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Goat Poop

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This is the remainder of what was a whole truck load, albeit small truck, of Goat Poop. Composted, but still Goat Poop.

I am super happy about this Goat Poop. I met the goats it came from. I bartered for it. I shoveled it myself and was excited to do so. As The Husband was going about his garden work, I actually said “Don’t touch my Goat Poop.” I’ve spent my spare time this week with my boots and my gloves deep in Goat Poop. I’m so happy about that.
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Chickens: Week Two

Sub-title: Bigger, Louder, Messier, and as I suspected, ever so slightly less, cute.

I probably won’t subject you to a chicken update every week. However, these first few seem sorta crucial. It’s interesting stuff (to me). Assuming my chicks were 3 days old when I picked them up, they are 2 weeks today. Two weeks, and things, they are a-happening.

Meet Cherie.

Cherie last week:
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Cherie this week:
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Taller, less round, and a whole lot more wing feather. Pretty ones even.

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These wing feathers showed up, seemingly over night. As in, I walked in the laundry room and said aloud “Where the heck did those come from?” My chickens grow. I must be doing something right.

This week has also brought additional dog visits.

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No one was eaten in the capturing of this moment. While there is dog interest it is restrained. Mostly, they’d like to know what all the ruckus is about. And as you can see by some of those eye balls, chicks ponder dogs as dogs ponder chicks.

Other new and noteworthy is a lowered temperature, now fluctuating between 80-85, versus the 85-90 last week. This is still about 5 degrees lower than recommended, but everyone is getting on fine. The eating of their first worms, not captured. The cliff notes are they didn’t know wtf to do.

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And its getting a little crowded in there. Food dishes get pushed over, and they are dangerously close to being able to flap their way out of their rubbermade home. These girls are going to need bigger accomodations, soon. Plans are in the works. I naively thought we’d get at least 3 weeks out of their current brooder. I now think, we will be addressing it this weekend.

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Silly growing Chickens.

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Dog Beds

A post I never thought I’d write. A post I probably shouldn’t write. Many consider this a ‘mild obsession’ of mine. There are more dog beds in my house than there are seats for people. I am not kidding. I take my dog beds seriously.

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Serious Business. Modeling the Bowsers Donut Bed.

As I write this there are 5 dog beds next to me: 2 stacks of two, and a single. There’s another bed in my bedroom. That’s relatively reasonable. Downstairs things get out of hand. Seven in my office. Another five in the dog room. What’s that 18? That may not include random mats or pads for the car travel or just to swap out.

They all get used. I’ve a lot of dog, which necessitates a lot of bed. And a unique opportunity to put beds through their paces.

I can’t promise this is all going to be totally coherent. As it turns out, it’s hard to put one’s thoughts on dog beds in order. Who knew? Consider this a brain dump if you will. My dog bed manifesto. Everything you ever wanted to know (or didn’t) about dog beds. To those not enthralled by all things dog, my apologies.

Not Cheap. There are cheap dog beds, and there are good dog beds. Beds that are (almost) infinitely washable, maintain their loft, seem to last and last and last no matter how many time’s they’ve been peed and puked on, dug in, disassembled and wrestled back together. These beds do not cost $29.95. I gave up on cheap dog beds long ago. They don’t hold up. They get squished and threadbare. Zippers pop. In short, they look like poo in just a little while, to the point I dont want to have them in my house. If you want to make a biannual landfill contribution, by all means buy a cheap bed. Otherwise, pony up and buy something with some staying power. Something made in America (exceptions will be noted). Something covered in upholstery fabric or the like. A bed from a manufacturer I can order replacement covers from. The beds I buy are generally $100+ for a size large or XL. Smaller beds will be cheaper, but even the tiniest is usually about $50.

Not For Puppies. Do not invest in a $100 bed if you have a 10 week old puppy. Or a one year old juvenile delinquent. Or a known bed destroyer of any age. Just like toys, every bed has it’s day, and they aren’t designed to be chewed. Don’t leave your dog home alone (or even unsupervised) with a bed if they have a checkered past. Make it something used when you are sitting right there, and even then keep an eagle eye on the situation. Most dogs out grow this, but not all. My dogs still like to shred and tear up bedding in their kennels hamster style. Consequently, they don’t have expensive bedding there, rather a collection of old sheets, towels, failed bed covers, and fleece scraps. They are perfectly happy with this arrangement.

