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Archive for the 'Labrador Retriever' Category

Running Through Bluestem

January 17th, 2009

Well the blast of colder weather is giving way to normal winter temps.  I love being outside and training with a little snowfall on the ground.  There was a couple hours of flurries, just enough to brighten the landscape.  It looked like a big snowstorm was coming, but after a while the snow dwindled to tiny flakes again.  The Little Bluestem around the field really brightens the view. 

Falling snow across field of Little Bluestem

The Bluestem also makes for great hiding places.  Yesterday I went out for some training with the yellow lab- it was a cold, breezy 11 degrees F, but he had a grand time, and I did too. He’s been cooped up inside (with the rest of us!) for too long,  and was getting antsy.   They’re such strong, muscular animals that they really need exercise, and he loves running in the field. 

Yellow Labrador Retriever training in winter field

 The orange colored “dummies” I throw for him are difficult to find sometimes, but he has an amazing ability to figure out where they are even if I don’t help direct him.  Sometimes I’ll have him sit at the edge of the field while I meander through it, dropping training dummies in various places so that he doesn’t see.  Then I’ll come back and send him off in one direction to look for them- he’ll start a search pattern like he’s running in the above picture, and use his nose to find them.  We are not at the point where he will follow my hand signals, but he will come back towards me with a certain whistle, and then head out again on command. Eventually he finds them all.  The big pup runs back with such enthusiasm! 

 2-year old Yellow Lab retrieving

Today is bright and sunny, and my younger brother is in town.  He came back from the middle east last month, and has taken time to see the family members- he looks really good! 

Sunday Friends

January 11th, 2009

After many clouds and colder weather we are enjoying a beautiful sunny day.  It’s hard not to think of spring on days like this, and I’m already feeling behind with garden planning and a host of outdoor projects.   I think some people just feel that way all the time, and like it or not I’m one of them.   Time to gather some more firewood too since we’re already working down the last two piles really fast.  This week promises to be very cold again. 

Yesterday I replenished our bird feeders and put up one more.  So that makes four feeders near the house and the birds seem to appreciate the free buffet.   I’m sure they would be fine by themselves, but I just like to have feed available especially on those bitterly cold days and nights.  And it’s fun to watch the lively activity around the house, especially during the gray days of winter.  We get at least a dozen species, but the finches and juncos seem to be the most common.

Finches and Juncos below the bird feeder

And the yellow lab really enjoys being outside in winter, and always finds something fun to do.  Would that my spirit soared as constantly as his… he’s always ready to go with such unbridled enthusiasm.   The young boy took this picture of him while we were looking for the right Christmas tree to cut down for his grandmother last month.  That was a fun afternoon.  We’re still looking for the snow, and a chance to really play!

Yellow Labrador Retriever

Cold Weather and Catching Up

December 16th, 2008

Let it snow!  The landscape is beautiful after a light patch of snowy weather came through the area. Not enough for a snowman, but just enough to appreciate even though the roads are a mess. It’s early morning, and a travel show is playing in the background on the television.  Looks like Australia… one day I’d like to spend the holidays in the land of the kangaroo.  It looks really warm…

Not warm here though, with temperatures in the teens and the high well below freezing. We’re going through firewood like crazy. The birds appreciate the feeders in this weather, and are gathered all around the house.

Light snow in December in Missouri

Did you see the full moon last Friday?  It was beautiful, and big!  It rose slowly beyond the trees, and seemed to grow larger and larger for the next hour or two.  It was one of those magical, clear nights.  Seems I’ve taken to the moon in recent months… either that or we’ve just had clear weather on bright moonlit nights.  So in case you missed it, here it is again.

 December Full Moon in Missouri

I saw a Bald Eagle circling slowly overhead last week too.  We don’t see them often, but they usually arrive in Missouri this time of year on the way to our rivers and lakes.  Here they can take refuge in open water areas where they can still find food.  Most of Missouri’s rivers and lakes remain free of ice through winter, and if they do freeze it only lasts for a week or two.

