Monday, September 29, 2008

Naughty Sunshine

Téa is my little naughty sunshine. I mean, how can you not adore a dog who makes this face when you are trying to study pharmacokinetics?

I try to do something "Just for her" every weekend I'm not in Kansas City. (Don't get me wrong, she also gets at least two walks a day and multiple dog cookies) This weekend was pretty warm so I took her to the lake for a swim.

On the walk down to the lake I was blissfully unaware that cockle burrs are in season and by the time we made it to the water she had about thirty of them in the most uncomfortable spots. I pulled them out of her fur since I didn't want them to make her swim time unhappy.
I think she had a good time, what do you think?

On the way back up to the car she looked so pretty in the afternoon sun that I wanted to get a really good picture of her. I told her to sit and kept dancing around and calling her so she would look my way. She obstinately wanted to look the other direction and I was getting really frustrated with her.
The best picture I got was this one:

You have probably noticed what I didn't and you can almost see it in the look on her face, "Duh, there's a huge cool bird I want to go chase over there." Frankly, I'm amazed she sat for even a second.

She sprang away a moment later and barked all the way up to where the Heron had been. Of course, he was well away by that time, but she had found a better prize and promptly started rolling in it-a huge half-eaten catfish.

She had also picked up some more cockle burrs and even though I encouraged her back into the water after her swim, when I went to pull burrs out of her fur by the car I found they were ground full of dead fish. My car smelled terrific on the way home too. Well, at least in my precious dog's opinion!

I think she had a great time- check out the look of satisfaction in a day's work well done. Gotta love that naughty sunshine!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fiber Happiness

Here is one of the things I love about Kansas. I got it in my head that I wanted to know how wool and other fibers make it to an actual garment. In Kansas, not only can you learn this stuff, but you can actually see each step done, even meeting the animals!

I've been learning to do a myriad of cool things with fiber at a local shop called Settlers Farm that is owned by my Master's advisor's wife. Check out their site here. First I learned to spin fiber, and next I took a crochet class. Here is my fourth crochet project. I'm really excited about the way it turned out.

Yesterday I went to visit Cedar Breaks Alpaca farm which is owned by one of my Master's committee members and his wife. Check them out here. I had a great time and bought an entire alpaca blanket! I spun up some of the fiber and started the cuffs for some mittens for myself. It is soooo soft.
Hmmm... I'd be willing to bet I buy more fiber before too long... Now if only I had a spinning wheel!
Here's me with my unprepared Alpaca blanket:

Some of the fiber I spun up later that day (it's rather lumpy, but I'm absurdly happy with it anyway):

The cuff of my to-be-completed mitten, made with yarn from previous picture: (address for pattern I'm using is here.)

Automatic Litter box Tutorial

When we got an automatic Litter box I thought it was great. We have 2 cats and two regular boxes in addition to the automatic one, but the cats love a clean box. (who can blame them?!) I love how the lid closes over the catching container and traps all the smells.
But the darn thing was really hard to clean. My male cat who is big and adorable is also not the smartest and would pee all over the entry area instead of in the box. The tiny little container didn't hold that much either. I was ready to pitch the whole thing when I found a fabulous solution. Now you couldn't tear my automatic litter box from my cold, dead hands and our guest bedroom doesn't smell like pee. I suspect the cats like it too, since they use it more than both the other boxes combined. (Please excuse any litter box dirtiness in this tutorial. The box needs to be washed, I know.)

First thing to do is cut the bottom out of one of the plastic container things. It's important to keep the corners intact where the container sits on little plastic bars that jut out from the litter box. If you cut the corners out the container won't stay anchored and will fall out. We learned that the hard way. :)

Then, we made a little pee guard and hot glued it to the trap door that seals the used litter container. We used the flexible plastic cover off a mead notebook. I think it's helpful that the plastic is light so the weight doesn't mess with the action of the trap door. I used hot glue because I wanted it to be removable in case it got really dirty or damaged.

Here's another view:
Then, you need a box to put under the whole litter box. We used an underbed box with wheels. Cut a hole that has the same inside dimensions of the used litter container. I also put some rug anti-slip matting on top so my litter box won't slide around.

Then, place a big sturdy bag into the plastic used litter container thing. We use Target bags because they are really tough and don't rip like cheaper grocery bags. Is there anything Target can't do?! Because we don't make enough trips to target to keep up a supply, I will re-use this bag by dumping it's contents into a cheaper bag. One Target bag for 2 cats can last a week. We do have 2 other litter boxes, but this one gets the most use by far. Make sure you leave a fair bit of the target bag wrapped over the edge of the container.

Finally, settle the plastic container and its bag into the litter box like you normally would and set the whole litter box so that the plastic bag hangs into the hole in the underbed box. The litter will drop considerably farther into the deeper bag and the plastic flap will keep the not-so-bright kitty from peeing on the entry area. But wait- the pee guard has made it difficult for your kitty to get into the box. Easy to fix. I oriented the box to encourage my cat to enter from the other side. However, pressure on the side opposite of the entry gate area caused the litter box to be tippy. Above all, I do not want my cats to be scared of their litter box. So I set a box under the corner of the litter box to make it sturdy. It also acts as a step into the box. This particular box is a board game.
I wrapped the box in an old bath mat as the nap of the mat catches a lot of litter that the cats track out. I can shake the mat into the box to clean it off. Here's a picture of the whole setup with everything in place.

I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you come up with any useful variations, I would love to hear about them.