Curler or Sprawler? A professional question from the Pet Store and an important distinction. Pay attention. Does your dog like to sprawl out when they sleep? Or do they curl up in a ball? Do they rest their heads on the arm of chairs or pillow? Or do they tuck it under a paw? All this helps determine the type of bed they are going to like and use. Options are…

Nest Beds (aka Donut Beds, aka Bagel Beds, aka Bolster Beds). Every manufacturer calls it something different, but the idea is the same. A round bed with an outer bolster and a inner nested pillow. By and large the most popular model, and the most prolific at our house. Dogs that curl to sleep love them because they can snuggle in. Heads can rest on the higher bolster pillow to keep tabs on the world around them. Dogs can dig and scratch and snuffle in the bottom pillow to move it around to their comfort level. The same concept can be found in square beds. Usually called loungers or couches. Whatever they are called, make sure it unzips everywhere. The bolster should be removable, and preferably the cover for the center pillow too. This is essential for wash-ability. When picking out a bed at the store, it never hurts to disassemble it (at least mostly) and get an idea of what you are in for when in needs to be laundered.

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Nest Bed large and in charge, by FYDO

Pillow Beds. These are for your sprawlers and what you think of when you picture a dog bed. A large round or square pillow on the floor. They are without bolsters, providing a wide open plain in which to stretch and roll. Ah, bliss! At my house, these are generally less popular. We still have them though, because they are convenient for travel and kennels (if you don’t have a hamster dog). Orthopedic beds are typically this style. They also provide a nice base layer to stack a nest bed on top of, and can be created out of on-hand materials. More on that later.

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Basic Bowsers Pillow, antler chewing station. Bed is approximately 8 years old

By now, I’m sure I convinced you. I’ve won you over to the dark-side of my not-so-secret dog bed habit. You are chomping at the bit to get your pooch a new pad. What the heck do you buy? Here are my recommendations. Please Note: I have not received money from any of these manufacturers. Although, I’d like to. There are, however, affiliate links throughout this post. If you appreciate the information, consider using them.

F.Y.D.O (For Your Dog Only). In my opinion, maker of the best nest beds (they call them Bagel Beds) around. Generously sized, made in California. Their cotton, twill and poly blend fabrics have a lovely nap to them.

Bowsers. They call their nests Donut beds. They are deeper than the FYDO version, smaller sized, and their inner pillow is quilted, so the covers don’t come off. Not a problem for pillow style beds, but irritates me slightly. However, their microvelvet fabrics are very upholstery-like, and hold up remarkably well. These are the beds I’ve had for going-on 8 years. They also offer the best orthopedic bed option I’ve found. One that is actual memory foam, as opposed to that annoying egg carton.

Jax and Bones. I’m a newish convert to Jax and Bones. Their loungers and nappers are a little more ‘couch-style’ than a regular nest bed. They do ingenious work with the deconstruct-ability, making sure that all bolsters can be removed for easy washing, even when they look like they can’t. I’m pretty picky about fabric choice with these guys. I think some of their choices lean toward form over function, and I worry about long term durability. Pet Store Boss Lady swears by them though.

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Brand new Jax and Bones. The jury is still out.

West Paw. I *love* West Paw. Love. Montana made, green products, small company love. All around love. I’ve written about that love before. Their nest beds are just sort of meh. But, the Eco Drop . It’s all about the Eco Drop bed at our house. It has been every since we brought one home. The foam stuffed bean-bag chair for your dogs. It’s some where between the pillow and nest bed. The dogs sink into the middle, and mine love it. Every dog from the 5lb Maltese to the 55lb Dalmatian, this is their bed of choice.

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The ever popular Eco Drop, stacked on top of a Bagel Bed for maximum neighborhood surveying.

Molly Mutt Wonderful concept. Unfortunately, made in China. I must mention them though, because as makers of the dog bed duvet, they are a life saver. Got some of those old ugly dog beds that are an embarrassment to your living room? Shove one or better yet two, plus an old towel into a Molly Mutt, and viola! Attractive pillow style bed. The patterns are cute. The fabrics are heavy duty, thick cottons. At our house we top a Molly Mutt pillow with a nest bed, and we’ve just made the most popular new (old) bed in the house. Next to an Eco-Drop, of course.

