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Farewell to a Good Dog

December 11th, 2009

We lost a friend yesterday.  A part of the family for many years.  Twelve to be exact.  He was born on December 10th, 1997.  And yesterday we sadly had to help him across that final threshold of life, on the very day of his birth.

His name was Justin, and he was a good dog.  A bit smelly and drooly, but a fine old friend.  He lived at Fox Haven for many of his twelve years, even while we were far overseas.  If ever a dog had a happy, carefree life, it was he.

For a Basset Hound, he was remarkably healthy and strong.  He would roam the property and follow us just about everywhere.   He loved to be close, and would settle down wherever I was working and fall asleep.  This year he slept a lot more.  I would tiptoe around the outside of the house so I didn’t wake him, but as soon as I got started working somewhere I would hear “Oowwoo…arf! arf! Oowoooo!” as he came looking for me.   I would see him with his magical nose, sniffing the ground and tracing my steps until he saw me.  He would trot up wagging his tail and settle down somewhere nearby to sleep. Often he would wake up an hour or two later wondering where everybody went.

Last weekend when we cut the cedar tree down for Grandma, the basset hound wanted to come along as usual.  Wandering around with us was about his favorite thing to do, and especially riding in the little golf cart.  That night I was putting the cart in the barn, and as I sat down Justin came running up to jump inside for his ride…  this year he  couldn’t jump in as well and would put his head and front paws up and I would help him in.  We rode for about twenty feet and parked… it didn’t matter how far, he was just happy to have the ride.

basset-behind-the-stove

A few days ago the boy and I were in the barn with the woodstove going, and a couple dogs and a cat to keep us company.  Justin settled down behind the warm stove and took a nap for a few hours.

His fur was very warm, almost too hot to the touch.  He enjoyed that very much. I didn’t have my camera, but took this picture with my cell phone for some reason.

When it was time to go I nudged him until he looked up and I coaxed him outside again.  He was getting a little more confused this year…  In a way, he was such good company that I didn’t even notice him most of the time. But I usually always waited for him, and let him in and out of the barn, up in the golf cart, or wherever else he followed.

While building the shed these past couple of months he was always there. The past couple of weeks he would climb up in the shed and lay down to sleep. Then when I was back outside he would bark and whine to be helped down because he couldn’t figure out how to get down.

He still liked to play though, and he loved Kuma the Shiba Inu.  They slept in the kennel together and Justin followed Kuma everywhere.   If we put Justin in the kennel for the night and Kuma wasn’t there, he would yowl and cry until he came too.   Kuma was a little grouchy at times as the alpha dog, sometimes nipping Justin’s ears.  He didn’t care, he still wanted to be with him.   They kept watch together, welcomed us home together and wandered the fields together.   In the mornings they would even play together in the driveway.

 basset-and-shiba

Of course anywhere the boy and I went, or the other animals, Justin had to follow. We often gave him apple cores and he loved them. When the boy ate an apple, Justin would follow him around and the boy would yell, “Apple dog! Apple dog!” and run away. Justin would go “Woof!” and chase him.

following-the-boy

Especially if it was around the pond.

boy-and-dogs-2

On school days I would bring the yellow lab and Justin with me to meet the boy at the bus.  He loved that and would wag his tail when the boy came running off the bus. We would explore the pond or check out the fruit trees along the way.  Sometimes I would try to sneak off without him and let him sleep.  And I was worried he might wander off somewhere and get lost.  I found him about a half mile away last year, at the bottom of a valley.   No matter how I tried to sneak away though- he would still wake up and somehow know where I was.   Five minutes later here came the basset hound trotting up the driveway or through the fields.   His nose led the way…

basset-and-yellow-lab

Often we would see him exploring with Princess the cat.  He was so gentle that the cats seemed to accept him.  Princess liked to come by and rub his muzzle as if to say hello.

basset-and-cat

If any of the dogs got in the pickup truck, Justin yowled to go too.  He just loved car rides.  Yesterday, while he was sick and I was getting the car ready, he even tried to jump up on the bumper, ready to go as always.

boy-and-dogs

He loved to roam the garden, but we tried to keep him out so he didn’t stomp all over everything.  In September I even watched him walk up and pull a big juicy tomato off the plant for a snack!

boy-and-dog-in-garden

When he did have something of his own or a favorite spot to lie down, he would go “Woo! Woooo!” to the yellow lab.  The labrador is a master of sneaking food from the other dogs, and Justin would bark and chase him away.

woowoo-basset

If you sat down on the ground or anywhere else he could reach you, he might give you a big slobbery kiss when you least expected it!

basset-kiss

 