Bald Eagle circling in the sky

Closer to home our little kitty is growing up fast.  And she still loves to play with the yellow lab- who also loves to play with her.  She claws and chews and pulls and smacks him with her paws… and he doesn’t even seem to notice it.  I think he secretly enjoys the attention, and they’ve become buddies. He doesn’t even mind sharing his bone.  Isn’t she a neat cat?Her name is Spotty… she has six large black spots on her white coat (I wanted to call her Domino!). 

Yellow Lab and Cat

Speaking of attention… something really got mine the other day.  Have you ever heard of “Floam”?  It’s a kid’s toy, supposedly akin to Playdough.  Ever used it? I think it was invented by someone with a warped sense of humor.  It comes in very attractive, colorful packages.  We’ve had a few lying around for a while.  The young boy was home sick last week, the day we spent cleaning his room.  He decided to play with a tub of pink Floam.  Good idea I thought, something to keep him busy.  I was wrong… very wrong.

Floam- an icky, sticky mess

I mean this stuff is downright nasty.  Could be that it doesn’t age very well.  But once it’s on your (supposedly wet) hands, it’s there for a long, long time.  The boy finally said, “Yuck! This stuff is too sticky… it won’t make anything!”  Whoever thought goop and recycled styrofoam balls would make a good toy?  You need water to wash it off your hands, but who’s going to wash styrofoam down the sink? I can’t imagine a worse clog.  So I carefully picked his fingers clean with a wet paper towel, and then he kept trying to wash them clean.   After which we collected all the Floam tubs and out they went, right into the trash.  I honestly don’t know how the company makes any money from the stuff.  Maybe there’s a secret to it, but if Floam is around in a few years I’ll be very surprised.  But if you have a different experience, I’d love to hear about it.  Ah well, when Santa comes there will be other toys to play with.   

Changing the subject again, I had to share a picture of the sun on the pond.  So different from today’s snowfall. It was late afternoon last week as the ice was melting, and the picture came out with a neat blaze from the bright sunlight.  Not a very good picture really, but it was just so bright and…  well I would say warm, but it wasn’t.  It just looked warm! 

Sunlight on Fox Haven Pond

And by the way, are you still around Ron?  Have a feeling you’re moving the site to a new home. Time to catch up on a few more indoor projects this week.  I hope everyone is staying warm!

Ramblings and Remembrance

December 7th, 2008

Brrr…. okay, winter seems to have come early this year.  Getting a lot more done inside, but at this rate we’ll be through our woodpile by the end of January.  Which is a good month and half sooner than expected!  That’s okay, just means I’ll need to split a little more on the nice days; most of it is seasoned already as unsplit rounds.   But next year?  We’ll really need to get busy.   The pond has been wavering between ice and open water the past few days.  The boy and the yellow lab are both curious, and sometimes the designs in the ice are fascinating.

Boy and Yellow Lab looking at pond ice

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It’s time again also for the Festival of the Trees!  Mary at A Neotropical Savanna has put together a beautiful theme and collection of shared thoughts relating to the world of trees. 

“This issue of Festival of the Trees comes after a month of autumn color in parts of the northern hemisphere and at the beginning of a month of snow and thoughts of Christmas trees, whether you celebrate it or not. There seems to be something about this time of year that prompts reflection…”

Reflection indeed.  I love reading about the thoughts and creative endeavors of so many others throughout the world.  After all, it’s our shared Nature isn’t it? 

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Time also to wish a hearty Congrats! to all you Oklahoma fans out there for the Big 12 Championship win last night.  We had better hopes for Missouri– and they have been great this season- but the Sooners are almost playing in a different league.  That and the front-end guys on the OK offensive line, I think their height ranges from 6’4″ to 6’8″ with an average weight over 310 pounds!  And that’s college football?!   It’s still fun to see- I enjoy watching a few of the bowl games over the holidays, and catching the spirit of the schools and students.   And lest I forget, Congratulations to Navy on Saturday for their big win over Army.  That’s a game of historical proportions, and many sailors and soldiers watch it all over the world.

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I also send out a hearty Salute to my younger brother, an Army Sergeant Major, returned this week from Iraq and other environs.  Welcome home!