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Just another day in my office. Dueling stacks, an Eco Drop vs. a Bowsers Dutchie (square nest) over a Molly Mutt. The Bowers bed is at least 6 years old, a little worn but still in heavy roation.

Why? As you can tell, my dogs love these beds. They live in these beds. In some small way, they keep them off the furniture (some of it), and certainly out of my hair. By providing my dogs comfy spots to hang out, they do just that. They go hang out. More than that, I have a place to send them when we are having company, while I’m working from home, when they are being general pains in the rear. “Go lay down” works remarkably well for both of us. I’m happy to encourage that with a long lasting snuggly bed… or 18 of them.

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Just a Car

Rounding the corner on my car debt with payment five of eight just made, speeding towards the June finish line, one broken tire, and a consistent 36 mpg later, it is now just a car.

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There is no more new car smell. Any policies of ‘No Eating’ or ‘No Dogs’ have long since been abandoned. Coffee has been spilled. White dog hair accents the charcoal interior. It’s part of our daily landscape. It’s need of a wash.

This is the natural progression of things. I knew it would happen. It’s unavoidable. Everything new becomes old, sooner than you’d think. Whether its an iPad, rubber boots, or a shiny new car. Reason #432 why I’d rather pay off this car in months vs. years.

That’s an important reminder, because making these $2,000 payments is a pain in the a$$. There are so many other things I would rather be spending my money on. Garden things. Travel things. It makes bouts of The Husband’s unemployment that much more uncomfortable. The actual, on the books, must be made payment is something like $300. See, I don’t even know for sure. Oh, the excuse scenarios I have created in my head in an effort to use that $1700 difference for things much more fun, much more meaningful in the moment.

Thus far, I’ve resisted. I remind myself 8 months is not a long time to live with a decision. I chose to suffer in the short term to save myself a prolonged agony nickels and dimes on what is, after all, just a car. Hold strong. Tough it out.

Come June, if I lose my job (God Willing) I wouldn’t have to make a car payment. If I chose to leave my job, I wouldn’t have to make another car payment. I will have a “brand new”, trusty, reliable, superior gas mileage car. And no payment.

Come June. Please hurry.

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Money Saving Monday: Personal Hygiene

No one wants to be stinky. Least of all me. Everyone would much rather be spring daffodil fresh.
I get that.

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And yet, if there is a spending category I find myself frugal hacking my way through, this would be it. Because as much as I don’t want to be a dirty bird, I don’t exactly buy into the whole artificial scents and substances thing either. The marketing that tells us if we don’t buy xyz in the new fresh rain smell, we will somehow be a social pariah. Pfffft to that. I’ve found I can DIY, cut back, and substitute my way into significant savings without compromising hygienically or becoming publicly odiferous.

Deodorant. I wrote about this when it was still an experiment. It’s now a hands down success. More than that, I’m on my same small starter container. It requires a just a dab, and I can confidently say, I do not smell. With my friends, I would know. Trust me. Thank you baking soda and coconut oil in your re-usable canning jar. I could add an essential oil, but I don’t. I’ll never need Secret again.

Shampoo. I don’t know that I will ever make my own, nor will I ever go ‘without ‘Poo’ as some have. I prefer a happy medium, every other day approach. My shampoo costs 1/2 as much or lasts 2X as long. Take your pick. Either way, my hair doesn’t suffer and I spend less.

Soap. Making soap is complicated and unless you have a cheap source of coconut oil, it gets spendy. Certainly when compared to Irish Spring or Dollar Store alternatives. However, side by side with the local $4 a bar sensitive skin stuff we were buying, home made is the winner. As we’ve gotten better at sourcing our ingredients, the price has come down further. Our soap making supplies and molds all came from the Goodwill. And never underestimate the usefulness of home made soap as a last minute gift.

Diva Cup. Last weekend, I found myself engrossed in an all-girl, late-night, probably-too-much-wine, conversation about the

Solution. It’s amazing I didn’t scare anyone away. I’ve refrained from going in to details about these in the interest of my male readers. Boys: Stop Reading Now. I’m a fan. Economical. Easy. Yeah, it get’s a little more ‘involved’ than we may be used to, but post adjustment period (*snerk*) this thing makes my life (or at least a week of it) a lot more manageable. The Husband loves that he hasn’t had to make any emergency drug store runs since The Cup has come to town.

