Kite Flying Lessons

April 10th, 2008

Did you ever fly kites when you were young? Yesterday I remembered how much I enjoyed them. With the winds of spring and warmer weather, flying a kite is a natural thing to do. And I learned that with kite flying, as with life, there are always lessons to be learned.

The kids at school had a kite flying day last week, and our son had a small kite from the store. He came home one day and we took it out to fly. It was great fun for about 10 minutes, at which time he let me have a turn. And then I proceeded to let the handle slip out of my grasp! It was a little kite with not too much string and began floating away. I couldn’t believe it- every time a kite would get away from me as a kid it just drifted softly to the ground. But not this one… it flew away, with me chasing in full run, the handle dancing just out of my reach.

At one point I almost had it and the big, goofy yellow lab runs right in front of me chasing something… he doesn’t know what it is, just that he wants to get whatever I’m chasing. I trip flat over his back, rolling to the ground in knee high grass, watching the kite handle float ever higher, up, up and away. That darn little kite flew skyward over the treetops a quarter mile away, and almost was free! But the handle and string finally caught on a top branch of a towering oak tree.

He wasn’t very happy, but I had to laugh. There it was, far away on the neighbors property stuck at the top of a giant oak tree, still flying in the wind. We walked slowly back to the house. Later it was gone, we didn’t know where. After leaving a message for the neighbors in case they wondered where their new sky ornament came from, we resolved to make another trip to the store for a new kite.

Looking over the fancy kites at the store a few days later, I mentioned that we could try and build our own. Hard to compete with the fancy stuff at the store, but I offered to replace the kite I lost, or that we could build our own kite and I would give him a dollar bill. The same value of the cost of a new one. Being a smart young man he went for the cash and the idea of building our own kite, looking at me doubtfully however.

So I resolved to build a darn kite or else, right then and there. After he came home from school yesterday, we went to work. I found some Pampas Grass sticks hardened enough from last years growth that he had saved (he loves sticks of every sort). I drilled tiny holes in the middle and the ends after finding pieces I could cut so that the joints of the growth were close to the ends for strength. Then I used small loops of wire at the ends as an attachment point for string. Next we tied string from top to bottom, and side to side. The Pampas Grass was just flexible enough to bend without crimping over, at least the second or third time I tried. So with a slight bow lengthwise and across, we then tied string all the way around the outside to complete the frame.


Newspaper kite with Pampas Grass frame
And then it was newspaper time! He liked the idea of using the funny papers from the comics section, so we cut and fit several pieces, glueing them over the string and reinforcing the corners. A little more string in the front to make a center loop and almost done!




Funny paper kite with Little Bluestem tailWe made the tail out of old t-shirt pieces tied together in a narrow strip. Voila!About an hour’s work and we were off to try it out. Perhaps damping his expectations, I explained that a newspaper kite might not hold up very well, so if not we’ll just laugh about it, try again and build a new one.




Up near the pasture the wind came up just enough and the kite was flying! Or not. It made loops to the ground and I knew we needed more tail. Having nothing more with us, I looked around for a handy stabilizer and grabbed a fistful of Little Bluestem and pasture grass… why not? And that did the trick- the kite flew beautifully!

Flying the homemade newspaper kite

The smile on his face was worth a million dollars. “Wow! I didn’t really know it would fly!” he says (neither did I!). We had fun with the dogs running all around and the kite dancing in the sky.

Kite flying fun with the dogs

Then after some time of walking around with the kite chasing the wind, it began settling over the trees… “Back up!” I tell him and then “Ahhh!” he yells. He didn’t know how to keep it out of the trees in time. It was promptly stuck in the top of a scrubby tree above some briars.

“Daddy, get it!” he yells, not wanting to lose his kite. Thinking our creation surely was torn, I didn’t relish the idea of climbing through a patch of briars and up a tree. I told him it might be stuck for good, and we probably couldn’t get it down anyway without tearing it. Not a very good choice of words.

