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On A Spring Day

March 23rd, 2010

Goodness, Spring has arrived in Missouri in force this week!  It was doubtful for a while this past weekend, with much snow for our western friends.   But after a few days of rain, the sun has returned and with it the frogs, flowers and fullness of early spring itself. 

I saw a few crocus last week, and a couple of daffodils peeking out.  I swear they came out so quickly, and then Voila! all the other daffodils are  blooming at once.  Bear with me… I have to share them as the days go by.   After all, we waited all winter for them! :)

We even enjoyed a brief picnic dinner by the pond before the rain last week.  It felt so strange to be relaxing outside in a light shirt after the cold days of winter.   The yellow lab is always your buddy where food is concerned, and hope springs eternal!

The pond is warming up nicely too.  I’ve seen a few more minnows and fish rising.  Today we even saw the koi, but I’ll save that for another day. 

Of course the yellow lab decided to roll around in the grass while wandering near the pond… the same grassy area that had been burned by my inadvertent fire. He seemed to enjoy that smokey burnt aroma!    And he wasn’t quite so yellow after that… 

A quick retrieve in the pond cleaned things up nicely.   He brings so much energy and joy to my daily experience.    I’m working really hard to enjoy life half as much as my dog does!



Yellow Labs and Brown-Headed Cowbirds

March 18th, 2009

The young pup is almost two and half years old now- a big, strong yellow labrador with a heart of gold.  I know everyone thinks their dogs and pets are pretty special, but I swear this furry guy is unlike any animal I’ve ever known.  I’m thinking about having a round of tests performed on him to consider breeding.  He’s not a show dog or champion field trialer, but he has good lineage and beautiful form.  His personality is amazing in so many ways, and if he could contribute to the breed I think that would be a good thing.   Have you hugged your dog today?  More importantly, how about your kids?!  For some folks they’re the same…

Yellow Labrador Retriever in a field of Bluestem

Interesting that you can actually clone your dog these days for the princely sum of $150,000 dollars.  Can you imagine?   Perhaps if money was no object someone could consider that, but it seems, well… ethically selfish to me I guess, among other things.  It’s a free country, but you can help an awful lot of people with that kind of money.  I do understand loving an animal that much, but it’s hard to rationalize spending so much money for that purpose.  Of course I  say that, but based on how I feel about my own lab-  if it didn’t cost very much I might consider getting another pup just like him too.  Heck, twenty or thirty years from now who knows what we’ll be able to do.   For now I just appreciate that he gets to be part of our family. 

Don’t you just want to give him a big hug?!

yellow-labrador-retriever

 

Maybe I should’ve titled this ‘The Dogs We Love and the Birds We Don’t” or “Cute Dogs and Ugly Birds.”  On a different note it’s about time to take the bird feeders down, and as if on cue the Brown-headed Cowbirds showed up for a party to pick through what was left.  Okay, maybe they’re not ugly, but they sure act that way.  Research has shown that they can impact songbird populations negatively through brood parasitism.  They’re the only species in our region that sneaks into other birds’ nests and lays their own eggs.  So a hapless goldfinch or flycatcher ends up feeding and raising a cowbird usually instead of their own young since the cowbird is bigger and has a voracious appetite.  

Well over a hundred species of birds end up raising cowbirds in this manner and there’s quite a debate regarding how destructive or natural this is.    We typically see them grouped up in spring while they migrate through in flocks.  Soon they disperse to look for a host nest, and we only see or hear them as solitary birds.  What a strange critter and survival mechanism- kind of looks like an unruly mob!

cowbird-party

What’s My Line?

February 13th, 2009

 

Yellow Lab and Cat

“Um…you know I’m a dog, right?  No, really… I am!”

 

Gopher Piles and Bathtub Smiles

February 5th, 2009

I had forgotten that in late winter there are some very active critters around- especially underground.  Now I don’t mind a mole or two around the place, they’ve got to live too.  But when the moles and gophers begin to think this is their private little kingdom, then I’m not a happy camper.  After the deep freeze the past few weeks we had a nice warm-up, and I walked around to find this nice little trail of diggings on the hillside below the garden.  These dirt piles are 6-12 inches tall, and would fill up a kid’s beach bucket.

Gopher tunnels on hillside 

These wouldn’t be so bad off in a field by themselves (where they are usually).  But on the slope it causes a great deal of erosion, especially when it rains and the water washes down inside the tunnels evacuating mud everywhere.  I usually squish the muddy hills and tunnels down with the tractor, and the gophers just dig them out again.  We play that game for a while until they move on.  Hopefully I can persuade them to move somewhere else again… not on the slopes, and not near the pond dam!  But if they won’t?  Well, we’re just going to have to figure something out Caddyshack-style…  hopefully with better results!   Somebody remind me why these little critters are useful anyway?!

And what do you get when you ask a dog-and-water-loving-kid to take a bath, and you didn’t keep an eye on your water-and-kid-loving-labrador-retriever?    Well, after hearing unusually gleeful giggles down the hallway, you suddenly look around and notice that your faithful yellow lab is no longer sitting quietly by your side, looking up at you with those big dreamy eyes, and you realize that he has absconded to that playful paradise for kids… the bathtub… much to the boy’s delight of course.  So you get up, get your camera and slowly open the door of the bathroom to find your kid squirting water from a squishy toy at the yellow lab, who loves every minute of it.   Both of them wore great big smiles, and neither of them wanted to get out…

Yellow Lab in the bathtub

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.

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