Toothpaste. I am not vain about many things. Teeth and hair would be the two though. I’m cavity free and intend to stay that way. I am particular about my toothpaste and the use and over use of fluoride. I alternate between with fluoride and

, employing the time old tradition of price checking, waiting for a sale, using a coupon when the sale is in effect and stocking up on 6 months worth. If it works for Chocolate, why not toothpaste?

I’ve got troublesome skin. I used to throw money at the problem, buying a lot of products, that still left me with the same troublesome skin. At a visit to a pricy Aesthetician, she recommended basic and gentle in general, Cetaphil specifically. I’ve tossed (recycled rather) all the bottles and expensive products a couple years ago. This is cheap and easy and works just as well, if not better than anything I’ve used.

Everything Else. The Husband requires certain items. His own shampoo for one. But, that might be because I don’t share. We both need razors now and again. The point is, not everything can be made at home and sometimes stockpiles run short. In those cases, Amazon Reward Points combined with a Prime Subscription come in super handy. It’s spending without money leaving my pocket.

Remember that trip to the Aesthetician I mentioned? That’s because I used to spend a whole lot more on personal upkeep; waxing, facials, pedicures, highlights. These were easy things to convince myself I deserved. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with a little R&R, in fact we could all probably use more, a hot bath and some epsom salt in your own tub does the job just as well as a $100 facial or a $25 pedicure. Whatever the method, the results are fleeting, so get the most bang for your buck.

Me? I’m happy to keep smearing my way to a less smelly self, until months from now when I have to mix a new batch of home made deodorant.

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Sunday Spending: Who Has the Time?

This weekend I…

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planted potatoes
visited the BFF who lives 45 minutes away (when traffic is good – it wasn’t)
hauled miscellaneous garden debris
re-seeded the back yard
mowed the front yard
harrassed chickens
tended tomatoes
cleaned the house (of course)
went on a run
hosted breakfast for four of my closest friends
shoveled a small truck load of composted goat poop (twice!)
wrote blog posts.

While The Husband…

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filled 5 garden beds with soil
went to the dump
picked up fertilizer
welded in exchange for composted goat poop
made biscuits and gravy for four of our closest friends.

We also managed to watch

(not in the swedish),

(painful), a couple episodes of

(I love Mr. White), and make an honest to goodness start on

. So while we are not without leisure, that leisure happens as a brain numbing at the end of the day necessity.

These weekends are ‘go, go, go!’. So much to accomplish between Friday and Monday. Balancing projects, regular responsibilities and social obligations, other than the couple evening hours we spend camped in front of the TV with dogs, its a battle to maintain productivity and still feel like you are having a weekend.

Last night we found ourselves with no meal plan, no grocery list, and no desire to leave the house. We could have ordered pizza. The thought certainly crossed my mind. Instead as reigning champion of the ‘What can we have for dinner? game I went to work opening cupboards, fridges and freezers. Thirty (ok, maybe forty) minutes later “Cashew Chicken”. Really more like spicy chicken stir fry with lots of veggies over quinoa. Yummy all the same.

For me, when I’m rushed and hungry and I’ve spent all day working, the last thing I want to do is drop everything and leave the house to make an ill prepared trip to the grocery store. Or worse wait in line at restaurant. Or even worse yet eat overpriced mediocre take-out from a styrofoam container.

A fringe benefit of the ‘What can we have for dinner?’ scavenger hunt is it provides an excellent opportunity to make a grocery list. So the next morning, before breakfast must be cooked for those four closest friends, The Husband can go grocery shopping while I go on a much needed run. An outside run, which sorta counts as leisure, in a really hard kind of way.

God love The Husband.

He came home with…

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for a grand total of $45 spent at the Local Market. Check out last week for our running total. We are under where we are supposed to be. That’s about all I know. It’s enough to be happy about.

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Scenes From The Week.

There was an abundance of pictures this week. The camera was out and about for chicken documentation. Various other subjects got caught in the cross fire.

There won’t be chickens. There will be pugs. Well, maybe just one more chicken.