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Speaking of our troops, it is also National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and we remember the service and sacrifice of so many then and now.   For me the story is unforgettable, as are the lessons it has taught.  But time has a way of fading the memories and trials of generations past.

“You say Pearl Harbor to a lot of the kids today and they ask, ˜Who was she?” Samuel E. Clower

But we lost over 2,400 Americans and almost 1,200 more wounded.  Most of those who were killed died within the first 15 minutes of the attack on the navy ships.  And the long, bloody Pacific War was set to begin. 

“I was looking out to sea at 8 o™clock in the morning and these planes started coming over and I thought, ˜More maneuvers again today on Sunday?™ Jaekel said. œI thought the Air Corps was doing a full attack. They dived and came down and I thought, ˜Oh boy, this looks like it™s real,™ and then I saw meatballs [or Japanese rising sun emblems] on the wing of one [plane] and one of them launched a torpedo. [One plane] came around the channel and it went by where I was and the rear seat guy was pumping shells, shooting at us and I just lied down and tried to crawl up between the ties. [The gunner] was so close that I could see the expression on his face. I didn™t get hit, but the guy right below me was in the phone booth and he got hit and the phone booth just shattered.”    Haile H. œJake Jaekel

And yet the U.S. and Japan have come so far, with a shared vision for world stability and peace, and as staunch allies today.  After spending some time in Japan, I can only embrace our shared history with friendship and respect, and hope that others in the world may look toward peace among nations in the years ahead.   It’s also a fitting weekend to see the nomination for the incoming Veteran’s Affairs Secretary, General Eric Shinseki, as one who will lead public policy administration efforts toward the care of our veterans, and whose own service brings his career- and Japanese-American heritage- full circle.

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Sometimes things never seem to change.  Yet they do of course, and it’s important to find time to appreciate the nuances of life that unfolds around us.  Here the pond’s ice has thawed, been moved by wind and water and then broken apart. At night it freezes again in geometric patterns.

Geometric patterns in the ice

October Rain

October 23rd, 2008

Awoke to a cloudy darkness that gave way to heavy rain this morning.  It will be with us most of the day so the outside projects will wait.  I know it looks so dismal, but for some reason I enjoy rainy days… mostly.  Of course one time we lived near Seattle and had 96 days straight of rain! That’s a bit much.  Missouri rain is often intermittent, heavier and then gone almost as quickly as it comes. But today the storm system will pass slowly.

I think rainy days help provide a reason to relax inside or catch up on things we’ve put off for a while.  Of course it makes travel a mess, and next week we’re due for our first real frost and freeze.  Glad it’s not Halloween today.  I think three out of the last four Halloweens were cold and rainy here.  Hopefully it will be a decent night for the kids next week, and thank goodness it’s on a Friday this year. 

Rainy October day in Missouri

Oh, another bug question to figure out. Beetle Doc are you still around?!  I found this “nest” of some type when cutting up that oak tree the other day.  It’s very fibrous, with a small, dime-sized opening at the top and what appears to be some type of eggs or balls inside.  Is it an insect gall? A spider nest?!  I’m not sure what else it could be, but I laid it aside in the bushes.

Insect nest or gall

We still have a few things to finish up outside on the pre-winter checklist, so this weekend will be a good time for that.  Up until today I’ve been working on so many different projects, but sometimes I don’t pay enough attention to what the Yellow Lab is up to!  I caught him about to go for a swim in the pond a couple days ago.  I forget how much he loves water, and when I’m not looking he goes right in.   That must be his way of telling me we don’t train enough.  He’s two years old now by the way.  I swear he looks right through me…

Yellow Lab in October ready for a swim

A New Day, and a Tiger On His Tail

October 8th, 2008

Sometimes the world seems so small, especially when fog blankets the landscape.  At dawn we see the glow of light, and the sun rises, becoming brighter through the gray curtain of cloud.   On days like this the world awakens more slowly, or at least we may feel a closer, measured pace to the presence of life around us.   What does the sunrise represent?  Hope?  A new day, or a new future?

