fri, 23-apr-2010, 17:58

beds

Piper, Kiva, Koidern

Kiva died today as a result of an inflammatory disease that we couldn’t bring under control, and the pain this was causing her. She was a little over seven years old.

We got Kiva from the Fairbanks Animal Shelter in November 2004 when she was only a year and a half old. She’d been abandoned because she “didn’t want to be a sled dog” by the same musher who had previously abandoned Piper. Throughout her life she was a super energetic dog that had a hard time staying still, loved sprint racing, and was the best fetching dog I’ve ever seen. She was great with people, and seemed to be completely in love with the cats (our old cats Ivan and Alexi and the new kittens we got late last year). We sometimes called her “devil dog” for her personality, dark coloration and bright blue eyes. Unfortunately, she didn’t get along with Piper, and started four major fights. The latest fight, two weeks ago, happened in the house, and we think it was because her pain was increasing. We finally decided that it was time to say goodbye.

As much as we love Kiva and all the energy she brought to our household, we struggled with her disease and her fighting. We agonized about euthanizing her for years, and even more over the last couple weeks since her latest fight, and we finally decided that it isn’t fair to her to be living with enough pain that she’s intolerant of the other dogs and can’t go to the bathroom normally, and it’s not fair to the other dogs (or us) to be placed in a situation where they might get injured or killed. I wish there had been something else we could have tried, some treatment or medication that would have made her happy and peaceful.

Some things I remember about her:

  • Whenever she was excited she’d run in counter-clockwise circles, over and over again.
  • She liked coming with me when I went out to the red cabin to get beer.
  • We played fetch with her using chunks of wood when we lived on Whistling Swan and bought a Chuck-It so we could throw it all the way down the dog yard or driveway here on Railroad Drive.
  • She loved it when we changed the kitchen garbage.
  • She was the only dog that would howl, usually before races.
  • She hated water and would go well out of her way to avoid stepping in puddles.
  • She went absolutely crazy when there were dogs outside the dog yard.
  • She got so excited before races that she’d chew the lines and would slam forward, rock back and slam forward the entire time at the line.
  • She was a nervous little dog that scared easily.

We miss her.

tags: memorial  Kiva  Koidern 
sun, 31-jan-2010, 16:41

Utility area doors

Utility area doors

We’ve been wanting to let the kittens into the rest of the house for several weeks now, but when we got close to letting them downstairs we realized they could get into all sorts of trouble in the utility area in the bathroom where the water heater, pump, and washing machine are. Worse, if they got in there, they could climb around behind the shower and tub surround and we’d have no way of getting them out.

So I built the doors you can see in the photo. They’re made from clear pine. I’d originally planned on using “pocket-screw technology,” on the doors, but when driving the pocket screws from the back of the rails into the styles, they cracked the styles. I wound up using glue and dowels instead, and they seem solid. I was a little worried because the doors were so large, but they’re flat and slide easily in the tracks I made.

The image looks a little warped because it's a series of photos that are joined together using the AutoStitch iPhone app. It's a pretty good alternative when you don't have a wide angle lens.

Today was the first day the kittens came downstairs (except once when Jenson escaped), and things seemed to go well. Nika and Piper have been spending nights with all of us, so they’re used to the kittens. Buddy and Deuce mostly seemed afraid. Koidern and Kiva were both very interested, and spent the whole time cautiously following the kittens around. After an hour or so we put the kittens back upstairs to let everyone relax. I opened up the gates again this afternoon and captured this video of Kiva’s interaction with Tallys (and a little of Jenson). Tallys is the one rolling around on the floor in front of the heater, seemingly trying to play with Kiva’s feet.

The music (which was playing on the stereo as I recorded the video on my iPhone) is from Four Tet's latest record.

tags: dogs  Jenson  kittens  Kiva  Tallys 
sat, 28-mar-2009, 19:50
Kiva howling

The first day’s racing is over and all the dogs are happy and healthy. There isn’t a four-dog class in Tok, so Andrea borrowed Rubus and Vive from Bonnie to make up a six-dog team. Buddy ran lead with Rubus, Koidern and Piper ran in swing, and Kiva and Vive where at the back of the team. It was 14°F when the first team went out, so the sun hadn’t started warming things up. Andrea went around the track in 18 minutes 39 seconds, which was good enough for 15th out of 25.

Bonnie raced in the eight-dog class, but the results of the first day were thrown out because the first musher on the trail went through a fence, and a series of other mushers failed to make the proper turn with the fence missing. It’s somewhat of an unprecedented move to invalidate the first day of racing.