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It’s the favorite of my chickens sleeping in hands photos, which is really the most zen experience ever. I highly recommend it. Read more

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Chickens: Week One

It’s been two whole days since I wrote about my chickens. Two days! Do you know how difficult it is not to just talk chicken all the time? Since they have taken up residence in my laundry room, every trip for a pair of sock, devolves into a fifteen minute (at least) on-your-knees-over-the-brooder-oogling-chicks session. It’s not limited to oogling though. There is fawning, petting, fussing, handling, photographing, and general chicken harassment at every opportunity.

The chickens are here to stay. They’ve got their own blog category. It’s official.

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My newb chicken thoughts, not even a week in go something like this. Every sentence here could be ended with the words ‘so far’. Feel free to add it as a fun game.

Not So Bad. Other than general man-handling (chick-handling?), these babies are pretty low maintenance. There’s a warm box in my laundry room that peeps. That’s mostly it. I could probably get away with checking them a couple times a day, but what fun would that be? A water change and food once a day, adding or fluffing some bedding. That’s about it. So far. (See how that works?)

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Chicken TV. They have this regular eat, drink, sleep, poop cycle, on a 30 minute loop. It’s a closed circuit channel, but endlessly entertaining nonetheless. They are basic little creatures. I realized pretty quickly that meeting their needs was going to be easy. Temperature hasn’t been exactly right, more in the 90-91 degrees as opposed to the 95 recommended. I haven’t stressed about it, because the girls are plenty warm. Not huddling, moving about their pen just fine. They’d let me know.

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Poop. Honestly, there’s not as much as I thought there would be. I seem to have over estimated the poo factor, which is an absolute first. That’s lucky. No smell. I’ve added shavings here and there. Mostly I’ve just mixed what is already there to keep it fresh. It’s actually less trouble than a litter box.

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Not Fans. It pains me to admit it. These chicks aren’t exactly in love with me. As smitten as I am with them, when I show up they close ranks and give me the stink eye.

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I’m not going to lie. It hurts my feelings a little that my love is unrequited. I’ll persevere. We’ve still had our moments.

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Dogs. Like the poop, not as bad as I thought it would be. Dogs visit chickens. Chickens look at dogs. A big non-event. We won’t be having snuggling sessions anytime soon. This is strictly a chaperoned affair. Frothing and at the mouth and lunging toward chicken nuggets has been notably absent however.

Incoming. I know next week will bring increasingly less cute baby chickens. They get bigger fast. I need to get a wire lid on their brooder, figure out when they switch to different food formula, finish the damn coop, and keep up my torment PR Campaign. We’ve only just begun. I’ll try not to subject you to a weekly chicken blow by blow. I’m not promise anything though. Be thankful you aren’t my coworkers. Coworkers who are all to happy to volunteer for eggs that don’t exist yet. Seriously people, get your own chickens!

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That’s about it. So far. There’s been a whole lot of pestering on my part. Eat, drink, sleep, poop, and PANIC! on theirs. Successful relationships have been build on less.

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Anniversaries

Dogs or Dollars in it’s current iteration has existed for 6 months (Yay!), which means I’ve been back at Corporate America for 9 (Yikes!). Ever since my less than triumphant return, I’ve been thinking about this as a two year plan. It’s been my inner pep talk actually. “You can totally do this for two years. Just two years.” Am I almost 1/2 way there? The days drag, but the time flies, if that makes any sense. Where does the time go? More importantly, what am I doing with it?

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What do my books on my dusty bookshelves have to do with anniversaries or even journeys? Not a darn thing. I needed a picture, and it wasn’t a pug.

If it’s really going to be ‘just two years’, I gotta have some sort of game plan, an exit strategy. I was just re-reading the lessons learned I wrote 3 months in to my current term of employ. Largely, I still agree with all that. Although, as time wears on, my glasses are less rosy. I have to work harder to appreciate my Corporate Servitude. They (the Corporate they) just saw fit to give me a raise, and not one, but two bonuses. That takes care of my tax problem, and funds my 401(k) just that much more. Hooray…? I am an ungrateful cretin. Money is swell and all, but I have a hard time being excited, when I don’t feel the money has anything to do with me. I’m less invested in my job than I’ve ever been. Can’t anyone even tell?

As I think about leaving and plot my escape from Alcatraz, here are the realities I continually butt up against.