Sunrise through the fog in Missouri

Does it hold meaning for you?  I once read a story that framed the context of challenge by saying,  “In America we get up in the morning, we go to work and we solve our problems.”   And that’s pretty much a testament to action.  So often it’s that first step that is the most difficult.  But as we begin, as we move and as we take steps towards our goals, we are moving every aspect of our lives toward that new day.  With our action, opportunities will come, doors will open and circumstances will gradually shift toward our goals.  We don’t have to solve everything at once, but as we begin everything changes.   And we’ll get there.

Speaking of action, it seems the kitten and the yellow lab have become playmates.  The lab doesn’t quite know what to make of this little ball of energy.  The kitten romps and pounces, darts in and out and generally uses the retriever’s tail as a chew toy.  Instead of a “tiger by the tail,” this dog has a tiger on his tail.

 Kitten playing with Yellow Labrador Retriever

The kitten chomps and wrestles until the lab puts a big ‘ole paw on top of him.  Then a little  “reeoow!” screech and the cat darts away again.  We watch them closely, but he is amazingly restrained to the needle sharp teeth and claws of the kitten.  It will be interesting to see their relationship as they grow older.   When I imagine friendship between dogs and cats, I think of Sparky, no longer with us, as he walked with Justin.

Every Dog Has His Day

October 3rd, 2008

The other day my dog had his day, his birthday in fact.  And I’ll remember it for a long, long time.  It’s hard to believe the big ‘ole yellow lab puppy is 2 years old.  Okay, he’s not a puppy anymore, but he sure acts like one.  Of course he’s my first Labrador, so maybe they act this way all the time.  We pal around everywhere together, especially while I do chores, or while waiting to pick up the boy at the bus stop.   His energy and good nature are unstoppable.  Nearly.  So guess what I did for his birthday?  I ran him over with a golf cart.  “What?!” I hear you thinking.  But it’s true.    

So there I go racing down the gravel drive at full golf cart speed, with the 90 pound labrador running along side as usual.  We’re going to do some retrieving in the field. Except this time he’s out slightly ahead of me, and cuts right in front and stops!  I yell at him and instead of jumping out of the way, he crouches down!  I was going downhill too fast to turn or do anything, and if you’ve driven on gravel you know that stopping quickly just doesn’t work.  So I cringe as the front tire goes “Whump! Bump!’ right over my lovable dog, and he squirts out the side.  I’m on the brakes sliding to a rocky stop in a cloud of dust, horror stricken that I’ve killed my dog.

I jump out and he’s sitting over on the grass looking at me like “What’d I do?!”   I’m more stunned than he is, and I check him over carefully and pet him and… he looks okay.  He really does.  He has a little cut on top of his head, but nothing more.  He starts nosing around and waiting for us to do something.   I’m not sure, so I slowly walk back to the house observing him, deciding whether to call the vet. The lab is sniffing and running around, and wants to play.  Heck, he just escaped death right?  Who wouldn’t be happy?  It’s time for his supper and he runs to the garage waiting.  If you have dogs, you also know they have this amazing, innate sense of time.  But I fix a smaller than usual bowl of food with extra vitamins and all kinds of other healthy stuff thrown in to help in case he’s bruised.  After he finishes I let him rest in the kennel for a few hours. 

 Yellow Labrador Retriever - 2 years old

Later we go out for a walk and he takes off running down the hill to find his usual smelly spots.  The boy and I hike over to the pond with the lab out in front as usual.  I’m thinking about the day’s events. Thankfully the tires on the golf cart are big and soft, relatively speaking.  And they’ve been low on air and I just haven’t got around to filling them up.  And then I wonder, “Maybe I didn’t really run him over… maybe he just got nudged by the side or something?”  He’s no worse for wear and I’m thankful.  

But my thoughts are quickly answered as I catch up to him, and for the first time I see this faint image of a wide, black tire tread going right across his middle.  Damn. I did run over my dog.  On his birthday.

If that’s not enough to make you feel bad I don’t know what is.  But he’s okay, no bruising or any sign of stiffness.  And of course the Lab doesn’t hold it against me.  Which doesn’t make me feel any better. But that’s the thing about dogs, and Labs especially-they always want to please.  Now I have to add another goal to my list:  Don’t run over the dog.