And that just made it worse, he was near tears at our predicament. Time to shift perspective… I told him, “Hey- we agreed we would have fun and laugh even if the kite got all smashed up, right?” But he said “No! I want THIS kite!” Being the usually dense father that I am, it took a while before I realized that we (I) lost his other kite last week, and now I was telling him this one was gone too. Maybe he could handle losing one kite, but another one that we just built together? No way.

He then marched by himself into the woods and briars yelling “Ow!”, determined to get it back. “Whoa!” I thought, “he really means it!” And I knew it was time to help him make a rescue attempt. So I marched over too and climbed up a little tree through the briars. After many broken branches and sticker-bush scratches, I reached the kite, only slightly torn, and biting the string with my teeth I finally worked it loose. He was down at the bottom, and I pushed it down to him where he helped pull it gingerly through the tangle where he was standing- success! We exited the thorn bushes with our proud scratches, and he said, “See! I knew we could get it!”   And we flew the kite some more.

Later that evening we talked about a lot of lessons that we learned, most of which involved teamwork, and that you can do just about anything if you really put your mind to it.

With his 7-year old wisdom, he told me that I learned a lesson too, and it was about not giving up when the kite was stuck. I was proud to say yes, it’s good that we can all learn lessons in life no matter how old we are.

Flying the Kite of Fox Haven

He doesn’t know it yet, but that wasn’t really the lesson I learned today. I learned that our son found courage and determination in not giving up. In deciding to go after what he wanted, and without knowing if he could do it himself, he was going to try anyway.

I know there are many more lessons to learn, for both of us, and that’s okay. I was also reminded that just about every moment we live as parents is a teaching moment, whether we know it or not.

Kuma the Shiba Inu

March 10th, 2008

Kuma the Shiba Inu is our mascot here at the Fox Haven Journal. He kind of looks like a fox, so he get’s to be the face of the blog. Of course he loves sleeping in the warm sun, even in the below picture that shows him in a less-than-dignified position! He’s had a very thick coat of fur this winter and is thinner than he looks. The large black “thing” on his collar is part of the “pet fence” to keep him from roaming too far. But he has the run of about 3 acres around the outside of the house, so he’s a happy little guy. If he gets too close to the boundary, it beeps at him. If he tries to go across (which he doesn’t anymore), it gives him a little “zap!” like static electricity. It works very well once it’s put in. We spent a week with a shovel, digging a 3 inch slot, and then a paint stick, burying about 300+ feet of pet fence wire inch-by-inch.

He tried to run across a few times though when we first put it up. And he succeeded… proudly wandering the fields and forests in the area until I caught up with him. But one time he got out, and then wanted to come back towards the house, but it wouldn’t let him because it kept beeping- so I found him sitting down by the pond. He wouldn’t come back even with a leash and his collar off!  I had to pick him up, and carry him all the way to the house up the hill. He seemed to like that very much…

If you want to read more about our little Shiba, last year I shared the story of how we found Kuma in Japan.

Shiba Inu sleeping in the sun

Rainbow Trout in Missouri

February 27th, 2008

In late winter I start dreaming of warm weather and cool summer streams. I think of places like this… isn’t it beautiful?

Maramec Spring Park

If you look very carefully you can see the dark shapes in the water. Those are Rainbow trout. I took this picture during the summer at Maramec Spring Park here in Missouri. It’s operated by a private foundation and serves as one of five statewide trout hatcheries. From the Missouri Department of Conservation’s site:

“Maramec Spring Hatchery produces about 100,000 trout a year and all are stocked in Maramec Spring Park. Trout are received as 3 inch fingerlings from Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery. The trout are fed three times a day and will grow 3/4 to 1 inch a month. The fish are reared in a raceway fed by the water from Maramec Spring. “

Trout were not native to Missouri as best as anyone can tell, but in the 1800’s were stocked in various streams. Since then Rainbow and Brown trout have done very well and produce natural populations throughout the springfed streams of the Ozarks. Today trout continue to be stocked in many Ozark streams, and the fishing in summer can be fantastic.