The Husband’s Employment Situation. It’s not getting any better. He is fortunate in that he is still working at all. Since the first of the year though, it’s been weeks off and weeks on. Unreliable to say the least. I’m done worrying about it. If I have to do my forty, I’d just as soon have him home. We’ve got projects galore, and life is generally more pleasant when one of us is around for appointments, errands and general house up-keep. Granted, I’d like that person to be me, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Money as a Motivator. Doesn’t work for me. Sure, I like money, and I certainly want to keep my boat a float. Personal investment is what it’s really about though. That’s why I worked so much harder for $15/hour than I do for my ridiculous hourly wage now. That’s why I scoff at bonuses and raises. Beyond generally having ‘enough’, it’s not about money.

A Second Leap. I find myself drawn to these grandiose acts. Do I really need a plan? Sometimes I think I don’t. As I look back at how we actually were surviving before, it fuels my faith that I am infinitely capable. At least when it comes to the fine art of figuring it out. If I leapt, before I looked I’d still land somewhere else. Maybe not where I set out to, but that can happen anyway, even with months (or in this case years) of intricate scheming. In other words, I’m trying not to get stuck in analysis paralysis. If I never figure out the perfect way to leave, I still need to leave.

If those are the realities, that The Husband’s income is variable, that I won’t be happy with my job regardless of what they pay me, and that we will, in fact, survive, how do I incorporate those into my plans? You’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

Lower Cost of Living. My most active pursuit. How can I get our base operating costs low enough to compensate for The Husband’s current employment situation and my own lack of motivation for money? How can I do that with things like Dog Spending, Grocery Budgets, and Big Fat Mortgages? This is why I can’t quite give up on refinancing. Currently, it offers the most bag for my buck in exchange for the pain in hiney it has already proven to be. If I want to get really honest, we should probably move. Perhaps, even engage in some sort of short-sell situation. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. For now, we will refinance, which stands to lower our expenses about $400/month.

No Money Now. As in, there isn’t any. With our significantly higher income, I still struggle. That’s on purpose. Mostly. I don’t want to have gobs of disposable income. I’ll just find things to spend it on. I’m no longer considering this level of income ‘normal’ so I’m tying it up in savings, really big car payments, and projects.

Self Sufficiency. Speaking of both projects and lower costs of living, I am using this time of plenty to develop some handy skills. Handy skills that should come in, well handy, when there is less money rolling in. Skills like chicken raising, gardening, thrifting, bartering, food preservation, and amassing my stockpile of canning jars. Even on the cheap, all this costs money. Right now it’s an exercise in building my frugal arsenal, and laying the ground work for a cheaper life with more time.

What Career? You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Nope still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Is Dogs or Dollars really the question anymore? Somehow, I’m not letting such a trivial thing like “work” stop me. Peh. Work. Schmerk. What ever happen to sabbaticals, I ask you? I guess that’s referred to as ‘unemployment’ now. I’m leaning toward the idea of time. Time to think and plot and chat. Time to write my own agenda. Time not in a cubicle to (once again) figure it out.

Hard Work. All of it. It’s hard. Schlepping myself to the office everyday and sitting there for eight hours is it’s own special brand of hell. A uniquely different brand than dealing with irate Pet Store customers, which is still completely separate from trying so hard and still killing your tomatoes for reasons beyond your control. Whatever you do, its difficult and will be frustrating. Any of it. All of it. Sometimes. We get caught up in ‘if only’, but that gets us nowhere. Remember that it’s all going to require hard work to get where you’re going, and when you get there, it’s still going to be hard work.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Months and month of blogging and indentured servitude, all I can do is keep making the small decisions, that will hopefully lead to the success of much bigger ones. Maybe this will take longer than 2 years. Maybe I’ll make some completely different call between now and then. Maybe, I’ll even come to terms with my Corporate Destiny and stay put.

Not bloody likely.

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Making Food for Dogs

When I wrote about Dog Food, I acknowledged Homemade Meals, as an option, one I don’t pursue. I basically set the topic aside, and that was that. That’s not entirely true though. I’ve cooked for my dogs in the past, and I’m currently having to do so again, for one of my girls.

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Shredded Veggies and Quinoa

I felt it necessary to remove home cooked options from the larger Commercial Diet discussion, because in my opinion – which is all this ever is, it involves completely different concepts.

Thoughts on Nutrition. Kibble, Raw, or Canned, they all have one thing in common. They are 100% nutritionally complete. In order to be on the market as a ‘complete diet’ a food has to meet certain vitamin, mineral, protein, etc., standards. If they don’t meet these standards, they have to be labeled ‘for supplemental feeding’, which tends to freak out consumers. Most manufacturers want to avoid this label.