In thinking about the last two years, I couldn’t ask for anything more in a family dog or a friend that what he has become.   And to see the smile on the boy’s face as he plays and wrestles with the dog is another joy I didn’t expect.  If I’ve had any misgivings about him, they revolve more around my knowledge and ability as his owner, much like reflecting on one’s ability as a parent.  At many levels perhaps that’s the greatest testament to the dog he is, and the human I’m still trying to become. 

I was looking for a better way to describe how I feel about this dog, but noted Field & Stream columnist and author Gene Hill describes it perfectly:

“He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.)”

“When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man.  With him, I am all-powerful.  He is loyalty itself.  He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.”

Flowers, Berries and Bees

September 12th, 2008

The autumn season is just around the corner, and the fall honeyflow for the bees is in full swing.  Many seasonal flowers are blooming and very abundant due to all the rainfall.  I have left the bees alone for the past few weeks, and hopefully they are producing lots of honey for their winter stores. 

Sedum flowers are tiny, but the bees are covering these plants throughout the daylight hours.  Bees are fascinating insectsDid you know it takes over 2 million trips to flowers to make just 1 pound of honey?  Each worker bee lives about 6 weeks, and during that time each worker will make about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.  Makes me appreciate honey all the more!

Bees love Sedum flowers!

I left a large patch of these “weeds” near the pond dam, and the bees seem to love them.  I don’t know what they are called, but there’s probably a quarter acre of them about 4-5 feet tall with white flower heads.   

 Autumn flowers that bees love

Earlier this summer I didn’t see the bees around our property much, and we didn’t have many flowers blooming that were suitable for bees.  They would zoom off from the hive somewhere, and I thought they were really fast.  But honeybees can only fly about 15 mph and can be challenged on windy days to make it to the hive.  The NOVA article above says a worker bee will visit between 50-100 flowers on each trip outside the hive.  That’s a lot of work!

It’s also time to harvest some more berries.  These are “autumn berries” from the Autumn Olive or Autumnberry tree (Elaeagnus umbellata). 

Autumnberries in late summer

Autumnberry is really a very large shrub, originally from Asia.  Decades ago they were planted around the eastern U.S. to help with soil stability and erosion prevention.  Turns out they are quite invasive however and have taken over many areas. The plant is thick and branchy, with many thorns in the upper branches.  Not easy to remove.  I’ve watched a large thicket grow up in just a few years above the pond.  But the berries are edible, and we’re going to experiment with them to make jam or jelly. 

If all goes well, we may also have a little honey to go with our biscuits before the bees settle in for winter.  We’ll check on them next week!

Bee hive and Labrador Retriever in foreground

Doggy Treats in the Garden

September 9th, 2008

The past couple of years I have worked hard to train my young Labrador Retriever.  He’s a smart and gentle dog, and will do just about anything  you ask.  If he’s not good at something, it’s because his trainer (me!) doesn’t know how to teach him.  This will hopefully be his first real season with ducks, and he turns two years old in a few weeks. 

But he’s also full of surprises.  Last year I threw him a tomato hornworm from the garden, which he happily munched up… yuck! 

Tomato Hornworm, a Labrador treat! 

The other day as I was picking some beans, I looked over to see him sniffing the tomato plants, and then looked again to see him playing with, and then eating something on the ground.  He had found, and picked off his own tomato hornworm!  

Labrador Retriever in the garden

My first thought for how to explain this: “Uh, well, I don’t know how he is on ducks, but man you should see him retrieve tomato hornworms!”   He wanted to sniff out a few more himself, but he has a knack for pulling off entire branches of the tomato plant too.  So I found a few myself and threw them to him.  He seems to have a taste for those little suckers.   Maybe when we go duck hunting, I’ll take a few hornworms with me and rub them on the birds?!

Playing Tag in the Woods

August 6th, 2008

We’re still on the road and seeing the marvels of this great nation first hand.  I don’t have time to write much, but will leave you with this picture of the yellow lab and a curious friend one evening.   See you soon!

Yellow Lab and the Deer

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