But mostly he would find a comfy place in the sun and just snuggle up for a nap.

basset-hound-napping

He was just friendly and lovable, and wanted to be part of everything.  Especially if you had food to share.  And he was part of the family.

hungry-basset-hound

Farewell ‘ole friend.  We’ll miss you, and we are better for having shared our life with you.  You were a good dog.
Say hi to Sparky…

justin-the-basset-hound

 

Flowers, Veggies and Doggy Noses

September 24th, 2009

A steady, gentle rain today, and gives one time to catch up on a few things.  I want to take a minute to thank everyone for visiting (and commenting) here at Fox Haven.  Writing, blogging, whatever you call this form of expression…. it gives us a chance to “think out loud” perhaps, and reach out to folks in a different way.  That’s not my intent per se, but I’ve really come to enjoy this little part of our world.  I know there are always a lot more people browsing or lurking a bit, and I understand that very well. I tend to lurk on other blogs and sites far more than commenting too it seems.

In some ways,  reading and commenting on a blog on a regular basis is like investing some part of yourself, or sharing who you are a bit as well.  Is it a risk for some people?  Maybe too personal?  I don’t know, but I know it’s hard at times when a blog disappears for unknown reasons and we wonder where those good folks have gone.  Change and a shift of focus is understandable in anyone’s life though.   Sometimes we face challenges that are difficult to write about, or not shared with our readers, or we simply need a break.  I wonder who could qualify as the longest writing blogger?!

Maybe we feel that we’re only showing half the picture of our real lives, or we wonder what’s the point?  Honestly I don’t know that there is any point, at least for me, beyond keeping a journal of our lives and examining aspects of ourselves that perhaps could be shared later on.  It doesn’t really matter- I enjoy writing and sharing pictures, and hope that others enjoy it too.   When it comes right down to it, I would like to think that what most people write and share about their lives is a lot closer to who they really are.   So with that, I just want you to know that you are welcome here any time, and I appreciate how many of you do take the time to come by… :) 

Meanwhile, back on our weedy acreage (the weeds are stiffly standing their ground against my efforts!) I’m still mucking about pruning, cutting, planting, ripping things out and generally trying to keep ahead of nature’s efforts.  If I strike a balance, then I’ll call it a victory… but there’s always something else to do.  Just as with rainbows there are moments of beauty all around us though.  These perennial asters get my vote for flowers of the month- they seem to get bigger every year, and the honeybees enjoy them too.

honeybee-purple-asters

Near the house I planted a couple of Burkwood Viburnum shrubs a few years ago. They’ve finally settled in and are covered with nice red berries this year.  In the spring they have the most fragrant white flower clusters- it’s really amazing, but such a sweet fragrance only blooms for a few days it seems.  The birds will certainly enjoy the little fruit this winter.

burkwood-viburnum

Yesterday was a misty morning with dew hanging everywhere, including this spider’s web. There are so many spiders about now, their webs even gather in your hair when you least expect it!

dew-on-spider-web

Contrasts are always interesting, and a few days ago I stared at the walnut tree standing tall against the stormy sky.  What a stark picture it made with leaves mostly gone yet the nuts still hanging on.  As I looked I felt a small chill… so gray and dark!  It almost seemed a portent of the coming winter. Brrr…

autumn-walnut-tree

 

But then I smiled and thought, “No you don’t!  Winter is months away!” remembering we have many warm days yet to come.   And the garden is still growing too.  We’ve got all kinds of veggies on hand, and too many cucumbers to keep up with. 

Yesterday I set a bowl of mixed vegetables on the ground and the dogs ran up… Kuma, our little Shiba Inu to the right, and the namesake icon for Fox Haven (little does he know!).  To his left is the protruding nose of Justin, our elderly Basset Hound. The yellow lab was standing off to the side looking like, “Me to! I want some!” but he must wait his turn. Actually I didn’t give the vegetables to the dogs, but do you see the one thing that doesn’t belong in the bowl?  There were two of them… and that’s what the dogs were really after!

vegetables-and-dogs


I love the fall season so much, even if I’m still playing catch-up around the house.  I’ve let some of the hedgerows and borders grow more this year, and these deep yellow blooms of goldenrod were the result. This honeybee worked the flowers vigorously, with a red Knockout rose in the background.

honeybee-on-goldenrod

The leaves on the trees have even begun turning now… with the first yellows and browns at the tops.  Those of you further north must be ahead of us by now.  In a few weeks we’ll see the blazing variety of colors and watch leaves sailing through the air.  Almost as if to join the change of the seasons, our young one has a birthday this weekend.  He’s growing up so fast.  That will be an interesting conjunction as he grows older, to feel the change of the seasons of his own life, as part of the world around him too.   Soon we’ll be out catching the falling leaves, and jumping in leaf piles.   It’s time… Autumn is here.



