerk 364 days of the year.  Then one day, that person drops a really lovely, absolutely exquisite gift on you: a gift that is much appreciated, that makes your life better for a long time, and actually improves your social standing. 

This week’s flora is the vegetal embodiment of that person—the Himalayan Blackberry, aka the Armenian Blackberry, aka Rubus armeniacus aka Rubus discolor.  We are at war with this plant; when we purchased this place, it had a blackberry problem that was visible from space, or at least on Google maps.  We have been mowing it and siccing our goats on it and spraying it ever since, and we will be continuing to do so for as long as we are here. 

However, once a year, the plants are less odious.  For a few days, even in a droughty year such as this, they are covered with shiny black, plump berries.  They are luscious, inviting, compelling, tart, and other adjectives one might apply to something suggesting moral laxity.  So, one goes out with a bucket and a sun hat and shears and starts gathering berries, one for me, one for the bucket, one for me, one for the bucket…until one has enough to make some jam or sorbet or pie.  Brother M happened to be here with his sweetie for a day, and they came, picked, jammed, and left.  I spent an afternoon last week doing the same. 

For the record, an hour and a half of picking converts to five liters of berries, which converts to two and a half liters of juice and six hundred grams of seeds and pulp.  Add pectin and eleven cups of sugar (interestingly, blackberry seeds sink in blackberry juice, but the addition of sugar increases the specific gravity enough that the seeds will float), cook and can, and you’ll end up with just shy of four liters of jam. 

So, now we have a lot of jam, and it is delicious.  It is a universally fungible as a bribe or lagniappe.  It will be bringing a dose of summer’s sunshine and warmth to a chilly, rainy March. 

But I still hate blackberry plants. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

That was the fair that was

--> Tuesday morning, I noted a certain spring in my step that had been lacking the last couple of weeks.  As I made the rounds, I did not feel sore of joint, tired of limb, or generally exhausted.  I attributed this renewed pep to taking Monday “off”, or as off as I can while still keeping animals fed and watered and milk from going sour and laundry from piling too high.  What had me so tired, enough to need a day off, was the Douglas County Fair. 

The fair presents an interesting view of life here in Douglas County.  It’s taken me, a city boy, a long time to get used to life here, but I’m learning to appreciate it.  It’s no longer a surprise when somebody talks about their newborn lamb that’s been rejected by its mother, and how they had to take it to work for bottle feeding for a week, and it wasn’t a problem.  It seems that most people either did 4H or FFA as kids, or have children raising a lamb or hog for one of those programs.  The loudest noise I heard at the fair (outside of the rock concerts every night) was the excited cheer from a hundreds of teenagers at the selection of the winner of the hog showmanship competition.  The local newspaper ran pictures of the champion steer and hog and the kids who raised them, above the fold, on the front page.  

Other facets of Douglas County show themselves at the fair, besides the 4H and FFA livestock.  The timber industry has its own big tent, and the local firms all have displays celebrating their stewardship and their ability to employ locals.  The exhibit hall had booths for the NRA, a concealed carry class, a couple of booths that were raffling off guns, various branches of the military, Oregon Right to Life (really, there is no contradiction, is there?), a handful of churches with quizzes to determine whether you were heading to heaven or hell, and vendors of bumper stickers and t-shirts urging us to remember Benghazi and impeach the dictator.  The county Democratic Party had a booth too, though they admitted that they did feel a bit like a minority.  The lady working the Douglas County Republicans booth lives a couple miles down the road from me; the fellow at the Democrats booth just over the hill.  A certain politeness is useful in small communities, when everybody is your neighbor. 

There were the usual fairground rides, run by the gypsies that travel from fair to fair, ensuring a certain uniformity in all these events.  The rides—the whirl-a-meal, the rising gorge, the hurling dervish—were all there, working to separate riders from their lunch and any loose items in their pockets.  The food stalls were similarly free of regional context—giant mounds of curly fries and deep-fried anything—with one exception.  I grew up going to the fair and eating fry bread, or the less-politically-correct “Indian fry bread”; here, the booths sold “scones,” which are the same thing, but served with honey and cinnamon sugar.  I had two, over the four days of the fair, and that will hold me till next year. 