Let’s think about that for a minute. Every meal we feed our dogs is 100% nutritionally complete every time. Is everything you eat nutritionally complete? I know that’s not true for me. It depends on how you want to think about nutrition. Is nutrition a straight line? Providing the same level of nutrients day in and day out. Or is it more of a wavy line? Some days you get this, some days you get that, but overall it balances out.

Kibble or any commercial diet is that straight line. Homemade diets are curvy. Yes, there are vitamin packs you could buy to basically eliminate this difference. That would kind of defeat the purpose. With homemade diets and that squiggly line, we have the benefit of providing our pets nutrition from real sources, not from a synthetic powder made in China. By the way, almost all vitamin packs are made in China. A small percentage come from Europe.

There is some school of thought that we are actually doing our dogs a disservice by providing them this perfect nutrition on the daily. We are forcing their bodily systems to process too many vitamins and minerals without giving them the natural breaks they would get if they were eating a little of this one day and a little of that the next. The breaks that we get. The breaks they would get if they were the opportunistic scavengers they are supposed to be. Is that over working of the systems leading (or at least contributing to) an epidemic of kidney problems? Liver problems? Pancreatitis? Or any of the hundred other common ailments we find in our pet dogs?

The point here is one has to be cognizant and aware when feeding their dog a homemade diet, that they are bucking the system from a nutritional standpoint. Complete nutrition on a daily (or weekly or monthly) basis is your responsibility. Concerns about this can be augmented if you include some commercial food in their diet. Weekly or every few days. In my opinion (note the caveat) that should be sufficient.

What to feed. Nutritional diatribe aside, what are the nuts and bolts of a homemade diet? I am not going to provide a complete how-to. It’s not my expertise, and each individual needs to make their own calls. In broad brushstrokes though, first familiarize yourself with bad juju. Everyone pretty much knows about chocolate and grapes and raisins and onions. I’d also avoid excessive amounts of fatty meats or skin, cured meats, cooked bones, and too much salt. Obviously any thing your dog is allergic to in kibble format (chicken, grains, what have you) should be excluded from their home prepared meals as well. Beyond that though, the sky is the limit. Raw or cooked? Your call. Rice or Quinoa or sweet potatoes? You decide. What veggies do you have in your fridge tonight? I know people who prepare their dog’s meal right along side their own, with a few substitutions made.

In general, a home made diet should consist of 3 things: protein, carbs, fruits/veggies. With the fourth and fifth runner-ups being calcium and Essential Fatty Acids. On the protein front, I would never made their meal less that 50% meat (or eggs or a combination there of). Ideally, that meat source should be as close to the ‘whole animal’ as possible. Meaning it includes organ meat and connective tissue, and ground bone for that calcium. We aren’t talking boneless skinless chicken breast here. Divide up the other half between carbs and veggies. And always, always make sure your dog is getting some calcium from egg shells or bones (raw, not cooked).

What we do. The veggies and quinoa pictured above are being added to a purchased raw ground meat and bone product. The veggie mix is parsley, kale, fennel, carrots, burdock root, and a little leftover purple cabbage. We are moving one of our girls to this diet at the direction of our Holistic Vet (love them!). I expect we will be moving more of the pack to a similar formulation in the future. Currently we subscribe to a ‘never run out of dog food’ mentality. If the kibble is gone or the raw isn’t defrosted, I’ve been known to cook up eggs and oatmeal and veggies and yogurt. Viola! Dog Dinner! We also seek out those “scary”, ‘supplemental feeding-only’ nutritionally incomplete products. Because things don’t need to be be 100% all the time. ‘Perfect’ nutrition just shouldn’t exist in my opinion. We all need an imperfect meal now and again, dogs included. Sometimes it’s frozen sardine and cottage cheese (ewww!) or tripe and yams (even better!) or their weekly raw bones on Movie Night.

I have friends who make stew for their dogs with chicken carcasses, veggies and the whole she-bang. Others that add whole food ingredients to their dogs kibble. Whatever you do on the home cooking front, great! I think the important part here is to do something. Add whole foods. Vary their diets. Embrace nutrition as a journey, not something you get with each and every scoop.

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