Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Puppies and Mailing Lists

Since there's been some talk about newsletters lately, I thought I'd mention again that we have one too.

Unlike this blog (which combines family and work life), there's a bit more focus.
It's mostly rocket-mass-heater-related updates, especially workshops and events we're involved with, but I do share other things we're particularly excited about including boat stuff, appropriate technology, and permaculture.
So far the newsletter has been sporadic, but we just crossed into pay-as-you-go numbers (we had been hosted for free until now).
So we hope to get up to once-a-month posting or so, maybe even more in the coming months when we launch our Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide on Kickstarter. 
Here's the link to sign up for our newsletter if you're interested: ErnieAndErica Mailing List Signup

If you'd rather just browse our past updates at your convenience, we have a blog called "Ernie and Erica's Joint Adventure" at  We post here more often than we release the newsletter.
Our general schedule is at: 
I was quoted this week on a cool architecture blog called "Misfits," which inspired me with visions of ancient Persia.  The middle east contains working examples of utterly amazing pre-industrial civilizations, or maybe early industrial depending on whether you define it by repetitive specialized processing, or by the use of fossil fuels. They made full use of solar and wind and radiant cooling and gravity-fall power, to the point where they had "passive solar" (actively human-managed) ice houses in the desert.  Fuels were scarce and therefore not widely used to solve problems that could be handled with other methods.

So if mud fences, plus bubbling fountains, plus ice cream on 100-degree-days, plus waterproofing with edible materials is your idea of permaculture, take a look at these "It's Not Rocket Science" topics.

Further Puppy Updates

This puppy we found east of Omak is a remarkably good dog, with potential for farm or family jobs.  We hope that it's just a question of finding the farmer who was starting his training a little early.  I'm coming to understand that puppy-dumping is all too common around here, despite the free availability of spay/neuter assistance through the cat shelter.
Ernie and I have travel commitments for at least 2 plane trips this year, so even though we appreciate this dog's excellence, we could not responsibly care for a dog without help.  Please me know if you might want to be a second home (or the primary home) for a smart puppy with good small-stock-dog or family-dog potential. 
My best case is that his owners call in about a week, after we've had a chance to enjoy him but before he interferes with other work. 

My next-best case is that someone we know adopts him, and we can visit; I'd like to see him settled with a regular family or some farm work to keep him useful.  I think I'd keep him if I can figure out how to do it without seriously stunting his lovely personality, nor shirking our work.

Puppy Profile:

Ernie guesses he is about 6 weeks old, currently 8 or 10 lbs - about like a big cat. We plan to give the owners a couple of weeks to claim him before finding him a permanent home. 

Puppy might do very well with some work to do, small animals to herd, other pets or kids to play with.  He's remarkably easy on car trips (falls asleep, or cuddles), and likes to lie near but not under my feet.

Behavior so far suggests a "beta" personality - smart, good at taking orders, a nice balance of curious and mellow.  Sociable with strangers, but knows who he's with.  He romps a little and sleeps a lot, I guess that's a puppy for you.  Time will tell whether he needs active challenges, or if he's content to become a sleeps-at-the-feet office dog.

So far he has not shown the hyper-OCD personality of some full-blood border collies, he's just alert and observant when he's not asleep.  But he does seem to pick up on "the rules" pretty quickly for a crittur who still doesn't know what his tail is.  Our cats have taken an interest in his training (by means of the velvet-gloved fist), and he learns quick.  Everyone is getting along pretty well. 

My only concern would be what he has learned from his first adventure on the highway.  The venture has brought access to Ernie's cooking and a seemingly-inexhaustible supply of dust bunnies to play with.  
He might not learn his lesson, and be prone to go exploring.
He's very good at fishing out odds and ends from 3-year-old Christmas crafts from among the baseboards.

My floor has not been this clean in years.  ;-)
p.s. Anyone who knows just how much we travel for work can see our dilemma. 
This little guy has already handled meeting strange people, about 8 hours in the car without complaint or accident, cats as big as he is, a change of diet, snow-camping toilet conditions, and sleeping through the night by himself in a strange place. 

And while we're far from puppy-proof he is batting over 500 on playing with appropriate stuff.  Which, in a 6-week-old puppy, seems a minor miracle. 

I do think he has some Border Collie in him.  He seems to have an instinct for rules.  While he doesn't follow them 100%, he tends to pick things we've approved for play in the past, like sticks and orange peels, over things we've disapproved, like electrical cords.  It's a challenge to me to be consistent, to think through what rules I need him to learn if he were to stay with us.  He'd need to get along well on farms, or with a family, given that our travels involve both.
So if we were ever going to get a dog, this may be the ultimate candidate.

To train a good dog into an excellent one, we'd need more than dog-sitting - we'd need some time-share puppy buddies, who could continue with training and care while we're gone on any trip that can't accommodate a puppy.  Or a new, permanent home where he can be loved and useful, and we can visit. 
If he is Border Collie, he might need some small livestock to herd around, or a similar job to do, to be as happy as a smart dog deserves to be.  All we have for small livestock around here are cats and ageing biddy hens, and one horse.  But he seems more mellow, with shorter hair than the Internet's border collie puppy pictures.
Same cute nose, though.

I'm hoping his original owners get ahold of us, because it's going to be a tough decision otherwise.


"I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make
it shorter."
- Blaise Pascal, 1657