The trout park at Maramec Spring receives an incredible number of visitors each year, as do the other Missouri trout parks. Many of us look forward to the annual “trout opener” coming up on the first of March each year. And this year it falls on a weekend of course… so as beautiful as that picture above is, in a few days there may be hundreds of fishermen side-by-side on the banks of the stream!

Rainbow trout in summer

Have you ever fished shoulder-to-shoulder with someone else? It’s quite an experience. It reminds me of those old Yogi Bear cartoons in Yellowstone Park where they would fish for trout with dozens of fishermen, lines getting crossed, etc. It’s actually very fun, but this time I’ll probably avoid the “opener” on the weekend and try to find a weekday for a quieter time. Certainly this is not like fly-fishing for wild trout among remote streams in the highlands of the west. I’ve “been there, done that” too and it’s pretty cool. But I must say that it’s a lot of fun to catch Rainbow trout here in Missouri. You can catch several pounds of fish in a day and they make a wonderful dinner!

Let it Snow!!!

December 17th, 2007

    The weather was keeping us on our toes lately with so much rain and ice.  But finally a whole bunch of snow!  I asked for it, huh?  Ah well, the tractor and shovels got some use, and of course a few snow angels, and a brief opportunity to sled in the snow.  I know the young one is getting older when he says, “Dad, if it snows tomorrow can I use the wooden sleds with the metal bars?  I don’t really like those round saucers anymore.”   Well, instead of careening down the hill spinning in circles, maybe he’ll learn to race down the hillsides like a pro…  only not this time.  He was sick for a couple days!  Poor guy… in his mind there was nothing worse than being 7 years old, and being sick during the first big snowfall of the season… he had to look longingly out the window.  But finally yesterday, he was well enough to walk around and play for a short time. 

What a difference a week makes when looking at the pond!  It doesn’t normally get cold enough here to ice skate, but that would be really fun.   Last year it was frozen for three weeks and we walked all around the edges.  Who knows, maybe this year it will freeze solid.

The pond surrounded by snow in December

     If it snows again, then we’ll really have a chance for sledding.  But all hills lead to the pond…  have to figure something out there.   Hmmm, now that brings back an exciting memory… think I was 10 or 11, and a group of daredevil boys gathered in the woods at the top of a huge hill in foot-deep snow.  One of those joyous, snowy winter days that seemed to last forever.  We kept daring each other to go over the edge of the hill with our sleds, fly through the air and race down the hill through the trees.  None of the kids would do it… they would walk partways down, then ride their sleds through an open area without jumping off the top.  Except me.  For some reason I thought, “I’ll show them…” and fancied myself Evil Kneivel or something.  I climbed to the highest possible point above  the edge of the dropoff.   Zoom! I went, faster and faster… and Whooosh!  Over the edge as I was flying through the air… This is greaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh! SMASH!…    

     I remember looking dizzily up at the sky next to this enormous tree trunk as all the kids ran down the hill.   “That was cooool!” they screamed and yelled.  I staggered to stand up, it became much quieter and all the boys just stared at me.  I looked down to see my arm pointing in the wrong direction for some unknown reason.  Then it dawned on me that I smashed the tree and somehow my arm needed fixed, cause I couldn’t get it to move the right way.  I walked what seemed like a mile back to the house with my brother, sobbing, worried about getting in trouble, gritting my teeth with the realization that I broke my arm… and the worst part was I couldn’t go sledding anymore!   Got home…”Mommmm… Daaaaddd!  I broke my arm!”   They came over to see what all the excitement was about… “Oh now, I’m sure it’s just…. uh… oh… my goodness.”   I don’t remember much more, but that was the first of several casts I wore, and I learned that trees were much harder than my body parts and found new respect for flying through the air on sleds.

The forest looks like a snowy kingdom… can you see the Yellow Lab? :)

Snowy forest in Missouri - can you see the dog?