All these sights and sounds and gastric experiences were ancillary to my experience of the fair.  We were at the fair for the open-class (that is, not 4H or FFA) livestock competition, with our fine goats and sheep.  For us, the fair is an opportunity to have our animals seen by prospective buyers; for us to advertise our farm; for our animals to be professionally evaluated and ranked with those from other farms; and to interact with other breeders and growers and trade insights with them.  It’s a big deal.  So, in the week before fair, we spent a lot of time grooming our animals, picking burrs from fleece, trimming nails, clipping hair, and so on.  The fairgrounds provided pens, but these needed to be filled with sawdust and straw and set up with feeders and buckets and salters, and we also needed hay and grain and all the other requirements for a healthy and happy animal.  Some folks bring in whole outdoor living-room suites, with tables and chairs and cupboards and rugs, but we just made do with folding chairs and a folding table; and, though it wasn’t as elaborate as many of our neighbor’s displays, we did manage to get a laminated banner with our farm name and logo on it. 

We brought the animals in on Tuesday, before the official start of the fair, and after a cursory check by the vet, they were led to their pens.  Wednesday was spent on getting things a little better set up, and picking fleeces clean.  We brought seven of our Shetland sheep: two ram lambs, three ewe lambs, and two yearling ewes.  That’s a lot of fleece to pick, especially after they’ve had free run of a pasture full of queen anne’s lace.  One of our goals over the next five years is to have fewer weeds in our pastures, but for now—owing to years of neglect—we have lots of weeds, and lots of burrs in our fleece.  At least we have better feeders than last year, when the simple act of eating would fill our sheeps’ fleeces with bits of hay.  We envied our neighbors at the fair, who had a troupe of grandchildren with their nimble fingers picking fleeces. 

The sheep competition was on Thursday, and the Shetlands were the largest class (there were also Dorsets, St. Croix, East Down, and Liecester sheep in the competition).  The judge was more familiar with the meat breeds, and even then didn’t have a lot of experience with the comparatively rare St. Croix and Blue-Faced Liecester.  As breeder of Shetlands, one gets used to having this sort of judging—the fleeces got a cursory look, and there was a bias towards larger, more “built” animals.  However, our sheep did well.  Our ram lambs finished first and second in their group; the yearlings were second and third; and our ewe lambs took top spots, with one winning reserve champion Shetland.  We also scored a brace of the group titles, such as best young herd.   

Friday was supposed to be a rest day, but most of the day was spent helping other sheep folks and goat breeders with their animals.  One of the things I’ve come to like about the fair is the fact that, despite our all being in competition with each other, everybody helps everyone else.  For example, after the show, all the Shetland breeders spent a long evening critiquing and admiring each other’s animals.  This cooperative attitude extends to working as night watch—the sheep barn is right next to the amphitheater where, every evening of the fair, there is an extremely loud rock concert, and there are extremely hammered people staggering through the barn, picking fights with the rams and doing other similar acts of stupidity. 

Saturday was the goat show.  As a show sanctioned by the American Dairy Goat Association, exhibitors were encouraged to dress in white.  So after doing the morning chores, I changed into my milkman outfit and headed to the ring with Java, Zarzuela, and Snegurochka, our three junior does. It might be because they’re small, so it’s easy to get a lot of them; or it might be that they’re cute and trendy, but there were a lot of Nigerian Dwarf Goats in the competition.  Despite being in a large class, our does did great, with each being the top of her age class, and Java winning best junior doe.  Of course, once our goats were done, there were the adult Nigerian Dwarves, the Nubians, the La Manchas, and all the other breeds, and so I spent most of the day helping to wrangle much larger goats than I’m used to.  It was interesting to see the variety, and having been dragged around the ring by an upset Nubian, it reinforced my desire not to deal with the larger breeds. 