Double Cukes and Corn Dogs

July 12th, 2008

Busy doings outside these days, with so much just growing and growing.  We’ve been lucky to have rain almost every week, especially for the garden and the bees.  I’ve heard this is one of the best years many beekeepers can remember in our area and that the “honeyflow” is nice and long from the rain and cooler weather. 
Double cucumberWe found a funny “double cucumber” in the garden the other day. Now how do you suppose it grew like this? It’s still in the fridge while I wonder what I can do with it. Maybe I could put it on ebay :)

And the blackberries have really started ripening, so we picked a couple quarts already.  I’m just amazed- we haven’t had any berries the past couple of years, but with the bees this year there’s a bunch of wild berries in places I’d never seen before.  Maybe it’s also the rain this year.  But we need to pick some more soon! And anybody have a good blackberry pie recipe?

Wild blackberries in July

  

The green beans have done so well this year we’ve been putting up a bunch in the freezer. Time to pick more cucumbers now too, and maybe pickles soon? The garden is great but next year it needs to be bigger!  I say that now, and we hardly keep up with it.  I’m always amazed at how much room the plants can use though. 

 We dug up some potatoes for the first time and they were delicious.  Never grew potatoes before, but it was pretty easy, and they didn’t take up too much room.  I was surprised how fast the little guys grew. 

Corn growing Basset Hound

Also had our first ear of home-grown corn yesterday. It wasn’t too big, but some critters had started munching the top so it was time to pick. It sure was tasty though!

Here’s our corn-growing Basset Hound. Oh wait! I’m told this is our CORN DOG! He’s really our garden dog, and likes to follow us around and hang out wherever we are. He’s the good ‘ole man of the place, going on 11 years now.
Of course it’s kind of hard to grow corn on top of the dog. But he likes the attention, especially getting watered on hot days.

We may have to find somewhere else to grow it next year though. There’s just not enough space!

Forests in Spring and a Daffydown Basset Hound

April 15th, 2008

There’s almost too many changes to keep up with as spring unfolds. The mornings have almost been in frost, and today is about the latest frost-free date in our area. It’s interesting to see all the trees and flowers blooming and preparing for the same. Last year all the plants were two weeks ahead of this year because of a very warm March, and then we had an early April freeze that wilted all the leaves and flowers, and set everything back almost a month. But it looks like the fruit and flower crops should be fine this year.

You know it’s spring in Missouri when the Serviceberry, Redbud and Dogwood trees bloom. In our area the Servicberry comes first, followed by the Redbuds and then Dogwood trees. The Oaks, Hickories, Ash and other trees are also in various stages of bloom, but they don’t provide the same show of color.

I love how the Serviceberry trees bloom throughout the forest, with dappled white flowers in the understory.

Serviceberry tree blooming in Oak-Hickory forest

Here’s a closeup of the Serviceberry tree flowers. The berries are also an important food for wildlife.

Flowers of Serviceberry tree

But we love our trees and woodlands in Missouri, and appreciate the values that forests provide within the ecosystem.

It’s amazing that over 85% of Missouri’s forests are held in private land ownership. I wonder what the number is nationally? That’s one of many reasons why we appreciate how the Missouri Conservation Department works effectively with landowners to support their needs, as well as the sound management of plant and animal resources. Government mandates for managing a forest or taking care of the land can only go so far. With the support of conservation agencies and forest professionals, landowners are more willing to embrace the responsibility of caring for the future of our forests.

Do you know what tree this is? The flowers are almost ready to bloom. We have them scattered through the landscape, and they too look wonderful in the understory of the forest.

Early flowers of an Eastern Redbud tree

The wildflowers are showing their colors too. Here a Rue Anemone blooms near the base of the trees.

Rue Anemone flower in spring

 

The reflections of the trees in the pond make the landscape seem bigger somehow. In a few weeks green leaves will cover the landscape, and the reflections of the sky will be replaced by shade.

Trees reflecting in pond in spring

And among the daffodils, the elderly Basset Hound sleeps through the afternoon.

Basset Hound sleeping in the Daffodils

Country Critters and Friends

April 8th, 2008

A few days of beautiful weather really brought out the spring. We’ve been busy moving plants, and generally tidying up the place. And there’s always something happening to get your attention. Usually I wander from one project to the other, often pulled by the “Daddy come here!” calls of the nearly wild youngster. Later he led the family on a hike through the woods to his secret spot and he was so excited to show us the big spot of pretty little flowers in the grass. He asked me to put this up here to show everyone.