Football Fever in Missouri

November 26th, 2007

     And by the way, lest anyone wonder if I’ve missed anything this week… Nope!  I was riveted to the television the other day as the University of Missouri defeated Kansas University, rising to the number one NCAA college football team in the nation.   It’s been a long time since Mizzou has had such a terrific season, and a chance at a national title.  As a teenager my Dad would take my brother and I to the football games in Columbia.  It was great fun… we’d get a big bucket of fried chicken to snack on during the game and watch them play the Big 12 teams (only then it was the Big 8!).  The Oklahoma rivalry has always been strong.  So this weekend- December 1st, we’ll be watching the Mizzou Tigers play the Oklahoma Sooners for the Big 12 Championship.   ABC has the live telecast beginning at 7 pm Central time. Go Mizzou!

Go Mizzou Tigers in 2007!

I Need a New Willow Tree

November 19th, 2007

     It’s time for some fall cleanup, as most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. We still have a ways to go, but there’s a freeze coming in a couple nights that should take care of everything else. And Deer hunting season ends tomorrow in Missouri for rifle hunters… I haven’t had a chance to really get out this year. I enjoy the forest at all times of the year, and I do hunt when time permits. But we don’t have quite enough forested acreage to really hunt properly, and I usually go to public land somewhere.  Too much school, kids and other stuff going on this year.

I tried a couple times near a forested corner of the property, but it seems the deer use our land to transit to larger acreages in the middle of the night. Maybe next year I will put up one of those motion cameras and see exactly when they come by. But I can attest on a couple of days at least, that from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset, there were no deer that came by.  One evening I saw 7 squirrels jumping from tree-top to tree-top, all heading for the same “den tree.”  It was amazing to watch the little guys leap across the sky at dusk, grabbing another branch.  Several of them went exactly the same way, up a little tiny branch, leaping to catch another tiny branch, and across the trees to their nest.

But part of my motivation this year was to find the rascal who tore up my little Willow tree! I planted it last year with high hopes for a Willow up the hill from the pond. Alas, as I walked by the other day I found that some young buck decided it would make a perfect tree to clean up his antlers- this is called a “deer rub” (they use it to rub the velvet from their antlers, and to establish territory). You can see that almost all the bark is gone from a lower area, so that’s about it for this little tree. I’ll try to find another one next year, maybe a little bigger. And I’ll need to wrap it better to protect it!

A young buck deer tore up this Willow sapling with his antlers.

    The same deer also scraped up one of my little apple trees- a Newtown Pippin from Monticello! I won’t be happy if he chews those little trees up, but I wrapped it in tape again to protect it more before he came back. He’s probably the same one who was eating the apple tree leaves the last couple of months too. Our freezer’s about empty, and if I could have seen this fellow before the season ended, we might have had some venison stew… :)

Bluebirds and Old Rowboats

October 11th, 2007

     A beautiful, but very cool morning of 42 degrees F (5.5 C) today.  There is dew everywhere and soon we will have frost.  I want to say “Wait!  We’re not ready yet!” when I think of the frost coming… I so enjoy the flowers still, and all that warmer weather brings.   

It seems the Bluebirds have come back near the house, and are playing around the nesting boxes.  Maybe they are just checking things out in anticipation of next year.

Eastern Bluebird

 And our Burt Dow boat of Petunias will soon be gone for the year.  We have enjoyed using this old rowboat for a planter under the trees.  That little boat has actually been in many different places, beginning its life on an east coast river near the ocean.  We paddled it around lakes and even the St. Lawrence River years ago.  In Missouri I would drag it to a fishing pond with a friend.  And it even floated around the pond here at Fox Haven in years past. Finally the wood became spongy and brittle after 30+ years, and it’s no longer “seaworthy”.  My favorite childhood story was “Burt Dow Deepwater Man”… he had an old boat filled with flowers in the book.  So we need to give this one a new coat of paint, and maybe next year fill it with more flowers! 