The photo is of Kiva howling before the race.

tags: dogs  Kiva  mushing  Tok  truck 
thu, 10-apr-2008, 14:32

Brewing Barking Buddy

barking buddy boil, blizzard

Still on vacation. I just finished brewing my second batch of beer in the last week. It was originally called “Barking Buddy”, named after our biggest sled dog Buddy, but because of the heavy snow we’ve been getting today, I decided to rename it “Barking Buddy Blizzard Bitter.” All this snow is odd because early last week we had daytime highs in the 50s and the snow on the ground was rapidly melting. Suddenly, it looks a lot more like winter than spring. The top photo shows the start of the boil; that’s Buddy in the dog yard in the background of the photo.

Devil Dog Rye IPA fermented nicely over the past week, going from a gravity of 1.086 down to 1.022 at transfer to the secondary fermenter (a keg). I left for a funeral the day after I brewed it and put Andrea in charge of monitoring the temperature and the location of the fermentation chamber’s insulated lid. I removed the lid the morning after brewing because the yeast was going crazy and the wort temperature was up to 75°F. The wort was pitched on top of the yeast cake from the primary fermentation of my previous batch, and that’s why I got such a rapid fermentation and high temperature despite the high starting gravity. I was worried that there might be some off-flavors from the heat, but the beer tasted really good when I transferred it so I think it’ll be OK. Without Andrea’s help, it probably would have either gotten even hotter (if I’d left the lid on) or gotten too cold and I would have returned from Chicago to a stuck fermentation.

Today’s brew was relatively uneventful. I got another very high mash efficiency (85%!) this time around. As I mentioned in my last brewing post, I suspect this is due to my new mill, but it could also be the longer mashing times I’ve used, or the change in base malt (Castle Pale to Crisp Maris Otter). I’m happy that my yields are back up again, but it’s unfortunate that I changed all three variables at the same time so I can’t positively assign a cause to the improvement. I also hit my target pitching temperature of 66°F on the nose this time, so I’m finally getting the hang of the pump I’m using to circulate cold water through the plate chiller. It’s all good.

Two beds, three dogs

two beds, three dogs

The second photo shows Kiva’s reaction to the dog beds being occupied. Buddy has a tendency to stretch himself out across two beds, and when Koidern nestled in next to Buddy there was no room for Kiva. But rather than moving to one of the other beds we’ve got, she wedged in behind Koidern. In the photo she’s giving Koidern the stink-eye, trying to get her to move. Didn’t work, and eventually all three went to sleep all packed together on the two beds.

One more day of vacation until the weekend. I’m looking forward to smoking salmon, working on a side table for Andrea, and relaxing.

tags: beer  brewing  Buddy  Kiva  Koidern  snow  spring 
thu, 03-apr-2008, 15:09

Chilling

chilling devil dog

I’m between jobs right now, so I took advantage of the vacation and spring weather to brew a batch of rye India pale ale, Devil Dog. It’s named after our dog Kiva and is a rich, copper colored beer with lots of alcohol and a nice balance between malt and hops. Three pounds of rye (to twelve pounds of pale malt and a pound and a half of crystal malts) adds a subtle hint of spicy earthiness. This is the third time I’ve brewed it, but I got an unexpectedly good yield, so it’ll be stronger than past incarnations.

My normal brewing efficiency has hovered around 70% for many years, but has been falling over the past five or six batches. I think this was partly due to some bad base malt, and partly due to a worn out mill. I got a new sack of Crisp Maris Otter, and replaced my old mill with a Monster 3-roller Mill. Initially, I was having trouble with whole grains getting stuck between the upper passive roller and the wooden base that supports the mill. When this happened, the mill would seize because the passive roller couldn’t spin. My solution was to cut a piece of sheet metal (a tin can, actually) to span the gap between the base and the passive roller, so that all the grains are fed directly between the two top rollers. So adjusted, the mill is fantastic. My last two batches have had yields of 79 and 81%, and I had no trouble sparging this recipe, even with three pounds of rye malt in the mash.

Kiva

kiva

The top photo shows my current chilling setup. I leave a 55-gallon barrel of water (the barrel up on the deck) out overnight to get cold, and pump this cold water through my plate chiller (on the steps) into a second barrel (the one on the ground). The beer drains by gravity through the other half of the chiller into the fermentation bucket. I monitor the temperature as the wort exits the chiller, and keep an eye on the temperature in the bucket with a digital meat thermometer. In my last batch I had trouble with the chiller cooling the boiling wort to much because the water was very close to freezing. But this time I figured out the correct combination of pump speed and output valve setting so I could adjust the temperature of the chilled wort without stalling the pump. Once the Creek thaws (it’s right behind the cabin), I’ll be able to use it for chilling instead of hauling my own chilling water.

Assuming the yeast is up to the task of this 1.086 gravity wort, I should be enjoying a pint of Devil Dog in six to eight weeks.


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