Flowers in the grass

We didn’t find any morels, but saw lots of lush green moss.

Moss in the forest

Of course later I remembered that I left Sparky the cat in the barn. The cats will follow us everywhere and they have no idea about predators really. So I locked him inside while we went hiking around. We came back and found the cat nosing around a workbench. I didn’t think we had mice in the barn this winter, but apparently Sparky begged to differ.

Sure enough upon looking between some boxes on a shelf, two little beady eyes peered out at me. Cornered by the cat in back and me staring at him in front, the mouse didn’t want move from his hideaway. In a moment of unusual inspiration, I grabbed a large bucket and scooted the mouse from behind. The little guy thought he could outsmart me and leapt off the shelf making a perfect plunk! noise in the bucket, after which time he hunkered down realizing he was caught.

Naturally the young boy admired this mousy cuteness and wanted to keep him for a pet… not! And of course Sparky the cat glared at me after taking his prize away. So after much deliberation, and with the boy’s earnest concern, we took our friend for a walk across the pond and let him go.

A lucky country mouse

Be free little mouse! He was lucky I was delinquent on setting the mousetraps this winter. But the experience of helping the little critter and letting him go was important to the boy. I remember years ago when I was about his age, and catching my first trout with my Dad and brothers in a lake in Oregon. We fished all day to catch just a few for dinner, and then I pleaded to let my fish go back in the water. He helped me do that.

The weather warmed up enough to bring the turtles out. I think that’s why I like a few stumps and logs in the pond, as it makes for perches and hideaways for the critters.

Pond turtles in Missouri

Late in the afternoon yesterday I found two friends walking home together. Justin the Basset Hound and Sparky the cat.  Justin likes to follow the cats around, and they seem to enjoy his gentle disposition. He’s over 10 years old now.

Two friends walking home, Basset Hound and Cat

Early March Snow is Fun for Everybody

March 5th, 2008

After an amazingly warm weekend, we were hit by 5+ inches of snow. Made for an interesting day, especially watching the animals.

Many birds hung around the feeders through the storm, especially the litttle Juncos.

Juncos at the feeder during snowfall

The snowfall covered the barn quickly.

Country barn after snowfall

A flock of Robins perched around the trees, looking out of place with the ground covered in snow.

Robin perched in tree during snowstorm

And I learned something new about Robins. Several of them flew in and out of this Juniper tree eating the juniper berries. Who knew?

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Thankful Days in Autumn

November 22nd, 2007

     What is Autumn if not for playing in the leaves!  Remember leaf piles, and jumping in them?  The other day we raked a pile and jumped and played… the dogs too.  It wasn’t our “Official Annual Leaf Pile Party” but rather siezing the day!  It was such a warm and beautiful afternoon…. just perfect for playing outside.

The young one rakes leaves in a pile with help from the yellow lab.

 Young boy raking leaves - November in Missouri

Running and jumping in leaf piles is my favorite… or hiding in them.  And of course grabbing a big armful and throwing them in the air is always fun!

 Making leaf piles is great fun!

The dogs would not be left out of the fun… the Lab and Basset Hound chased each other around the grass and leaves.  They were cute to watch… a grumpy ‘ole Basset and a year-old Lab.  You can guess who was doing most of the running!

Labrador and Basset Hound playing - Dogs love to play in leaves too!

We also got in a full afternoon of retriever work with the lab.  He did very well this day, and finally settled in the grass for a break.  I think he’s happiest when he can run and run… the signature tongue-hanging-out-the-side-of-the-mouth says it all.

The Yellow Labrador is happy!

     And today of course is a day to be thankful for so many things…  Some of us will spend time with family and friends, and others in quiet reflection.  However you spend the day,  I hope it finds you well.  

A Season for Doing

November 3rd, 2007

      We awoke before dawn yesterday to a frosty landscape with the temperature right around freezing.  Most of the plants look fine however, the cold wasn’t long enough to really snap them for the season. Never fear, it’s coming!  But it was cold enough for thermals and sweaters, the young one saying “Brrrr!” while waiting for the bus.   I’ve seen the Juncos back from the north this week, darting around the shrubery, hopping in the grass.  They are near where the feeder goes in winter, as if saying, “Hey!  We’re ready for some birdseed!”  