The Burt Dow boat of Petunias

Summer Canoeing in the Ozarks

August 7th, 2007

     We spent a few days last week in southern Missouri, canoeing and camping on one of the many beautiful rivers in the Ozarks.   We made the same trip when the young one was four years old… that was quite the adventure.  This time he was six, and probably had a lot more fun.  We were joined by the young pup this time however, and it too was quite the adventure!  A grand time however, with a canoe filled with camping gear, an excited boy and a water-loving Labrador.  My goal was to have fun… and not tip over!  The water is calm and peaceful in many places, and low enough that even the faster narrows were shallow and easy to navigate.  We took our time, fishing at most of the likely “holes” or pools.   We also swam and played in the fast water, and camped on a gravel bar one night. Canoeing is perhaps the quintessential Missouri experience in summer, with an abundance of rivers and choices for where to go. 

Young Boy, Yellow Labrador in Canoe on a Missouri River © Fox Haven Media 2007

The young boy and the Yellow Labrador enjoy paddling in the canoe.  Both have life jackets on, which many people thought funny for a Labrador Retriever.  But several stretches of the river had high bluffs on both sides… if you tip over you’re going to be swimming for a while.  Not having to worry about the dog allows you to focus on keeping people safe.  Besides… the pup really enjoyed having it on and swimming more easily! He did pretty well in the canoe, although 75 pounds of Lab walking from side to side can make the canoe a little tippy!




Boy, Girl and Yellow Labrador enjoying the river™s current

 For a little fun on a hot day, swimming in a cold river is a wonderful experience.  These rivers are spring fed and very refreshing, especially when it’s almost 100 degrees F outdoors… We found a nice fast water area where the kids could float down the river.  Life jackets are a must, and the adults waited to catch the kids as they came floating by.  The young boy met a young girl his age… they held hands with each other a dozen times or so.  The Lab was not to be outdone, he went down each time with them!



Dad and Yellow Lab going down the river

 ‘Ole Dad joined in the fun and went swimming with the boy, and the dog!  The Lab pup kept trying to swim upstream, which doesn’t work very well in fast water.  I finally managed to turn his head around and he enjoyed it much more.  It was funny… just like on the leash, he likes to “walk himself” by grabbing it in his mouth… so he found a strap on the life jacket to “swim himself” down the river.  What a funny dog… he was ready for more each time.





Young boy™s collection of neat stuff in the canoe

Naturally the young boy loves to collect things… here is his “river collection” gathered during one day.  He was cute… I didn’t really notice he was collecting things, but saw him sneak back to the canoe several times and found his treasure. The little stick bundle is a “boat” and of course he loves rocks and leaves.  We put them back in the river at the end of the trip, but he kept a few mussel shells, leaves and sticks to take home!





Dad and Son with Rainbow Trout

One of the pleasures of a canoe trip is fishing… and Rainbow Trout can be found in several areas.  It took some effort, but after waking up early on the river one morning I was fortunate to catch a few nice trout for lunch.  This one was almost 18 inches… a real beauty!  The young one helped me net the fish.  I’m not a purist by any means, and enjoy trying various methods with lures and “dough bait” on little hooks. On another trip I’ll try the fly rod… but this time we enjoyed trout for lunch and supper! 








He caught his own fish too!

The young one caught his own fish too!  We were talking and he said, “Do you think I’ll catch a fish?  I think I will!”… and the very next cast, he did!







After a long day on the river, the Yellow Lab was content to relax at the campsite… a gravel bar along the water.  He swam so much that he was really tired at the end of the day!  He was happy at that point to watch us playing and fishing in the river, but awoke the next morning ready for more. 

A very tired Yellow Labrador Retriever after a day on the river

It was a great experience… a few days of fun in the sun, and a trip to remember!

His First Bicycle

July 18th, 2007

Summer is filled with other joys as well. One of those for us is watching the young one grow and learn. This past week he learned to ride a bicycle! He had the bike for a couple of years, but was frustrated by the difficulty and size of the bike. Early this summer he showed more interest, so we helped him practice riding it with training wheels.