The fair officially was over on Sunday.  Some folks were there a soon as the gates opened at 6 AM, spiriting their animals back to the farm and taking down their displays.  Others hadn’t really done any deconstruction by noon, by which time we had made two round trips to the fairgrounds and back.  There was one bit of fair business left, before we quit the fairgrounds for good—there are cash awards for placing in the livestock show, and we collected enough to pay for a few days’ hay for our herd.  Then, home, unpacking, and R&R.  As I mentioned, it’s exhausting to prep for fair, then take care of animals at home and at two locations in the fairgrounds, show animals, and then pack everything up.  There was a lot of laundry and housecleaning to do, not to mention sleep to catch up on.  An exchange with a cashier at the co-op sums it up:

Cashier:  How’d the fair go for you?

Me:  Great—all our animals did really well, best junior doe, champion ewe.

C:  You look tired. Glad it’s over?

Me:  Oh, yeah.

C:  Everybody’s seems so glad when it’s done.  Looking forward to next year?

Me:  Oh, yeah. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesday Wordage, punctuated edition

Which is the odd one out?


Highlight for the answer:  It's don't.  All the others make proper English words without their apostrophes--cant is a kind of slang, wont is habit, arent is a type of soil, and hell is where you go in a handbasket.  Of course, lots more possibilities for both the in and out groups.

Tuesday Tool

(A bit late, but it was a busy day)

The tool of the day is definitely the Double K Model 401 Belt Mounted Variable Speed Clipper with 6 foot flex-shaft drive.

My project for the last few days has been to trim all of our goats, peeling off a year's worth of shaggy hair and leaving a nice, sleek-looking, cooler animal.  The does are not too bad--their hair isn't terribly long, despite having not had a haircut in over a year.  The bucks, on the other hand...well, they're awful.  They are furry like bears, hair three inches long all over, and a layer of cashmere underneath.  And, they smell like bucks. 

So, one by one, each goes up on the stand, into the stanchion, and starts complaining and fidgeting as I get the clippers going.  I've tried doing it with a hand-held clipper, but the extra power of the Mod. 401 is wonderful.  Mow up the back, then along the sides, up the legs, up the neck and around the head; wrestle and fuss and struggle while clipping the face and noggin; kick and complain while doing the legs and escutcheon and tail.  Trim, trim, trim, trim--and while I'm at it, trim their hooves, give the a copper bolus, and dose them with anti-louse.  The whole process, for one goat, takes just under an hour, leaving the goat upset and spick and span, and leaving me covered in itchy goat trimmings--the hair is stiff enough that it can penetrate my skin and act like a fiberglass splinter.  I can do three goats before running inside to change my shirt or take a shower.  (If I were more Orthodox about my Judaism, part of my morning ritual would be to thank the divine that I am not a woman; as it is, I am thankful that I don't wear a bra.)   

Clipping is nobody's favorite chore.  The goats don't recognize each other right away, so they are busy re-establishing their hierarchies.  There is much complaining, still, but at least they are cooler and easier to look at, and they won't be bothered until next summer. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Wordage...enigmatic quotidian acronyms (updated)

(Updated--new #9)
I see these acronyms routinely.  Some I knew, others I've asked around and most people have no clue.  To put it in the format of a question for the estimable radio show "Says You," five points for identifying where you'd see it, and five points for unpacking the acronym.

1.  Qantas
2.  SKU
3.  Canola
4.  PLU
6.  BMW
7.  JPEG
8.  rBGH
9.  USP

Answers (highlight to see)
1.  Queensland and Northern Territories Air Service
2.  Stock Keeping Unit
3.  Canadian Oil Low Acid (a euphemism for rape seed)
4.  Price Look-Up
5.  National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations
6.  Bayerische Motoren Werke
7.  Joint Photographic Experts Group
8.  recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone
9.  United States Pharmacopeia

As always, feel free to add your own in comments. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Living in the country...pros and cons

Pro:  While walking across the big pasture to do the evening rounds, I stopped and took this picture

Con:  I soon discovered I was standing at the door of a nest of burrowing yellowjackts.  

Only got one sting, and enjoyed a nice run.