     The weekend promises to be sunny and warm, and I wish I could get outside more this week.  There’s firewood to stack, barn and garage to clean, motors to winterize, hoses and tools to put away- so much more needs accomplished.   Alas I have several papers and projects due for grad school that will take every bit of my attention.  And the cub scouts- I almost forgot.  My writings here on Fox Haven will probably slow a bit more as well, but I feel like I’m wasting the season, arrgh!   Hopefully next weekend I will make an annual pilgrimage to deer camp with some friends to the northern part of the state.  Mostly it’s a bunch of good ‘ole guys sitting around a fire at night, swapping stories of youth and the day’s hunt.  In so many parts of the country this is a season of harvest and friendship.

The good ‘ole man Basset Hound is snuggling for warmth in the plants on a sunny hillside.   

The Basset Hound snuggles in the leaves for warmth on a frosty morning

I found the most delightful surprise in the garden the other day… in our little pot of strawberry plants were two juicy berries ready to eat!  I didn’t know they could grow fruit this long into the fall season…  I ate one, and it was delicious.  After giving one to the young boy, he rode away on his bicycle saying “Ummm… sweet!”

Two juicy little strawberries - a November surprise

Homework, Kids and Basset Hounds

October 8th, 2007

     I am continually amazed at the requirements and expectations that schools have for children… especially the younger children!  We are of course the proud parents of a seven year-old first grader.  We went through an interesting Kindergarten experience last year involving tests, assessments and grades, but thankfully- no homework.   And he “graduated” with flying colors.  That has changed since he is now in first grade.  Now he has classwork, homework and many other assessments throughout the week.  The school system seems to pride itself on finding ways to measure children of course.  But it’s not infallible.  We received a “notice to serve” recently that our child was recommended for “accelerated reading,” which of course means remedial reading.  I was amazed since he was already reading above grade level, and after volunteering in his class the previous year it seemed he was well above the average.  So after writing a lengthy letter outlining my concerns (I didn’t want him missing other aspects of class if his reading was fine), it seems the teachers and principal were enlightened enough to agree with me (this time!).  And it seems the statewide assessment that was given the previous year didn’t really assess anything about reading in Kindergarten-  he wasn’t paying enough attention at the time for them to have any real idea about his reading progress, and they sent the assessment in unfinished!  So naturally the state bureaucracy mandates an offer for accelerated reading services.  Very nice!  They really did their homework on that that one, huh?   

     He’s doing very well though and reading like crazy now.  But I must say the homework aspect scares the heck out of me.   Jeff Opdyke at the Wall Street Journal has written an honest appraisal of How Homework is Hurting Our Family.  If that is any indication of things to come then something will have to change.   Maybe we’ll cruise through it without the same stress and impact on the family.  Maybe our son will love the homework he brings home each day as he does now.  Maybe it just won’t be an issue.  But I kind of doubt it.  And I’m a little more concerned about my own response, because I don’t want him to end up as a lonely homeschooled kid! :)    How did you handle the homework your kids faced at school?  I’d love to know…

I couldn’t write something without a picture to go with it of course, so here’s the picture for today- an over-loved, under-worked Basset Hound named Justin!  He’s about as carefree as dogs come, and gets his homework done on time every single day!

Running Basset Hound

And if you don’t believe me, just ask him.  But watch out for that nose… it’s dangerous!

Smiling Basset Hound

 

Basset Hound Sunrise and Dam Thoughts

September 17th, 2007

   This morning I thought I had a nice picture of the sun coming up.  A little hound dog came running across the viewfinder as I took the picture. He likes to spend his morning running hither and yon, with his nose-to-the-ground most of the time.

The ˜ole Basset runs across the field at sunrise

 

     Pablo had me thinking about pond and lake dams.  I don’t know much about engineering them, or why they are constructed in various ways. Wider would seem to be better…   But I wandered around this morning, and thought I’d get a larger perspective.  I came to the conclusion that I truly cannot imagine trying to manually cut grass on a dam that is much steeper than this.  If it doesn’t wear you out completely, then you risk brief periods of starving the machine’s engine of oil.  I use a DR Brush Mower, and while it handles our dam slope okay (still wants to roll over), it sometimes coughs and sputters and is a real bear to maneuver.  The lightest machine you can find with enough horsepower and cutting strength would be ideal.  There are also some really cool machines that will cut up to 34 degree slopes, but kind of pricey unless you have enough work for it over time.  A hand-held brush cutter also works pretty good, but takes a while.  And by the way, good cleated boots or soccer cleats are really helpful!   I think my real solution is for the day we finally have some goats.  I’m just going to stake a couple out in the middle of the dam and let them at it. :)

An overall view of the pond and dam

If you’re building a farm pond or small lake, a wider dam and shallower engineered slope may make it much easier to maintain over time.

Slope of dam and golf cart

Another view of dam slope and golf cart

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