Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer Spurt

Blue corners are done, red and greens are halfway there
I bet you all forgot I was making a quilt, didn't you.  Or you thought I forgot I was making one.  I didn't.  For the most part it has been out of sight, but whenever I walked into my sewing room the pieces would mock me.

The weather has been cooler this week, which means the temperature upstairs has been tolerable.  I finished all my other to-do stuff around the house and found a couple of hours with nothing planned.  Goodness!  So I had no choice but to plunk down and sew a bit.

I think my piles of stitched pieces are finally starting to outnumber the piles of fabric in the corner of the room.  I am so pleased; it no longer taunts me.  However, I did calculated I need several more hours of sewing before I even start completing any blocks.  I'll try not to dwell on that.  I'll focus on the corner pieces which could be done in less than two hours... that's my next goal.  Wonder when I can park myself in front of that sewing machine again?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hampers and Cuddle Cups

Too many serious posts about my pigs lately.  So today, I'm going to focus on some recent cute.

On Wednesday I brought in the pigs' laundry hamper to the CSA to collect corn husks.  Unfortunately, they've implemented a no-shuck zone around the barn.  I mostly got just outer leaves.  The distribution volunteers were kind enough to set aside husks that had pulled loose from the cobs.  Most of it was not good for drying.  Bummer.  I'm going to try for husks at the Farmer's Market next week as long as they allow shucking on the Walpole green.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Puncturing Pigs

Bleeding Bertie, consoling herself with corn husk
It has been a traumatic week of sticking pigs.  I've done these types of injections a zillion times before, so I was blindsided by the difficulties we encountered.  Sunday night I got so frustrated I had to take a time-out before dealing with them. 

First up, subcues for Bertie.  She's been getting one daily since early last week.  Giving Bertie a subcue is different than Willow; it's hard to find her shoulders under all that long, thick fur.  And she cried and cried the whole time I gave her fluids for five days in a row.  The second night, I dragged Rob over for a step-by-step subcue demonstration to convince myself I was doing everything correctly (I was).  I had him stay with me once or twice more while giving her fluids because I couldn't face Bertie by myself.  To top it off, the little rodent bleeds all the time!  Over the years, Willow may have bled on me a handful of times.  Poor Bertie ended up with red stripes on her white fur just about every night the first week.  Left me feeling like a terrible pig mama.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Compost Pile

Happy compost pile
I started composting a bit over a year ago.  It was in response to the amount of wood shavings used to bed three guinea pigs and the fact that my town's trash pickup has a pay-by-the-bag policy.  The effort of bagging wood chips in plastic bags and then having to pay for it to be hauled away was wrong in so many ways.

The end of our back yard is woodded and overgrown.  Not necessarily the most ligocial or convenient place to put a compost pile.  My dad's compost pile was always in the sun, so it surprised me that one in the shade would work at all.  But it was away from the house, wouldn't be an eye sore for the neighbors and I hauled the used shavings out there only once a week, so it proved to be a good location.  I discovered the shade keeps the pile moist, which helps with the decomposition.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This is the time of year for an abundance of zucchini.  I am not a huge fan of zucchini, although you can never go wrong with breading and deep frying it.  Not exactly healthy.  I suspect that none of my favorite zucchini recipes are particularly good for you, but they each use up one to two large zucchini, and are delicious:  fritters, quick bread, and my new favorite, chocolate zucchini cake.

One of the first comments I had read for this recipe was DO NOT MODIFY.  So what do I do?  I tinker with it.  I swapped out the oil for apple sauce and substituted the buttermilk since I never have any on hand.  I've added cinnamon and nutmeg a couple of times, which was good, but so far I have found this cake is best in its unadulterated chocolatey goodness. (Although I have seen a modification with espresso that I may have to try.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kidney Disease

A bag of ringers, butterfly needle and 35cc syringe
The vet called me on Saturday.  Bertie has kidney disease.  Dr. Holmes rattled off a half dozen levels that had been tested and they all came back higher than normal:  glucose, BUN, creatinine, calcium, phosphorus and potassium (plus two other things that I can't read in my chicken-scratched notes). The vet thinks the adenovirus may be to blame.

I have not dealt with kidney disease before.  I'm not sure how familiar the vet is with kidney disease in guinea pigs.  So we're starting Bertie on subcues (fluids injected under the skin) while we both do some research.

I started her on the fluids Monday night.  Neither of us is particularly pleased with this development.  However, I've become a great believer in the power of subcues and am hopeful this will make her feel better.  Now if I can only convince Bertie of the same thing.  Willow had been an old pro with subcues - she stoically endured getting pierced and I was quite familiar with her shoulder blades.  Bertie was rather freaked out by the whole experience, and for all my practice, she has different shoulders than Willow.  Who knew?  We get to do this every evening for seven days.  I sincerely hope the second time will be easier than the first.

Bertie, in the meantime, has been eating her critical care without too much fuss.  She hasn't been sleeping quite as heavy; I've noticed her waking up when I walk in the room over the weekend.  Both of those are good signs.  At this point, I am pleased with any positive developments.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Floral Wreath Pillow

When I finished my wreath cross stitch in June, I wasn't sure what to do with it.  A few people told me to make a pillow of it and keep it.  So I did.  I had a bit of leftover material from when I got my love seat reupholstered, which I used for piping and backing.  The colors go quite nicely with the colors in the cross stitch.