Finally something clicked a few weeks ago and he rode all around with the training wheels. But quickly it became apparent that it was impeding his progress rather than helping him. I told him he was almost ready to ride without training wheels… “But I’m not ready for that!” he said. We practiced a few more days… I told him it was almost time… “Really?” He thought about it for a while. Then he was riding one day and kept falling down when the training wheels caught on the ground. He was becaming more frustrated with the bike, and I thought it was time.

“Okay, the training wheels come off!” I tell him. “Now?!” he says… “Sure, let’s try it” says I, not really being sure, but somehow thinking it was time. “Okay, here you go!” He climbed on and I gave a big push… Away he went, riding down the driveway, with a big, tentative smile on his face. Success! We worked with him a couple more days learning how to get started on his own, and now he’s unstoppable!

So the new passion for the six year old is riding his bike at all hours of the day… His Grandma visited the other day. I was nice to see her surprised and proud expression when seeing him riding around the driveway. Not to shabby for a six-year old… I didn’t ride until I was eight! Like many of us, he will probably remember his first bicycle, and how he learned to ride. Hopefully it will serve as a positive lesson for many other things he will learn. And for all of us, a summer to remember.

The 6-year old learns to ride his bike

Thankful for a Honda Generator!

January 15th, 2007

A day spent in the grip of the ice, without utility electric power.  After posting yesterday and gathering wood for the stove, the electric went out again.  Not short-lived this time, and a day later we still have no utility power. The electric company is working overtime… Last night we put a pot roast and soup in the crock pot, set it on the Buck wood stove (this thing is awesome!) and three hours later had a hearty meal.  Stocked the wood stove through the night and we slept comfortably… and quietly waiting for the power to come back on. 

This morning with the electric still out, we took care of the animals and I set about starting the generator to have some essentials and get the refrigerator and freezer back on. More importantly, the well-pump is electric so we need the water…  Sure, we could have carted 200 pounds of food outside in various containers… but why bother when we have a generator! Alas, it ran for 20 minutes then “cough, sputter…pssssss…” to a dead stop.  The weather started out warm at 30 degrees F (12C), but then begain dropping fast.  So after draining fuel, cleaning lines and pull-starting about a hundred times with no success- I jumped in the truck to get some new spark plugs and starting fluid.  Surely it will work I thought- I run it every month… why not now?!  Well… isn’t that usually when something doesn’t work?  When you need it most?!  Yes, it’s 15 years old… but a good Honda runs forever!  So back again with the temperature falling below 20 degrees F (8C), I put the new plugs in, cleaned the fuel and with a few good pulls…. success! 

So this evening has been enjoyable… a few lights on, the fan on the wood stove putting out heat like crazy, a nice chicken vegetable stew by my wife and most of all… flushing toilets!  It’s the small things in life… and the youngun even watched a little TV after running out of imaginative games to play.  I even completed some distance education exams with the satellite internet up and running.  I have to really recommend the Honda EB5000 generator… been running solid over 8 hours today, and hasn’t been used but a few times in many years- but has been very reliable since 1991 when my folks originally purchased it.  I probably should have gone over it more thoroughly this fall- but it ran nicely then (I’ll look closer next year!), and now with new plugs it runs like a dream. 

Amazing how “connected” one feels when we can see and communicate with the world-at-large… and how quiet it is when we cannot.  Isn’t the quietness essential though?  Being able to reflect and remember our place in the world? Perhaps that is why I love it here at Fox Haven- it allows me the opportunity to gather in the whole of life, to step outside and feel the pace of nature beyond that which we assume as so essential.  Even with the ice storm, this is a place where one feels part of that whole.  The scenery is amazingly beautiful… yet heart-wrenching too with broken limbs and trees everywhere.   Enough for now- I hope you are staying warm… here’s a few pictures from today…

Puffy Ice Cardinal

 All puffed up to stay warm… Quite a crest he has!

Bent Ice

 Have you ever seen “bent icicles”?  This branch fell over with the weight as they continued freezing.

Cardinal with Ice Thorns

 A “thorny” perch of ice for this Cardinal!

Buck Wood Stove Model 81 Insert

 Buck Model 81 Wood Stove (insert)… heats like crazy!

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