Voila!  Looks great on the love seat, too.  Unfortunately, it makes me realize how ratty the rest of my old throw pillows are.  I guess I can add a few more projects to my backlog.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Corn Husks

Sweet corn isn't good for guinea pigs because it's high in sugar and starch.  However, the husks are high in fiber and nutritionally similar to grass or hay.  Even the silks are good to eat and are a traditional herbal remedy for urinary tract issues. 

Bertie and Pinniped go crazy for corn husks.  Unfortunately, there's only so much corn the two humans in this household can eat and most grocery stores in the area no longer allow people to husk corn at the store.  But if they do, I disregard the strange looks I get from others and dive head-first into the husk bin.  Well, maybe I'm not quite that enthusiastic - but I usually garner a few quizzical looks at my joy in stuffing a bag full of husks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bloodwork and X-rays

Worn out Bertie
Bertie returned to the vet today, to have more blood drawn.  The first test indicated anemia, but nothing definitive.  So the vet wanted to do some more tests for kidney and liver function, and take an x-ray.

Bertie had rallied a bit after the last visit, but lost weight again today.  I've been trying to get as much critical care into her as she will take.  Sometimes she sucks it down willingly, and other times she fights me (usually as her weight goes up).

I am discouraged with today's outcome.  The vet is not optimistic.  She said Bertie's lungs did not look good on the x-rays.  She suspects the PVM is taking its toll on Bertie's lungs.  We're still doing the blood panel, to see if something else comes up.  I had expected Bertie's viruses would eventually present with classic URI symptoms, but it doesn't seem to be the case.  She's not struggling to breathe; there's no noticeable congestion.  She's just so damn tired all of the time.  I think even chewing tires her out.  Bertie is talkative when I hold her, is interested in her food and seems perky enough when she's moving around, but spends the large majority of her day sleeping.  Everything tuckers her out.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rodent Relations III: Stealing

I've covered Biting and Bickering.  The last bit in this series is stealing.  I'm sure there are more types of bad behavior between bonded pigs.  These are just what sprang to mind when Pinni and Bertie's actions upset The Girls Next Door.

Guinea pigs are willful little creatures.  Pinni loves to oust Bertie from some good sleeping spot or force her to move to some other spot in the cage.  Abercrombie loved to pull the treat bowl into the hidey house and block the entrance so she could eat all the treat by herself.  And all guinea pigs, even the most bonded pair, will steal food from each other.  Often it's straight out from the other's mouth.  Some people view this as being mean, but it's really just par for the course for any herd of guinea pigs.  Obviously, what one pig is eating must taste better than anything else in the cage, so why should that pig get to eat it all?  If it's a really good morsel, then the idea is to snatch it from the one eating it, and high-tail it to another corner of the cage to eat as much as possible before the first pig (or some other pig) comes to take it.  I used this piggy attitude when Willow was on her own to entice her to eat more hay (Healthy Competition).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rodent Relations II: Bickering

Today's topic:  Bickering.  This, honestly, is a variation or escalation of Biting to include chasing, screaming and the occasional rumblestrutting (and possibly teeth chattering, although my current girls don't do that to each other).

Everyone has a day that nothing seems to go right and you take it out on whomever is closest to you.  It seems that guinea pigs go through this, too, and it's especially true when sows go into heat.  Both Pippin-Willow and Pinniped-Bertie were experts at all out screaming matches. 

And they're impressive:  Pinni and Bertie caterwaul at each other worse than a pair of fishwives.  When the screaming is at its worst, it's enough to make me lose my mind.  The hollering usually starts when one or the other is in heat, so it can last as long as two days.  All.  Day.  Long.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rodent Relations I: Biting

This winter I had the Girls Next Door watch Bertie and Pinniped while we were out of town.  When I came back they told me all about feeding and caring for them.  Then they told me how Pinni bit Bertie and how they had to break up the two of them.

The twins knew Willow had lived alone because the Newbies bit her and I think they were a little sensitive to Pinni and Bertie's behavior.  They thought the two pigs were having a falling out.  And they aren't the only ones who are nervous about what constitutes normal guinea pig behavior.  This type of question comes up a lot.  New owners often separate their guinea pigs for fear that they're fighting when the pigs were just trying to establish boundaries and pecking order.  They also fear that pigs that don't cuddle together all the time don't really like each other.  Piggy politics can be complicated, and sometimes there are only subtle signs to indicate that two (or more) pigs are actually quite happy to be together.

Bertie and Pinni are one of the strongest bonded pair of pigs I've had (my best bonded were Vicky and Athena).  But like any close couple, they have their off days and spats.  When they do, they can really dish it out.  And because there is so much badness two pigs can get into - I'm going to cover it in a trilogy of posts.

Today's unseemly behavior:  biting, snapping, hissing and lunging.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Poked and Prodded

Thursday was not a fun day, for anyone.  We all spent part of the evening in at Windhover Vet.

Neither pig had been quite themselves for a week or three.  Nothing was particular worrisome - a little weight loss, some heavy sleeping, some moping about, some overzealous chasing and humping.  Between their recent behavior and some suspicions I had been harboring about Pinni for months, I decided to haul them both to the vet.

Pinni was examined first and my fears were confirmed:  ovarian cysts.